Standing Watch

By Marcy Barthelette  

Just last week our nation stood watch—waiting to see where Hurricane Ian would make landfall and speculating his speed on impact, what height would the surge reach, and who needed to be evacuated. Government officials scurried to see who could outdo the other in a midterm election year. Organizations like our own Convoy of Hope, the Red Cross, and countless lesser-known names raced the clock to load semis with water, food, and hygiene supplies. Homeowners in vulnerable areas boarded their windows and sandbagged low-lying doorways and foundations. The evacuations were ordered, some fled and found themselves in seemingly endless traffic while others opted to stay put and ride it out, knowing they could not be rescued from perilous situations until conditions improved and rescuers would not experience undue risk. Finally, all that could be done in preparation was complete and it was time to wait.

We know a bit about hurricanes having lived in Florida for a few years and also having a large number of family members in residence there. They all escaped damage, by the way. Prayers were answered.

Whenever I hear that a hurricane is forming or heavy rain is pummeling an area, I am transported back over three decades to the time when I lived on the bank of a small river. Understand, there is flooding like on the big rivers when they back up for days or weeks leaving behind a layer of very rancorous mud and mold. And there’s flash flooding, the kind that occurs when inches of rainfall in a short time build a torrent of uncontrollable water that steamrolls down the deep valleys of our beautiful Ozarks. They hit fast and hard, do their damage, and move on almost as quickly as they came. My home near that river was idyllic most of the time. It was a restored log home with a wood stove (we had HVAC but the wood fire added so much aesthetic warmth). The camping resort where I worked and lived had a stable full of horses that we could ride and canoes or tubes for fun in the water. Our river was so crystal clear you could see everything that swam with you or settled on the bottom. We enjoyed roaring fires on gravel banks, fish fries with friends and so much more. It seemed just about perfect….most of the time.

I refer to the river but it was actually three…the East Fork, Middle Fork, and West Fork of the Black River. They all converged just above the campground. Bear in mind, the watershed areas for any stream come from miles away so it can be raining hard in the next county or two counties over but the sun may still be shining on the river where you happen to be camping or floating. So, if heavy rain fell on the watershed for one of our forks, it just elevated the water level for good floating. If two managed to rise at the same time, we had to keep the watercraft on land and away from the river’s edge. On the occasion when widespread, heavy rain fell on the entire watershed, it was time to take notice. The campground had to be evacuated and campers were often reluctant to go. After all the sun was shining on their site. Why should they worry about flood water? They didn’t believe the warnings that were shared by local authorities or even the Corps of Engineers. And some of them had to be rescued after the water receded and they had spent a few harrowing hours on top of a car or camper, hoping they wouldn’t float away. Those who heeded a late warning of sudden impact but found the exit already underwater spent the day or night in our maintenance building, the highest point on the property. That was when we emptied our cupboards and freezers to feed the crowd.

I can’t begin to tell you how many nights I lay awake or set my alarm to go out and check the water level. My house was pretty high but it was only a question of time before the big one would find its way inside my doors. In my seven years there and countless floods of all strengths, my daughter and I only had to evacuate once. It was a harrowing experience but neighbors rallied around, gave us a scary boat ride, then provided us warmth and safety until the waters receded. Flash flooding typically comes with little warning, unlike a hurricane that our technology can track. But they are alike in that as soon as you know they’re coming, you kick into preparation mode and when you do everything humanly possible to minimize the impact, you wait and let God take over. The water never entered the doors of that house for as long as we lived there, but after Ken and I married and we moved, the river had its way. I believe God protected us all that time. Yes, he sent clouds drenched with rain and we were forced into preparation mode, but we did all we could while trusting Him. And He always stood watch over us!

You armed me with strength for battle…. Psalm 18:39a NIV


Leave a Reply