As the torrential rain persisted that Saturday evening, something wasn’t right. As minutes ticked by and the heavy rain continued, I recognized that there was a deep continuous rumble, like a low thunder, that would not stop. Also, the earthliest smell filled my bedroom, as if a greenhouse just opened its fullness of life. I called the boys back into my room, because the same sound and smell was not present in the living room. We agreed that the river must be flooding. At the same time my friend Mel, who lives next door at the seminary, texted me to say her van had just floated away. 8:52 p.m. Cautiously, the boys went out to check how high the river had risen. They returned minutes later with wild adrenaline in their eyes, exclaiming that they saw the water crash over our back wall and were yelling at all our neighbors and aviation workers, who lived along that back wall, to run for the hanger.
The next few hours blur of us running back and forth to the hanger with blankets and dry clothes. Our dear co-workers telling me their homes are gone, but I couldn’t fully absorb their words. I was sure they just meant flooded or muddy. Meanwhile there was no water in our yard, so despite my fellow workers encouragement, we kept ignorantly returning to our home. I was especially oblivious to the danger. 10:22p.m. I receive a phone call from one of my dear friends in the hanger to hurry and come take care of a very large wound on one of our neighbors and faithful workers of 22+ years at AAI. By the time I had gathered supplies and arrived there they had already transported him to the hospital, which was the right thing to do. The wound was large and exposed down to the bone. Devastatingly, Hendrick died 9 days later from complications due to his injuries sustained that night. The rain continued. Each drop didn’t fill our bucket. It only forced more out of it.
The screaming in the night only revealed its full truth as dawn began to break. Approximately, seventy percent of our campus was wiped out. Destroyed beyond recognition and as my national workers had tried to tell me, gone. The devastation leaked way beyond the borders of our property. Directly behind our campus over forty lives are still missing. The giant boulders and large uprooted trees that now stand where once people lived are a testimony to the force of nature unleashed.
There are a million more sad details of loss and despair. Stories are still being told, all over our community as landslides and flooding displaced thousands and killed over a hundred. But I want to now share with you a few of the drops, in my tipping bucket, and how what was emptied is being refilled. One drop at a time.
4:15 a.m. the pre-dawn after the devastating night. The rain has stopped, and the earth is still. The mosque rings out so loud and clear. It sounded gorgeous. Something I never thought I would say. A reminder to pray. A call of stability and normalcy. A reminder that no matter what we saw that morning that God was still faithful. It was the very first drop in the bucket for me.
Drop two. Our home and fence around our yard were completely untouched. The only intact fence left on campus. When I comprehended the power of the insane destruction and my foolishness for staying in our home, I recognized how blessed we were.
Drop three and more. Friends praying and sending messages. There were so many messages I just couldn’t keep up with responded to them all. But each one added another drop. Some in the middle of the future nights when we were trying to sleep in the hanger, and the rain was pounding so heavy on the metal roof that we could not sleep. No mind that our hearts were pounding also. These drops of friendship keep getting dripped in as friends listen to our stories. It is so healing to tell our story again and again and to hear theirs.
Another drop. My amazing national workers, who lost EVERYTHING, still smiling, still grateful. Still praising the giver and taker of life. Their courage, their joy, their testimony is inspiring.
More drops came when Gary, Wendy, Cherise and Michael circled overhead in our plane three or four times and several hours later arrived on campus. The plane was parked at the Sentani airport. They navigated the crazy flooded roads with a brave pilot driving the car. Later, this same pilot took our shopping list and bought us essentials, navigating the same flooded roads.
Drops, Oh beautiful drops, in our bucket came when mountain people heard of our loss, and sent love offerings of fruit and vegetables. People who have almost nothing, other than their gardens. These all coming via a pilot friend, who has helped us many times in the past. These food offerings were such a blessing as the market was temporarily knocked out of commission and as we fed all our displaced workers.
Later our friends, sent from Jayapura, many kilos of fruit and she is the one who said, “It is just a drop in the bucket!” Oh, my friend, that drop went so far to encourage and strengthen and replenish what was taken from us.
Tuesday drops were added as my dear husband arriving home from Lebanon. The flooding was worse on Tuesday, as each night tormenting torrential rain would return threatening to undo each of us. We could not go and greet our amazing rock of a man. No. He had to leave his baggage with a friend and wade home. Often, he was up to his waist in swirling water and silt. At one point a police truck picked him up and navigated him to our property. Precious drops, we were together again.
Drops of friendship. I am extremely grateful that I could walk and wade through this crazy season with Wendy. We cried together. We worked so hard together. In rare moments we laughed so hard. We’ve also misunderstood each other (just so you know we are not perfect). Haha. (We love to keep OUR stories REAL). I am so thankful that we could do these first few difficult weeks together. Other friends come to my mind also that have dropped beautiful encouraging drops of water, water of life, into the bucket. I think especially of my friend Mandy who went and met the needs of my friend Mel and 50 seminary students, who were displaced on Mandy’s side of town. Thank you.
Generators. Drops of power that kept our fridges running and even powered one washing machine. Thank you Walley and NTM who leant amazing generators.
Another drop was taking my dear Dr. Di to the airport and slowing down for a little chat. She was my first person to really debrief with outside of our AAI world and the tears that flowed almost emptied my bucket….but they were healing and they needed to come. It didn’t help that I remembered, half way through our visit, that this was my goodbye to a tremendous mentor and friend.
Our older boys from the States came for their spring break. Arriving on day 8 of our catastrophe. They came with their girlfriends. Their visit both added and took away drops from my bucket. Their visit had long been delightfully anticipated, but it was now under much different circumstances. They highlighted how utterly exhausted I was. Sometimes I was so tired I couldn’t even visit with them in the evenings. We slipped away, twice that week to the beach, to gulp in fresh air, escape, and be together as a family. I think these times were critical not only to enjoy each other, but for me to replenish drops in my bucket, with my precious family.
Honestly, I could keep sharing. The drops keep coming. One at a time. The bucket is still sloshing around with some spilling out, as there is still much pain and difficulty. Flooding continues and many people are traumatized even by the sound of rain. I love recognizing the drops. I love knowing that despite not feeling strong at all, that I am giving drops also. The giving and taking of drops are all from the One who gives the water of life. The most life-giving drops there are. And so, I collect from Him and from you, One Drop at A Time.