By Rev Angela C Bosfield Palacious
As I write this reflection, the hurricane has just finished raging in our northern islands. What heart-wrenching scenes and heart-rending cries from our people stranded on roofs, in flooded homes and ongoing hurricane force winds, torrential rain, and storm surges. It is far from over and already there are casualties.
We have to start all over. Rescue and recovery personnel are standing by to move in as soon as there is a word given. National and international agencies have begun to mobilise relief efforts. Then we will have to engage in massive cleanup as the flood waters recede.
We have to be ready to move forward:
1. We have to recognise that our grief will be as unrelenting as the wind and the waves but we will be comforted as time goes on.
2. We will have to bury the dead and shed our tears. No doubt there will be a national day of mourning.
3. We will have to have services of thanksgiving for those who were miraculously spared.
4. We will have to go through our closets and pantries to share what we have.
5. We will have to go to our bank accounts to send funds, buy new items, and provide much needed supplies.
6. We will have to continue to pray for those traumatised by these life-changing events.
7. We will have to provide counselling for months to come.
8. We will have to brace for the possibility of more storms this hurricane season.
9. We will have to check our homes for those roof hurricane clips and put them there if none are present.
10. We will have to change the strength of our hurricane impact windows to withstand 200 mph gusts.
11. We will have to seriously consider elevating all new homes throughout our islands, and refrain from building in flood-prone areas.
12. We are going to have to evacuate out of the islands and out of country if need be, using money we have to try to save for such a possibility.
13. We will have to strategise for future development as we assess our economic opportunities.
14. We will have to re-train and educate our people to find more work in the maritime and other sectors.
15. We will have to encourage those affected and their families, offering moral and spiritual support.
16. We will have to offer shelter to those who are now homeless.
17. We will have to do whatever we can for the rest of the year and in the years to come.
We have to be strong in our own spirits in order to help others regain their strength. We know that God is with them and with us. We do not always understand why some things are allowed and others are avoided, but we do know for sure that God is good and faithful.
Like Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2:1-18, we have to rebuild our walls:
"I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, 'Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.' I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, 'May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?' The king said to me, 'What is it you want?'
"Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, 'If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.…'
"The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. Then I said to them, 'You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.' I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, 'Let us start rebuilding.' So they began this good work."
My sisters and brothers, it is time to start over rebuilding our second and third cities. It is our legacy that is at stake. We have to band together and get this work done. By the grace of God, we will get this work done.
• Rev Angela Palacious, a motivational speaker and author of several devotional books, is an Anglican priest. She may be contacted at 393-9000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.