Hurricane Trifecta: One Year After

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season seemed particularly brutal, especially during the month of September.

Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) personnel and volunteers from all four USA territories were stretched to the limit, not to mention available funding, responding to three savage storms: Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

To say these three hurricanes formed a “trifecta” is not a stretch of the definition. While Salvation Army EDS people feverishly worked in southeast Texas in the wake of Harvey, word was quickly spreading of a second monster storm named Irma which had crosshairs on the state of Florida. Florida divisional personnel had to leave Houston to go straight into harm’s way at home.

Within a fortnight, USA Eastern Territorial EDS workers had to pull out of Florida to address Maria’s horrendous damage and possible death tolls in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The predictions made by the U.S. Weather Service came all too true. All three weather patterns became sure bets that no one wanted.

In the September issue of the War Cry we revisit the three divisions nearly crippled by tropical cyclones exactly one year later. Long-term recovery in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands (PRVI) Divisions are well underway, although an argument could be made that conditions in PRVI are still so dire that the first phase normally conducted by EDS continues in pockets of the islands.

Three common denominators are evident. Each of the three divisions is looking at 3-5 years of long-term recovery, with the arrival of another hurricane season, the public’s mood is close to panic; but, most importantly, the ongoing work of The Salvation Army has and always will be performed in the name of Christ.

HURRICANE HARVEY — RESHAPE, RESTORE, REBUILD

For a 350-mile bend of the Lone Star coastline—from Corpus Christi to Orange— Hurricane Harvey wasn’t just “passing through.” He came to stay for nearly a week, coming ashore first near Aransas Pass and then hugging the coastline all the way up to Port Arthur.

Image of a Women's Ministry Group

Although the Port Arthur Corps no longer exists, thanks to Hurricane Harvey, a Women’s Ministry group continues to grow and meets regularly at the EDS center.

Image of Sarah Smith

As warehouse director, Sarah Smith keeps inventory constantly moving between donors and families receiving in-kind assistance needed due to Hurricane Harvey.

HURRICANE IRMA — LONG-TERM OPERATIONS DELIVER ‘LASTING HOPE’

A fleet of the Florida Division’s Salvation Army Canteens were into a week of serving families victimized by Hurricane Harvey when there was news of another high-category storm—Hurricane Irma—that had the Sunshine State as a possible landfall.

Image of Sarah Rafiq

Sarah Rafiq is a caseworker at the Bonita Springs Mission Station.

Image of Mother, Daughter and Granddaughter

Three generations living in this home can move back in after repairs are completed.

HURRICANE MARIA — RESILANCE REQUIRED

The Puerto Rico—Virgin Islands (PRVI) Division, this corner of paradise, was a victim to two major tropical cyclones within a fortnight during this cruel 2017 Hurricane Season.

Image of Captain Kevin Bryan and Elderly Resident

St. Thomas Corps Officers, Captains Kevin & Christa Bryan, distribute some 60 meals each day to elderly residents living near the corps.

Image of Makeshift Thrift Store

When their thrift store was left uninhabitable after Hurricane Maria, a makeshift thrift store was opened in front of the St. Thomas Corps building.

Get your copy of the September 2018 issue of the War Cry for the full report. Available at your local corps or subscribe at thewarcry.org/subscribe.

 

Movie Review — “Unbroken: Path to Redemption”

An Olympic gold medal athlete, war hero, marooned at sea and then a prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini’s story was well chronicled in Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film, Unbroken. In it, Jolie traced Zamperini’s mischievous boyhood that was turned around by his older brother who recognized his deep reservoir of athletic ability.

Zamperini’s prowess as a track star led to him eventually representing the United States in the 1936 Olympics, winning the gold medal for the 5000-meter run. When the Second World War broke out, like many young men in his day, Zamperini enlisted, becoming a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. While on a rescue mission the plane malfunctioned, leading them to ditch in the Pacific. Jolie vividly portrayed the 47 days Zamperini, with fellow crew members Phil and Mac, were adrift at sea following their plane crash. After being strafed by a Japanese fighter, Mac eventually died from his wounds leaving the survivors to be rescued by a passing Japanese ship. Imprisoned for a short time on a Japanese held island as prisoners of war, their grueling fight for survival continued. Eventually, Zamperini was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Japan where he became the target of a particularly sadistic commandant, whom the POWs nicknamed “The Bird.” Unbroken follows that dramatic and brutal portrayal of Zamperini’s imprisonment until his confinement ended with the war’s end.

