Ruthie and I woke up several times during the night while at the YWAM base in St. Croix last week. The batteries in the battery-operated fan bit the dust, and the heat was at a level we weren’t used to since in our PA home our bedroom is air-conditioned, and at home, we don’t take cold showers. But “death to complaining!”
Our soft and sensitive American spirits couldn’t match the tenacity of the staff at the St. Croix YWAM base who have had to survive the past six weeks on an island directly hit by the category five Maria. There's no power there, and they probably won't get any power for months and months. It’s a benefit that St. Croix is a US territory, but with so many other destruction on other territories, and in the states, relief is scarce.
After the hurricane released its fury, the terrain was altered—all leaves were gone, big trees were reduced to tiny. Many big and many little trees are no more—gone or waiting by the side of a road or in a field to find closure. Tin roofs lined the landscape, businesses closed, houses everywhere destroyed.
One of the most difficult things to comprehend was what we saw on the way to the west side of the island, near where the eye of the hurricane passed, on our "beach" afternoon—the shock was the beaches. Our group found a place to swim, but as far as you could see either direction was a platform of ragged rocks where smooth, plush sand used to be the carpet. Now the sand was all gone from the beach, and as we drove along the shoreline, it was gone from the other beaches. Beachfront room rentals and resorts all along these gnarly beaches were rendered virtually worthless by Maria. We walked carefully over and between the rocks and enjoyed a couple of hours of clear, Caribbean refreshment.
But in the midst of the destruction were troopers—dedicated people determined to rebuild what Maria ravaged. Such were those we stayed with and taught on the YWAM base. Those challenged every day to rebuild what was destroyed on the base, while fighting lots of rain, obnoxious mosquitoes, and oppressive heat, with no way to cool off. The base was hit hard. But from another view, many places were spared. The road back to normal will be long, but the hearts are shining through the mess.
Ruthie and I taught some of the deepest lessons on leadership that we have ever taught on a YWAM base, or in any venue with young people. They ate it up. I taught them things I wish I had been taught, but never were. Things that would have saved Ruthie and me countless hours of frustration, trying, and even failing. They took it in as if they had truth magnets in their hearts. The Lord moved in many ways. We left a piece of our heart there. We went there to encourage, and yet we were encouraged. Our friends on the base are now closer friends, and we have some new ones.
But driving to the base from the airport when we first arrived in St. Croix, we noticed something that didn’t fit. Surrounding the downed power lines and decimated buildings was a fresh, green blanket everywhere. It was new life. Wait a minute—this is not what we were told! For weeks after the storm, the whole island was brown—and that’s what we were expecting. All the leaves were separated from their branches. But just a few weeks later, green is everywhere…everywhere—plush! God, partnering with those rebuilding houses and businesses, did what only He could do by bringing forth new life—seemingly miraculously.
Ruthie and I sacrificed this week, but only in American terms. More than that, though, we were blessed to experience the aftermath of a major hurricane, and blessed to have the privilege of encouraging the dedicated staff at St. Croix Youth With A Mission!