Christians in southwest Florida continue to give praise and thanks to the Lord despite a Category 4 storm hitting the state.
Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in Florida on September 28 causing billions of dollars worth of damage to properties, displacing over 40,000 people and killing at least 100. The majority of residents already made preparations for the coming hurricane and some fled the area where the hurricane would land. Many Christians took shelter in their churches which not only would offer food and shelter, but emotional and spiritual support as well, reports GodTv.com.
The members of Southwest Baptist Church in Fort Myers, mostly senior citizens, gathered for worship despite their church being heavily damaged. Soaked floors, damaged roof and wet Bibles didn’t falter the faith of church members. “We got people here that lost their homes. We’ve got people here that we didn’t hear of for quite a while,” Senior Pastor Bob Kasten said.
The destruction left by the hurricane astounded Floridians and the whole world. Many are grateful that they survived and live to tell the tale. Congregants shared how the Lord spared their lives on the same tragedy that took others. Pastor Stephen, son of Pastor Bob Kasten, revealed that just a week earlier, he preached about how Jesus walked on water while a storm was raging.
We’ll worship God no matter what. —Pastor Stephen Kasten, Southwest Baptist Church
“Last Sunday, I actually did a message where Jesus walked on water in the storm. And I was like whatever happens in the storm, we’ll be here Sunday,” he said. “We’ll worship God no matter what. And so I think most of the church has that same feeling, and we’re just here to see who shows up. A lot of members, they did leave, and that was great.”
Southwest Baptist Church insisted on holding a service, even outside the church building, to give comfort and assurance to the community where people felt discouraged, frustrated and lost. Most of its parishioners lived at nearby mobile home parks and most the homes became submerged with floodwater. Homes of nearly a fourth of Kasten’s congregation were uninhabitable after the damage. As survivors arrived at church, they exchanged hugs and tears as they tried to understand the catastrophe that befell them.
“Just the shock of knowing and seeing what you knew happened, it overwhelmed them. But they are just praising the Lord how he protected us, kept us safe,” Kasten said.
Meantime, Rev Charles Cannon, pastor at St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church reminded everyone that not everything was lost in the hurricane. He explained that the material things were lost temporarily, and not everything lost is all gone. The mess can be cleaned and the damage to properties can be fixed, reports Sight Magazine.
“People think they have lost everything, but you haven’t lost everything if you haven’t lost yourself and the people you love,” Cannon said in a Sunday service after the hurricane.
Lead Pastor Russell Howard of McGregor Baptist Church encouraged his members through a video. “It’s an axiom of the Christian faith that you learn in the light the truth you’re going to need in the dark,” he said. “I trust that the things that you have learned in better days are serving you well – what you know about the faithfulness of God, what you know about your standing in Christ, what you know about who He is and who we are in Him. I hope that that is providing you the bedrock stability that you doubtless need to cope with horrific difficulty in these days.”
Rev. Ailton da Silva of the Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry said, “Some people lost a lot of things… We need to pray for the people who lost more than us.” Parishioners, who are mostly immigrants from Brazil, expressed sorrow on the hardships they faced—no electricity, no potable water, destroyed homes. The pastor pointed out the storm tested the community, “I think people will think about faith, family and God.”