“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” – Isaiah 43:2
My first friend was a girl that went to the same church as me growing up. She was petite and small with strawberry blonde hair that curled around her ears and orange freckles that danced on the pale skin of her cheeks, shoulders, and even the back of her hands. We went to same school together, and the same class because we were almost the same age. We used to have sleepovers at her house on an old mattress that we had to blow up using a manual air pump. I remember playing tag on the playground, pretending we were riding horses instead of running on our own two legs.
We grew together all the way through elementary school, our friendship waning and ebbing like all relationships do. We made other friends as we grew older, but still came back to each other on Sundays or for sporadic school projects.
Until the beginning of our first year of middle school. Her stepfather was finally following his call of becoming a pastor and they were moving. It was the first time in my life that something and someone that had always been constant suddenly wasn’t anymore.
We promised to write back and forth as much as we could. I thought I would have one of those storybook pen pals. After we became famous authors, they would publish our dozens of letters like Jane Austen or C.S. Lewis. At first, we wrote every month. When we entered high school the number of letters wrote fell to one every couple months. By the time I started my first year of college, we had stopped writing for good.
Most of the letters in the beginning came from different places in Ohio, getting farther and farther away with each return address. But I remember one of her last letters to me came from somewhere else entirely: Texas.
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in late August, only a couple days before I wrote this. According to the Houston Heights Patch, 27 trillion gallons of rain fell from Harvey. 51.2 inches of rain was collected; that makes it the largest amount from a named storm in U.S. history. There are about 32,000 evacuees in 258 shelters in the surrounding area and states.
I haven’t seen my friend in years. Now that I’m a young adult, I wonder what she might look like: if her red hair still flashes gold in the sun, if her tomboyish legs are still dressed in boots and jeans. I feel a little ashamed that my thoughts of her came after the fact, as the news showed videos of water pouring down a tight-lipped street like it was a river bed, parked cars and trash cans casually moved by the gust and push of the rush of foam and debris.
Did my pen pal’s house flood? Was she a part of the families asked to evacuate their homes? Was she in one of the shelters?
I looked her up on Facebook as soon as I could. Her page had photographs of the damage around her: fallen trees, flooded streets, and a small picture of the sun when it finally stopped raining. We messaged briefly about her safety and I apologized for letting tragedy be the reason I contacted her after these last few years.
Her family is safe, living in an area that is three hours from where the hurricane initially hit. While they got bad storms, their home was not flooded.
This time was also paralleled in my life by the death of a good man in my church. I attended his funeral over Labor Day weekend. People spoke so lovely of him and his life. Most of the family said that they were glad they got to say goodbye, that they got that final conversation with him before he passed.
How many times do many of us not get that second chance?
How many times do we never realize that this is the last time?
I heard Scripture at this funeral that brought me a sense of peace and comfort and as I write it now, I hope it sends mercies and blessings towards those affected by the hurricane.
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Loss is something we feel everyday.
Maybe it is because of lost loved ones, faded friendships, flooded homes, or stuffed shelters. This passage is about dealing with death, but the message is important:
Sometimes, we must remember that while Jesus never promised us an easy life, he promised that he will return to give us a perfect one.
Pray for those in Houston. Reach out to the ones in need. We must remind the world that we are the helping hands and the moving feet of the Lord, asked to bring help, refuge, and light by a higher calling much bigger than ourselves.
About the Author:
Ellie Zumbach is currently a student at Malone University studying Creative Writing and Theatre. From a very young age, she has loved stories and their power to encourage, teach, and inspire. She is a proud member of a drama ministry team known as the Chancel Players and a co-director of the Writers Guild on campus. Welcome Ellie as she shares her words with “Memoirs of a Virtuous Woman” readers as an intern for Fall 2017.
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September 8, 2017