By Bob Davies
Pastor, Kanata Baptist Church
Here in the Ottawa area, we appreciate the prayerful support from our siblings in Christ across the country after the tornados that recently cut paths through our region. Members of our congregation do live in the affected areas, though none have personally lost their homes or sustained serious damage. The practical effect for most was loss of power for hours to days.
Some of our congregants found immediate opportunities to care for others. One of our leaders, on his way home from work, was in traffic near Dunrobin when one of the tornadoes hit. The clouds went dark; the wind was ferocious. A couple of cars ahead, a tree came down across the road blocking the traffic. As the storm shifted, he could see that although the tree had not hit the red car two ahead, the back window was nevertheless totally blown out. He ran up to the car to find a father and daughter in the front seats. In the back seat amidst the shattered glass lay a two by four: the reason the window was missing. The daughter was quite distressed; the father obviously shaken. “We could have been killed,” he said. Our leader found himself speaking before he had time to think. “We are so blessed; God really must love us very much.”
In that moment, only minutes after the tree came down, bizarre as it may sound, a man with a chainsaw appeared and began cutting apart the tree blocking the road.
I don’t know about you, but to me, in any other moment someone who happened immediately along the road with a chainsaw would signify a different kind of story!
In the suburbs, in the short span across our driveways from the door of our home to the door of our cars, we so easily lose track of who our neighbours are. Amazingly, many in our congregation discovered that when the lights went out, the neighbours came out. Community Facebook pages filled with offers of help; those with power opened their homes to those without for showers, phone charging, and storing frozen goods. Those with generators and camp stoves served coffee from their driveways and shared stories of the storm as they waited for heated baby formula and meals.
Too often we evangelicals can become suspicious of our non-Christian neighbours; we see them coming, presume the narrative ahead, and so self-protectively prepare for them to cut and chop at us. And yet, among our neighbours, in the hours after the rain came down, we found ourselves in a different kind of story. Following our storm, we witnessed a kindly, generous, and concerned community spirit here. However secular, the influence of Jesus has yet left a legacy in our culture; to catch glimpses of it is encouraging and inspiring. And it is necessary for us to bear witness to it: we hope in the God who sows so deeply that not even the most extreme winds of change can remove every trace of His divine work.
Another one of our congregants lives on a treed property north of Kanata. In the storm, he lost about 30% of his trees. His three neighbours lost a great deal more; one whose home was previously set in seclusion among the trees can now see clearly 10km east across the Ottawa river to the Gatineau hills from his property! These neighbours’ homes suffered only minor damage, but the tornado left them entirely surrounded with felled trees and debris. The weekend following the storm, a number of people from our church joined with some of our congregant’s coworkers to offer help. Chainsaws roared to life. The properties were cleared. New stories are always being written.
Here in Ottawa, Samaritan’s Purse and the Red Cross are driving the efforts to help people recover. Within our reach people are trying to sort out the next steps as they put life back together again. Keep our community in prayer as the next chapters unfold.