As intense as his life had been up to that point, the original movie cheats the movie viewer by only giving a hint as to the ordeal that would follow Zamperini when he returned home. Unbroken: The Path to Redemption, under the direction of Harold Cronk, picks up where Jolie left off. We follow Zamperini as he tries to adjust to civilian life but is bedeviled by flashbacks and nightmares, particularly around the maltreatment received in the prison camp at the hands of the Bird. Through all of this he meets and marries a loving Christian woman whose faith seems to confuse more than comfort Zamperini. Although recognized on the street as an Olympic medalist and war hero, he cannot find work, further compounding his misery. Zamperini accelerates into a downward spiral fueled by a constant state of drunkenness most of his waking hours. Eventually, Zamperini decides the only way to be free of his condition is to travel to Japan and kill the Bird. But a couple of more twists redirect Zamperini to find himself on a whole new journey.

If there is any weakness in the sequel, it is that it assumes the movie goer has already seen Jolie’s film. It relies heavily on this back story. The full story is also available in Laura Hillebrand’s book, Unbroken (2014).

The conclusion of the film is as dramatic as any other element. It chronicles a decisive turning point in Zamperini’s life that, true to the movie’s title, is his path to redemption through Christ. Of interest to Salvationists are both a cameo appearance by The Salvation Army and the unmistakable sounds of a Salvation Army band playing.

We highly recommend this movie to our readers, but if you have not seen the original movie by Jolie, take the time to view it first. Many cable companies offer it as free on demand content.

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee is the Editor in Chief and National Literary Secretary

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Several years ago, my husband had his own business. He poured hour after hour of hard labor into it; he was constantly working, or so it seemed. In time, the financial strain became too much and after three years of being a self-employed business owner he closed the doors.

We both had full confidence going into the venture. We knew that it was God’s will as well as His timing. But it didn’t take long for me to see that my husband thought the success of the business depended on him, and so instead of working smarter, he worked harder. And harder. And harder.

When I approached him about the situation what I heard was, “What am I supposed to do? We have bills to pay.” And then he continued to work harder and harder. Without God. Without his helpmate.

When in defeat he closed the doors for the very last time, he shut God and his wife out even more. Bitter, angry, and feeling like a failure, he returned to work for his former employer.

But God didn’t give up on him even though he’d given up on himself. God’s love relentlessly pursues. God’s love redeems. God’s love never fails.

It’s been six years since my husband closed the doors of his business. Six years and a very long journey for my husband back to the heart of God. Six years and my husband and I are both sensing the call from God for my husband to start another new business—in the same field but a very different business at the same time. We now know he needs to work smarter, not harder, so the first thing we did was to sit down and discuss what that would look like.

My husband now understands that there’s more to work than physical labor. God designed us to work, but not to work ourselves to death. Work is to be meaningful, rewarding, and ultimately a way to further the kingdom and bring glory to His name.

So that history didn’t repeat itself, my husband decided to make a list of what went wrong the first time around. At the top of his list was this: Stopped relying on God.

Folks, our workload was never meant to be burdensome. When we put the world—or work—on our shoulders, we’re carrying a load we were never meant to bear. We are co-laborers with Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3:9). That means we go alongside Him, because apart from Him we can do nothing (see John 15:5).

In his previous business attempt, my husband became so focused on the natural—mainly the bills—that he became blind to the spiritual truths that he knew but had forgotten. But the fact is that if we look at things in the natural, we will not be able to accomplish the supernatural.

The next thing that my husband realized is that his purpose became skewed along the way. He lost the focus of what he was doing and why.

To work smarter and not harder, we must have a clearly defined vision for where we are going. Our target cannot be the broadside of a barn. Sure, you may hit that target, but it may not be even close to what you really wanted to aim for.

When my husband looked at his original vision for the business and where he was when he closed the doors, he could easily see how far off track he had gotten. It wasn’t a sudden derailment, just a subtle track shift that took him in a direction he never intended to go.

To make his new business venture a success we know that my husband needs to stay focused and work with intentionality. Intentionality is “being deliberate or purposive.”

Everything we do takes us closer to one thing and away from another. We have to be deliberate about the tasks and choices before us. Mere human effort is not enough; we must be intentional about our days and be good stewards of our time and gifts.

Every decision, every choice, is a seed. The thoughts and actions that we plant bear fruit. If we want a healthy harvest, we need to make careful, deliberate, and prayerful decisions. My husband learned this the hard way, and while he is excited about the unique business opportunity the Lord is leading him to, he’s not rushing into it as he did with his previous business.

