Hidden Blessings in the Storm

June 15, 2017 • United States
Dr. Richard Blackaby, along with our U.S. Disaster Relief program staff, led a Sunday morning Holy Communion service. Volunteers from across the country gathered in Asheville, North Carolina, for their annual retreat.
Dr. Richard Blackaby, along with our U.S. Disaster Relief program staff, led a Sunday morning communion service. Volunteers from across the country gathered in Asheville, North Carolina, for their annual retreat.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers celebrate God’s goodness during an inspirational retreat

Having almost missed out on a unique treasure from her mother years ago, Anne Graham Lotz wanted to make sure that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers didn’t miss out on seeing special blessings from God that He alone fashioned in the midst of destructive storms.

From Isaiah 6, Anne Graham Lotz highlights the “position, pre-eminence, power, presence, praise, and purity of Jesus.”

From Isaiah 6, Anne Graham Lotz highlights the “position, preeminence, power, presence, praise, and purity of Jesus.”

Last weekend during our 9th annual North American Ministries volunteer retreat in Asheville, North Carolina, Anne shared about how her late mother, Ruth Bell Graham, had sent her a birthday gift wrapped in brown paper. Inside was a multi-colored basket stuffed with tissue paper.

“Mother was very whimsical and had a crazy sense of humor,” Anne told the 420 attendees at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. “I thought she lost her mind. The postage cost more than the basket.”

Anne called her mom to thank her. “What did you think about your real gift?” Ruth said.

“Mother, my real gift was a multi-colored basket stuffed with tissue paper,” Anne replied.

“Oh no, inside the tissue paper was your real present,” Ruth answered.

Anne gasped. She ran out to the garbage can by the street and breathed a sigh of relief when she discovered it hadn’t been picked up yet. Sifting through the wads of tissue paper, she uncovered a little gold ring with a piece of lapis lazuli—a deep blue semi-precious stone. It had come from the flooring of the Shushan Palace where Queen Esther had lived with King Xerxes.

Attendees worshipped the Lord with vibrancy.

Attendees worshipped the Lord with joy.

“I had thrown away a priceless treasure because I didn’t like the way it was wrapped,” Anne said. “Sometimes priceless treasures show up in brown packages.”

Then she drove home her point. “A disaster can come in a brown package,” she explained. “But if we stay focused on the disaster, we may miss the treasure that’s on the inside because we don’t like the way it’s wrapped.”

Anne’s message was not lost on our volunteers. During the retreat, they eagerly recounted God’s wonderful blessings at different disaster relief sites where they had come alongside distressed homeowners in Jesus’ Name.

These ranged from Christians of different ethnic and economic backgrounds worshipping together to hundreds of people committing their lives to Jesus Christ.

Remembering God’s Faithfulness

A senior associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, Ken Bevel donned a Samaritan’s Purse orange shirt multiple times after his hometown was ravaged first by fierce straight-line winds and then by a catastrophic tornado—all in January. The damage was widespread.

Ken Bevel reported that 1,882 volunteers served 997 families in Albany, Ga., with 83 people making decisions for Jesus Christ.

Ken Bevel reported that 1,882 volunteers served 997 families in Albany, Georgia, with 83 people making decisions for Jesus Christ.

“These storms were devastating,” he said. “The tornado was a wakeup call for us as a community that God wanted to do something special here. It came packaged in a disaster, but God’s blessings still came and we’re going to use them for the good of the Kingdom.

“He used the storms to develop unity and love in our community, and we praise Him that 83 people came to know Christ during these disasters,” he added.

Two of those commitments came on the final day of the deployment in mid-February. An older couple lived in one of the few trailers that survived in the path of the January 22 tornado, though it was damaged. They needed help removing their belongings so that a new unit could be delivered.

Our team members responded. When a Billy Graham Study Bible was presented to them after the job was done—as it is to all homeowners we serve—the Gospel of Jesus Christ was shared and both the husband and wife prayed to receive Christ as Savior.

God has also been at work in Durant, Mississippi. On April 29, several pastors and congregational members walked through their city, desperately praying that God would bring revival. The very next day a powerful tornado struck. Samaritan’s Purse deployed immediately.

Nearly a month later, the Durant Missionary Baptist Church was packed when Christians of different races and different parts of town came together to worship the Lord, arm in arm—a rare sight in this economically depressed city of about 2,500 people north of Jackson, the state capital.

“Being there at that unity service was beautiful,” said Leroy Wentz, who volunteered in Durant for two weeks along with his wife Ellen. “God used this storm to bring about this blessing.”

Michael and Win Taylor and Dick and Ann Tullie, from Bluffton, S.C., thank God they got to serve homeowners in their own hometown.

Michael and Win Taylor and Dick and Ann Tullie, from Bluffton, South Carolina, are thankful they were able to serve homeowners in their own hometown.

God’s handiwork was also evident in Bluffton, South Carolina. Nearly three dozen decisions for Christ were recorded there after Hurricane Matthew tore through the state’s Low Country last October. Josh Cooke, owner of a local coffee shop, brought several urns of fresh brew to his father’s home, where Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were chainsawing fallen trees and tidying the property.

God opened the door for several team members to share the hope of Jesus Christ with Josh’s dad. Josh had been praying for and witnessing to his father for years. That day, he rejoiced when his dad gave his life to Christ.

“It took this disaster—this brown bag—to bring him to Jesus,” said Dick Tullie, one of our volunteers from Bluffton. “There were a lot of tears that day.”

As the retreat came to a close Sunday morning and Holy Communion was served, Dr. Richard Blackaby, chancellor of Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Alberta, Canada, prayed for our volunteers: “May there be victories in every place that these people serve. May the forces of evil be put into headlong retreat because they encountered a people who were strong and courageous.”

To see volunteer opportunities with Samaritan’s Purse North American Ministries, please visit our volunteer network.

Retreat participants enjoyed enriching fellowship at The Cove in Asheville.

Retreat participants enjoyed enriching fellowship at The Cove in Asheville.

SUPPORT
U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

U.S. Disaster Relief 013622
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