Reflections on the Aftermath of Hurricane Irene

by Rev. Tom Trouwborst, Pastor, Calvary OPC, Schenectady, New York 

“War zone” was certainly an apt description for Schoharie, New York, following the waters of Irene. To drive down Main Street brought tears to one’s eyes.

Yes, the physical damage was overwhelming. House after house with water stained furniture and rotted sheet rock stacked shoulder high in the front of yard after yard. Oil storage tanks tumbled over. Baseball dugouts washed up to the side of the road. Corn fields flattened. Pews pushed around inside a church like they were pinballs in an arcade game. Overwhelming indeed.

But I am not sure that these things are what brought tears to my eyes when I first drove through Schoharie. It was that but more. I think to see how Irene touched, affected and impaired lives was what really did me in. People. Real people. Fathers, mothers and children. Families losing everything they have ever owned and in a sense, losing a part of who they are, their homes, their memories and for some, even their livelihoods. And this just brings an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. To see it on such a magnitude is an experience one does not soon forget.

“War zone” turned into “twilight zone” a week or so later. It was an odd site. House after house entirely gutted with windows open and much fewer people in sight. The garbage had been picked up and I witnessed a large parking lot with backhoes scooping the destruction into tractor-trailer size dump trucks. Most of the deconstruction has taken place but a hesitancy exists to start building again until the moisture is entirely out of each house. Mold is the big concern.

I must say that the response from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has made me proud. While locals are helping as they can, two great teams have visited and worked with “diligent hands.” From Michigan and New Hampshire no less. Some have sent deaconate aid. And others are asking “how can we help?” either in labor or by providing much needed funds. Your outpouring of love has been a genuine Gospel testimony. Rather than merely saying, “I wish you well,” many in the OPC have demonstrated the love of Christ.

Thank you. Thank you from the Merediths. Thank you from Calvary OPC in Schenectady. Thank you.

The road ahead for the Merediths and others is not an easy one. Even after Frank and Betsy seemingly gutted their entire first floor, they received news this week of further water damage. The outside shingles must come off and the chimney torn down are just some of the new projects. They are working on rebuilding plans and that requires wisdom, skilled labor, resources and scheduling prowess. Like anything else in life, it is easier to destroy than to build.

Anyone with moderate ability using a hammer or any other construction type skill (e.g., electric, plumbing, roofing) may be able to lend a helping hand. And of course, prayers—lots of them—are needed.

Following Irene, I preached on the importance of work (Labor Day) and noted that we come into this world naked and we will leave naked. Irene reminded me of that. And it also reminded me that nothing can separate us from the love of God, even hurricanes. Our ultimate identity is not in our house but in who we are in Jesus. I have been challenged to think more about that fact as I kiss my children when they go to bed at night in a warm and dry house. God is good and we have seen that even in the midst of a disaster. May He be praised, may His people be encouraged and may His Kingdom be extended.



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