The year was 1997. I was in the 8th grade. I lived in Moorhead, Minnesota. Our house was a hustle and bustle of many people and muddied feet scurrying everywhere. Mom had laid down plastic in an attempt to keep the mud off the kitchen floors. The air outside was cold. Snacks and warm drinks lined the kitchen table, inviting volunteers to stop for a break and enjoy the warmth of hot cocoa and a cookie. But the break lasted far too briefly. Outside was calling. Outside where Dad was conducting the line of volunteers through the muddy springtime slush. These volunteers were lined up along a row of sandbags. The sandbags snaked around our whole house. And these volunteers were placing one on top of another. When they trudged in the house for a brief break, other volunteers filled their spots. Thus, a wall begin to form. A wall that challenged the rising Red River. A wall that held our hopes securely inside.
But that wall broke. One little sandbag wiggled free. Pumps couldn’t keep up. Volunteers now helped raise belongings as high as possible. My parents decided that my sister and I needed out. Roads in front of our house were soon to be covered with water. I was told I had to leave with my relatives. My parents stayed. They tried to keep the pumps going, but it was a loosing battle. That spring, 1997, our home flooded. That spring my family went to three different homes for a few weeks. That spring my family stayed in an apartment for most of the summer after school finished. That spring turned into months of being out of the only place I’d ever called home. That spring turned into a memory that none in our family will forget.
We grew up in a great house on the edge of town. We had three acres of land bordered by the Red River to the West. Each spring the water crept out of the banks, rising higher. Most years the water stopped at the bottom of the small hill behind our house. Our unfinished basement often faced the reality of water seeping in through cracks in the cement wall as the ground thawed and the river rose. A few inches of water — no big deal. Dad’s boxes were placed on secure cement blocks. Mom’s rubber boots at the bottom of the stairway nestled my feet as I plopped laundry into the raised laundry machine. It was normal. Until the year when the “hundred year flood” happened upon us. The year when our sandbag wall acted like an usher at a movie theater rather than a guard with strict orders. That year the water came high above the basement. That year the water reached knee level inside our rambler. That year the mold crawled up the walls and each wall had to be stripped. That year was 1997. That year my parents might have moved. But we kids didn’t want to. That year came and went.
The year was 1999. The “hundred year flood” of two years earlier was done and gone. And I was crying. I distinctly remember the news and the predictions. Flood waters were rising. Normal. But the bottom of the hill behind our house was now covered again with water. Predictions were placing the crest as high as the former hundred year flood of 1997. Dad hadn’t wasted time with sandbags. No, trucks had carried in dirt. Trucks. Not one. Several loads of dirt became the new snake around our house. Ugly wall. Hope still secured within. But within my chest fear was creeping in. I’d seen this before. Dad decided to put sandbags on top of the dirt dike. So volunteers were around our house again. But I was not helping. I was crying. A gentle woman from church came over to me and suggested a walk. We walked away from the rising river. We walked the still dry road. I cried. She listened. It was supposed to be a 100 year flood, why was it happening again? God was gracious. The water crept up the dike, but was not able to spill through or over.
The year was 2009 (I think). I went with my roommate to help sandbag for a family in Fargo, ND (the sister city to Moorhead). This particular family lived in a home well out of the flood plain, supposedly. My own parents had moved by now. The city had offered them a buyout as the land where my family home sat was needed to become a city dike. Since my parents were dry and no longer needed my help, my roommate and I ended up at this unknown home, bussed there amid many volunteers helping. We laid bags in a long line that the city had going behind many homes. My arms ached as bags far larger than I should have held were passed from hand to hand to growing dike of sandbags. I was grateful it wasn’t my home. My emotions were different. Yet I wondered at flooding again. (Here is a picture of our house during one of floods. One on top is the back of our home).
The year is 2017. Hurricane Harvey blasted Houston, Texas weeks ago. Hurricane Irma followed, and now Maria. Devastation was left in their wakes. Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico… and I’m sure other places. The news pictures are awful. Whereas I had time to prepare, many of these people were lifted from their homes in helicopters as water rose faster than anyone thought. Tonight a lady on 60 Minutes swore when asked what she thought of a “500 year storm.” Another lady who studies science and climate change discussed how hurricanes are effected by climate change and why they are getting worse.
The other day as I was driving home, I was listening to the gospel of Luke. These words struck me: There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves. People fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world (Luke 22:25-26).
Climate change. Flooding and storms that are out of their typical pattern of 100 or 500 years. Major storms. A full eclipse of the sun. Are these signs of the times? To the Christian Luke says, Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (vs. 28). Ok, I admit. I do sometimes fear. I wonder how life is going. I know for a fact that this all means Jesus’ return is soon. But I do worry. Storms and flooding take things from us. And I know, it’s hard to be out of home, hard to leave a house, hard to give up things. Yes it is. I know! But the world at large talks of Mother Nature, and climate change becomes a political debate.
Dear Sister in Christ, our redemption is near. The world is fearful over what is coming on the world. I don’t have to fear. God said I don’t. I am not always obedient to that command, however! But the truth of the matter is, these times are in the hands of God Almighty. The roaring of the waves are in his control. And sometimes God calms storms instantly as He did in Luke chapter 8. Other times, these things simply must just take place. They are signs of the times!
So dear friend, let’s be women who are ready. Luke states Jesus’ words, “unless you repent you will all perish” (13:5). Jesus alone is the remedy to our fear. Yes, things will happen in our physical realm. Yes, things can be and will be destroyed. And yes, sometimes lives will be lost. You and I are told that repentance (turning to believe in Jesus as God’s son), is the only way out of perishing. Physical death is hard, but for the believer of Jesus Christ, this death puts us instantly with Christ himself! But this verse talks about perishing, not only as physical death, but of separation from God.
As I watch these times my prayer is for my children. Now I don’t have my own kids, but there are 8 littles in my life that I pray for daily. They are the next generation. We know from the signs that the redemption is near. I pray my little children come to know and love Jesus. Won’t you pray for those in your next generation. The signs are pointing to Jesus’ return being ever nearer. More flooding will come. More physical devastation will take place. We need to prepare our youngsters! Politicians and scientists shouldn’t be the only voice our children hear. Let’s tell them about Jesus and His great saving love!