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Love Like a Hurricane

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Hurricane Maria blasted into Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, and tore the island apart in many ways, dropping 30 inches of rain in the process. It wiped out the whole electrical grid. No electricity meant no water, no TV, no Internet, no cell-phone communication, no cash from ATMs, no payment with credit cards. Floods were extensive and destructive. Mudslides and downed vegetation made many roads impassable.

Initially, I couldn’t leave my neighborhood because of fallen trees. I was without electricity for three months and running water for one month. I lost five trees in my yard.

My story, however, is not about being a victim. My house was not damaged. Because I have some solar panels, I was lucky to have a refrigerator that worked for 10 and even 16 hours on sunny days. I have a swimming pool, so when I had to flush the toilet, I could always go down and get a bucket of—sometimes green—water.

As part owner of a supermarket chain, I didn’t have to stand in the line winding around the parking lot. If I needed something for me or for somebody else, I could go in and get it, including cash, which was very much in demand.

My story is about being confronted with a lot of suffering. People who needed refrigeration for medication. People who didn’t know where they would get food or even drinking water. People who couldn’t make it to an ATM to get cash to buy anything. People who couldn’t stand in line for long hours. People who lost their houses, lost their cars. People who were deeply discouraged.

I tried to be strong through it all and to encourage people to have faith, to keep looking for God on the move, to somehow move past their discouragement and not get stuck in it. I tried to be there for as many people as I could and do as much as I could in as many situations as I could. I listened to people’s stories, mostly crying with them and at times celebrating with them.

It was a very draining experience. It wore on me. Yet caring for people after Hurricane Maria was a real blessing. It’s made me and my church focus on the importance of the Love part of the C&MA’s Love, Proclaim, Reach, and Launch strategy.

Here are a few things about Love I learned in this process that I think are worth sharing.

Love Is Not Natural

Even as human beings, we’re really not that nice. For example, we say, “What is more natural than a mother loving her children?” But read the news. There are mothers doing atrocities to children. We have a lot to learn about being loving people.

The Bible is clear. Ephesians 4:17–32 tells us,

  • You can’t keep on living like the Gentiles.
  • You can’t lose all sensitivity.
  • You can’t harden your heart.
  • You must change your attitude and change your state of mind as to what loving is.

Both Ephesians and Galatians tell us we must do away with things that set up barriers between us; that harden our hearts; that set up differences, fights, struggles, and tensions; and that keep us from loving the people around us.

Titus instructs men to be sound in their love and older women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and how to love their children (2:2–5).

Galatians tells us love is a Fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t come naturally; it comes from God’s presence in our lives.

We have to be transformed; we have to be taught; we have to be trained. Love doesn’t come naturally. We should ask ourselves, “What am I doing each day to be a more loving person?”

Love Is Not Optional

The Bible is clear. What is the greatest commandment of all? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Jesus said these commands go hand in hand.

In Colossians and Ephesians, Paul commends the people’s faith in Jesus Christ and their love for God’s people. If there’s faith and no love, something’s wrong. And if you claim to have love but no faith, something’s missing there also. The two go hand in hand.

We all know faith is necessary, but love is not optional. Love goes together with that faith, and we must accept that responsibility and work on being loving people.

In 1 John 4:20, John goes so far as saying, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” Those are strong words! He continues, “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

There’s a saying in Spanish that says, “Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.” In English, it’s sort of like “out of sight, out of mind.” John is saying if you see your brother and you can’t love him, then it’s hard to believe you really love God, whom you do not see. Out of sight, out of mind.

These are tough words: All who love God must also love their brother and sister.

Love Is Not About Meeting Needs

When God tells us to love, He’s not saying, “I need this person’s needs to be met.” His focus is on us becoming more like Him.

In Philippians, close to the end of the letter, Paul thanks the church for sending an offering to him to help pay his expenses. He writes, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at least you have renewed your concern for me. . . . I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . . Yet it was good for you to share in my troubles” (Phil. 4:10–12). The important thing is not so much that Paul received the gift but that they did the loving act, that they were being the people God wanted them to be.

First Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is written about people who exercise their spiritual gifts. If you go out and prophesy or do whatever spiritual gift but you don’t have love, you haven’t done anything worthwhile because the idea is for you to be a loving person.

For example, verse three says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” We think, Well, the people who received it were blessed. Wasn’t it worthwhile? But God could have taken care of them some other way. That’s not the issue. The issue is, are you the person God wants you to be?

Love Is Impossible Without the Holy Spirit

We’re not capable of generating the kind of love required and continue to be aware of the needs around us. I don’t think any of us are big enough for that. But God is, through us.

Watching couples’ figure skating always brings tears to my eyes. I see two people to whom God has given great talent, and they’ve dedicated themselves to hone that talent the best they can. Then, even though they’re two different people, somebody has choreographed what they’re going to do so it fits together excellently. It’s amazing! A joy to watch.

God has given us spiritual gifts, and He’s made us capable of loving people to change the world around us. If we dedicated as much time to hone our spiritual gifts as these skaters dedicate to hone their talent and if we listened to the Spirit and let Him choreograph the efforts that each one of us is making, it would be a marvelous thing!

God’s work won’t be done in this world unless we are willing to do our share. And our share is to continuously invite Him to work in us and through us.

Philippians 2:13 says, “[F]or it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” It’s the Spirit who drives us, coaxes us, urges us, tries to induce us to do the right things. And it’s only through our saying “yes” and doing what He says that God’s will is going to be done in this world.

God is calling us, and He will call us to do more and more difficult things. We must ask ourselves every day, “Am I doing everything I can to hone my spiritual gifts and become a loving person? Am I really making love a central point of my life, realizing it’s not optional? Am I aware that I can be only as close to God as I’m willing to love the people around me?”

We must be willing to listen to Him and accept that He’s going to put us in situations that test us. He needs us to come through for Him if we’re going to Love as He loves. Then we can Proclaim, Reach, and Launch and make a difference in the world.

Think about this, and let God work on you. Find places where maybe you’ve dropped the ball. I know we’ve dropped it many times. Let’s try picking up the pieces and becoming the loving church God wants us to be.

Puerto Rico Update

Thank you for giving generously and praying often for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria was more devastating to Puerto Rico than anyone anticipated. There were many factors, including aging infrastructure, that accentuated the impact of the Category 5 storm. As a result, recovery was delayed for many months and kept the island in an emergency management mode until the end of 2017.

The C&MA Puerto Rico District and churches are now fully engaged in efforts not only to restore homes and local churches but also to prepare for future disasters. In addition, they are working to address psycho-social needs in their communities. Continue to pray with and partner with the C&MA churches in Puerto Rico over the summer months as they lead this phase of the recovery.

—Mike Sohm, CAMA director

1 response to Love Like a Hurricane

  1. God Bless You!

    Hey lift up us in prayer 🙏🏻 we have a system that the weather channel named Beryl… we need to pray and prayer because the infrastructure is still a little weak and we want that system to “beryl” make it here. I trust the Lord and His Power amen.

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