How Pastor’s Caribbean Vacation Turned into Hurricane Relief Ministry
By Faith Magbanua, September 22, 2017 03:09 AM
Pastor Jonathan Falwell and his wife are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, but things seem to go into a different direction when their supposed trip became a hurricane relief ministry.
When Jonathan Falwell saw the first signs of what would become Hurricane Irma swirling on the weather map, he moved up the dates of his Caribbean vacation- a surprise trip to St. Martin with his wife for their 25th anniversary.
The Pastor never imagined that they'd be sleeping on pool loungers in a makeshift hotel shelter, coming face-to-face with the destruction of a category-5 storm, or flying home on a Samaritan's Purse plane.
However, aside from their trip being converted into a relief ministry, they helped coordinate early assistance efforts while stranded for days on the island-the island being one of the hardest-hit by Irma.
"In a situation like this, I had the opportunity-and I do believe it was an opportunity-to be right smack dab in the middle of it," he said. "I think it's just a great reminder of how truly urgent that it is that we get the gospel out to let people see that yes, we live in a broken world, but yes, there is an answer and that answer is Jesus."
In an interview, Pastor Falwell shared his prayers, stories, and theological lessons from his time being stranded on St. Martin and his involvement in the recovery since then.
We got down there, and we were watching the storm. The storm was picking up speed and certainly picking up power. On Monday night, we got a notification that the flights were canceled, the airport was closed, and we weren't going to get out of St. Martin on the flight that we had intended. It wasn't until Monday that we knew we were going to have to hunker down and make it through.
"I just assumed it would be a bad storm-some wind, some downed trees-and we'd just stay inside for the night and come out the next day and see a little bit of damage and go about our business. We had no idea the destruction that was going to be caused by this storm."
He also stated that the night when they brought them all into the shelter, everybody was on their own. It was this atmosphere of, "We're going to sit in here for a while, then we'll go back to our business." However, at about 5 o'clock in the morning, the staff of the hotel woke them up telling them that they were going to be moved to the room next door and 15-20 minutes later, they began to see and hear the incredible winds and rain.
The room that we were in just moments before, the roof blew off, the walls blew out, the doors started shaking.
That's when they realized this thing was pretty serious, and at that point, honestly, no one was really looking to each other for support or encouragement. It wasn't until the storm had passed, and they were beginning the process of recognizing it. A couple of staff members went outside to look at the destruction. They came back, and one guy announced, "It looks as if a nuclear bomb has gone off." It wasn't until that point that they knew it was going to be a long-term situation.
It was until after the storm that I got involved-all of us did, everybody in the shelter. According to Pastor Falwell, "We were cleaning, we were moving debris, we were trying to mop up the water that was several inches deep in the room and throughout the hotel. I began talking with the people who were running the shelter, trying to make some plans.... It wasn't until after that people understood that I was a pastor and could talk with and encourage some people during that time."
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