Expecting Tomas

Expectations. 

We all have them every day whether we know it or not. We expect the coffee to be hot, we expect the iced tea to be cold, we expect the car to start, and we expect our kids to be “good.”

At the end of October and beginning of November 2010, we [EFCA TouchGlobal/ReachGlobal staff] had expected the hurricane season to be over. So, at this point, we were surprised to find Haiti in the crosshairs of Hurricane Tomas.

Over the weekend (October 30-31), as we watched the news, seeing the small island country covered over by the red “cone of uncertainty,” we knew we were going to have to react for the safety and security of our staff and the volunteer team serving in Haiti and for the welfare of our ministry home base, the Haitian Queen.

Our expectations quickly changed, and we planned accordingly, reviewing our emergency preparedness plan and plotting a course of action to minimize the impact of the damage we might suffer.

The short-term team from Stanwich Congregational Church was diverted from their expected ministry in the community to help TouchGlobal staff secure the Haitian Queen. Although initially disappointed that they would be evacuated prior to the anticipated weekend landfall of Hurricane Tomas, the team served tirelessly to board up the house, store loose objects and prepare the bunkhouses for the impending impact.

As part of the plan, Brian (ReachGlobal staff), Matthew (TouchGlobal staff) and I packed our bags to fly to Haiti to finish preparations for the storm and to coordinate cleanup and ministry in the aftermath of Tomas. However, things often do not go according to our plans.

After a cancelled flight in Miami and notification that the Port-au-Prince airport had closed, we realized that Brian, Matthew and I had no way to reach Haiti before the storm. Instead, we waited it out in Miami, praying for God’s protection over the TouchGlobal staff as well as the Haitian families who work alongside us, some of whom have no more than a tarp and 2×4 structure between them and the elements.

Friday morning (November 5), the day the hurricane was predicted to hit Haiti, I expected to find the Weather Channel newscaster standing in a pile of washed out mud and rocks, but all I saw was him standing high and dry above a small trickle of water flowing down the hill behind him. He predicted that the worst was still to come, and he expected the stream of water behind him to turn into an angry torrent careening down the mountainside, carrying demolished houses, tents and people into the Port-au-Prince bay.

As I breathed a prayer of thanks for sparing Haiti so far, I spoke with fellow staff member, Wes, at the Haitian Queen. While they had had some heavy rain overnight and a few gusts of wind, they were waiting for the worst to come. Outside the front door, the Haitian people were going about their daily lives — a normal day in Haiti.

Again, this was not what I had expected.

Friday evening, a follow-up report from Wes confirmed that they had experienced little hurricane activity — almost no wind and only a small amount of rain.

After a few more unexpected bumps in the road, Brian, Matthew and I finally boarded our flights to Haiti on Saturday morning.

As our plane approached Port-au-Prince, we circled the city as we waited for our turn to land. From the plane window, I was able to see the shades of blue and green gulf water become brown and murky at the exits of the swollen tributaries that flowed down the mountainsides and into the bay along the shoreline. When we finally broke from the holding pattern and started our approach to the airport, I noticed the sun breaking through the clouds and reflecting off the pools of water that remained on top of the saturated ground.

On the ground, as we drove to the Haitian Queen, we noticed that traffic was as heavy as always, and people were going about their lives as if nothing more than a rainy season storm had passed. Leogane, a town within 10 miles of our home base, had sustained substantial flooding, but that is usual during a heavy rain. Several people had died as a result of the storm, but tent cities had not washed down the mountains in mudslides as originally anticipated.

At the Haitian Queen, Tomas was more or less a non-event. “We were waiting all day for something to happen, and nothing came but a little rain,” Wes said. “We’ve had worse flooding from a pop-up rainy season storm.”

In the week of the storm, we were thankful that many fears and expectations were not met as the worst never materialized. God worked in spite of our expectations, providing what we needed when we needed it and giving us great experiences that we would not have had if our human expectations had been met.

Through this experience, I was reminded of Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

When things don’t go as expected, we need to look for God’s hand in the situation. Flexibility or frustration, the choice is ours in every situation that doesn’t go our way.

* * * * *

CONNECT

haitiresponse@efca.org

SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Haiti. Help build and distribute temporary shelters for those who, even after one year, are still without a safe place to sleep.

PRAY

For the Haitian people — that God’s Word would penetrate this country, bringing His Kingdom and His hope in the midst of ongoing rebuilding.

GIVE

Make an online donation to Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

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On an unexpected journey with the One who gave me unfathomable grace, I'm just trying to follow Jesus and love Him and others a little better each day.

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