On May 24, Typhoon Mawar — also known as Super Typhoon Betty — battered the island of Guam with 140 mph winds and widespread flooding. With the fires in Maui and hurricane season impacting the continental U.S., there was a very real fear among those in Guam that they would be forgotten.
Guam is a U.S. territory, a tiny island in the middle of the huge ocean. Its inhabitants are proud citizens of the United States. Because the island is 14–15 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, depending on the time of year, their slogan is, “Guam is where America’s day begins.”
During our time in Guam with the California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, I was reminded of Exodus 2:25, “And God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.”
Seeing our gold shirts and learning of our mission gave the people of Guam such encouragement. At one point, a truck slowed down, the driver rolled down his window, and said, “Thank you! Thank you so much for coming and helping us!”
Then, a girl who lived in one of the homes we were working on said she was so afraid that the help was drying up, and she had no idea how to get her house repaired.
‘Honored to be part of His plan’
One of our team members told her, “God saw their need and sent us.” How beautiful.
It does not matter where we live — in a huge city or a tiny island — God sees us and God knows us. And we, serving on behalf of Disaster Relief, were honored to be part of His plan.
We were part of the first team of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to respond, and Guam Strong was a new program for FEMA. Like a lot of new programs, there were some bumps and hiccups, and we experienced them right from the beginning.
These difficulties reminded our team members of Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
We realized that our job as disciples is to be ambassadors of Jesus in all our attitudes and actions in every situation. As God promised, He used each situation for things we couldn’t have planned, from developing great working relationships with FEMA folks in Guam to being an encouragement and blessing to our local pastors.
Delays in our scheduled work allowed us to serve our local Baptist churches and pastors by doing everything from mold remediation in churches to emergency home repairs.
What a blessing it was to us to serve these pastors and their congregations who had spent so much of their time ministering to others since the typhoon.
‘Part of our hearts in Guam’
In Romans 16, the Apostle Paul ends his letter: “Greet Aquila and Priscilla, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. … Greet also the church in their house.”
But Paul didn’t stop there. He goes on to greet Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus and Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, the family of Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus and his family, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and his mother, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and the saints with them.
The names roll off the page as Paul wanted to greet everyone with whom he had developed a personal relationship. Paul left a part of his heart in each place he went. Those of us who served in Guam understand. We also left a part of our hearts in Guam.
The end of our letter would read:
“Greet Pastor Pancho and the church that he leads, as well as his wife Ahyen, and thank them for all the wonderful meals they provided us. Greet Neal from FEMA. Greet Jesse and Anna, who have taken on the task of leading the fatherless friends of their youngest son, encouraging them to finish school, and to get good grades. Greet Deborah from FEMA who was so protective of ‘her people,’ as she called us. Greet the lady at the little mart in our hotel who was so amazed that we would come from so far to help them.”
The list goes on. …
In the way that only God can, just as He used the gold shirts to remind the people of Guam that He sees them and knows them, He used the people and situations in Guam to remind our team He sees us and knows us.