Currently, my husband is spending time in prayer and writing out his vision for the new business. When you have a clear vision for something, all the little decisions get very easy. He knows he cannot be careless about everyday decisions; he must be intentional and have his clearly defined target in sight.

Are you working day and night with no real satisfaction? God intended for us to enjoy our labor. Evaluate your core values and passions. Take a closer look at where you may have gotten off track. Be clear about your life mission; then put the rudder in the water, turn and say, “That’s where I’m going—that’s my target.”

You may have made mistakes, but we serve a God of second chances. Begin to be intentional with your words, actions, and time, and you will discover that you are working smarter, not harder… and loving it.

Tammy Darling is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania.

Conclusion — The Alpha and the Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).

John is the only Gospel writer to record Jesus’ eight startling declarations that begin with the cryptic phrase, “I am …” According to the book of Revelation, Jesus’ final assertion was His post-ascension pronouncement, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).

Although authorship of the Revelation is not certain, there is a long tradition that the author, called John throughout the book, is the beloved apostle. He was the author of five New Testament books, including the Gospel of John; 1, 2 and 3 John; and the Revelation. Early evidence suggests that the Apostle John was indeed the author. Justin Martyr (135 A.D.), one of the early church leaders, believed him to be the author, and a document known as the Muratorian fragment (c. 170 A.D.) ascribes authorship to St. John. If the Apostle John is the author, it is fitting that he would record Jesus’ final proclamation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega …”

John wrote the Revelation while imprisoned on Patmos, a narrow, rocky island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of modern-day Turkey. Under the egocentric Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.), John was banished to the island because of his faith (1:9). Domitian was the first Roman emperor to compel all his subjects (including Jews and Christians) to worship him as a divine son of the gods.

John testifies that it was on a Sunday, “the Lord’s day” (1:10), that he heard a loud voice directing him to “write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches …” (1:11). When John turned to see who was speaking, he saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest” (1:12- 13). John was so overcome that he “fell at his feet as though dead” (1:17). The figure among the lampstands was Jesus, who then placed His right hand on John and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (1:17-18).

JESUS AFFIRMED THAT HE WAS THERE 
AT THE BEGINNING, AND HE WILL BE
THERE AT THE END.  

First and Last

Jesus’ use of the phrase “First and Last” is a reference to the self-description of God. He echoes God’s pronouncements recorded by the prophet Isaiah: “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ‘I am the first and I am the Last; apart from Me there is no God’” (Isa. 44:6). A few chapters later, God declares, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am He; I am the First and I am the Last” (Isa. 48:12).

Alpha and Omega

The expression “Alpha and Omega,” along with its parallel phrase “First and Last,” is found four times in the Revelation. In two places, the idioms refer to God (1:8 and 21:6), and in two they clearly describe Jesus (1:17-18 and 22:13). In the latter passages, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha is the first letter of the 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. Omega is the last letter. The phrase “alpha and omega” suggests completeness.

Although John recorded the divine vision in Greek, the phrase has a Hebrew counterpart. The first letter of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph, and the last is tau. The rabbis had an expression: “Adam transgressed the Law and Abraham kept it from aleph to tau.” They also said that “God had blessed Israel from aleph to tau.” As in Greek, the Hebrew phrase represented God as absolutely complete. He is before time began. He is now, and He will be when time ends.

Beginning and End

John’s extraordinary vision concludes with the risen Christ assuring the readers of His eminent return. “Behold, I am coming soon!” Jesus promised. “My reward is with Me, and I will give it to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (22:12-13). Jesus affirmed that He was there at the beginning, and He will be there at the end. He is there from birth to death. He is there when we start our walk with Him, and He will be there at the end.

The word for beginning (arche) means more than first in a point of time. It means first in the sense of the source of all things. The word for end (telos) does not simply mean an end in the point of time. It means the goal. All life begins and ends in God. As the poet F. H. Myers aptly notes:

Yea thro’ life, death, thro’ sorrow and thro’ sinning
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed:
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,
Christ is the beginning, for the end is Christ.

Not only is Christ coming soon, but He assures His followers that when He comes He will reward every man according to his work. This is indeed good news. The best is yet to come!

Commissioner William W. Francis is a retired officer. He is also the author of The Stones Cry Out (USA Eastern Territory, 1993) and Celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (Crest Books, 1997), and is a frequent contributor to the War Cry and other Salvation Army publications.