I grew up being a very nervous child. Any new problem threw me off of a cliff of jitters into a pit of anxiety. This affected both my physical and emotional health. I had no clue what it could feel like to have internal peace, or that it was even available. I’m grateful that non-spiritual people can have spiritual experiences. That is what happened to me at the age of 18. This taste of what is possible started me on a life-long quest for personal peace.

For me, Christianity was the answer for my desire for peace. This was not an immediate conclusion. My first step moved from “there might, or might not, be a god” to “God is real”. This was a huge step! This step, however, did not include the church, or any mentors. I started my spiritual journey in earnest as a solo trek.

As a more mature Christian, I know now that Christianity is not meant to be done alone. It’s about bringing people together, not isolating ourselves. I also came to the realization that problems are always going to happen. Some problems are avoidable, while others are not. It is our choice how we respond to problems.

Last week as I wrote my article while Hurricane Harvey was dominating headlines. This week Harvey has faded, and Hurricane Irma has come roaring onto the scene. As much as I love the ocean, I have to admit that at the moment I’m glad that I live in the desert! Hurricane Irma is a storm that demands respect, and is intent on doing massive destruction.

Due to a week of meetings (including Ministry Cabinet and Appointive Cabinet), I’m writing this article on Saturday. This means that you are reading this article with far more knowledge of Hurricane Irma than I have as I write this.

I can’t name many people who live in Florida, but two of them are close to my heart. This is my cousin and her five year old daughter. I have been in close contact with my cousin for the last couple of years. Although we have never called me her mentor, I guess that I am. This last week we have talked even more than normal as we have been watching the approach of Irma. My sister and I have been two of the key people that she has been turning to for help. For better or worse, she trusts us. All week I have been aware that my words could literally help to save, or help to lose, two special lives. My cousin lives in the Tampa area, only three miles from the ocean. Her house is in a historical flood plain. I have helped my cousin to be ready to face Irma from her house, but have told her that if she receives an evacuation notice, she needs to leave. Yesterday afternoon she received the notice. Since yesterday my sister and I have been pushing hard that my cousin and her daughter need to leave. She didn’t want to. As of this moment, our last text conversation went like this: C – Leaving. Have car charger. M – Hurry! Drive like the wind! Drive that Charger like you stole it. GO NOW! C – U scare me. Pray. M – Stop texting and drive! I have been praying!

I went back on-line for more information, and the first title I saw said: “Forecasters say Irma’s prime target is now Tampa, not Miami”. Gov. Rick Scott was quoted as saying to residents in the evacuation zones: “You need to leave—not tonight, not in an hour, right now”. My cousin and her daughter are now two of the people trying to get out. Will they be able to get gas? Will they get through the traffic? Will the car have problems? Will they be clear of Florida before Irma hits? Will anyone help them if they have problems? I just don’t know yet.

I do know that there are times in life when all of us will need help, and other times when we are in a position to give help. Jesus says: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Each of our churches, and each of us individually, have opportunities to help others. Let’s not hesitate to help to the very best of our ability! Most of these opportunities will not be life or death situations, but some of them will! In this life, we are all connected. God is calling us to help people that we know, and people that we don’t know. Will we respond?

Your brother in Christ, Mark

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