Shared at Carillon Beach Community Chapel on Sunday, October 20, 2019 10:00 a.m. at a Service of Remembrance.
Titus 2 Partnership’s home, like so many others in the path of the storm was battered and broken on October 10, 2018. In the first few days after Hurricane Michael, as assessments were being made, there was a lot of uncertainty. Was the structure beyond repair? Would the cost of repairs be more than the value of the property warranted? What factors would decide our future and who would make the final decision? Insurance company adjusters controlling interpretation of policy conditions and limits? Third party adjusters? Local government codes and standards? State officials who had authority to oversee and enforce emergency limitations? How long would this take? How would we serve the women in our care in the meantime? Should we simply shut down until the questions were resolved? We had little guidance based on past experience. And those we would have turned to for answers were as confused and rattled and overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster as we were. My husband and I and a couple of close friends looked at the situation, still reeling from our own homes’ damage and losses, as well, and shook our heads, almost immobilized by the shock of it all. Our sense of it was that God would decide whether Titus 2’s ministry would continue and how. We were powerless over the situation. But not without hope.
The five women in our care in the first 72 hours were placed in short term shelter with members of their families locally or outside Bay County with the expectation that they could return as soon as we could see with greater clarity how to move forward. And we began to walk through the process of disaster recovery. The most urgent need was to clean up the mess, stabilize the property to prevent further damage, and make our own assessment of what would be required…. “to count the cost” as the Bible says, while we waited for the adjusters and others who would be part of the decision making process. And even in those first few days, the costs began piling up…. Removal of trees that teetered precariously had to be removed and temporary fixes on the building itself had to be put up to prevent further damage. Trash had to be moved out of the way to even be able to do those things and to further assess the status of the building. The costs were adding up quickly in time, labor, and dollars.
Because communication had been so limited, friends from Carillon Chapel, one of Titus 2’s supporting churches, came to check on us and see how they could help. Crosspoint Church in Niceville, also sent a small group of laborers to encourage, deliver supplies, and provide help. Another unexpected group of volunteers through a national disaster response team called “Helping Hands” arrived. All of them were a welcome sight. They came to comfort and encourage us and offer their hands and resources to help clear out debris and we set to work. As Tom, Carol, Joy, Rich, Chris, and others from Carillon Chapel came they were on hand at key moments to provide counsel and resources to push us through some of the immediate obstacles to recovery. This congregation’s spearheading of an emergency fundraising effort helped us through those first urgent challenges. Tree removal was paid for. Damaged sheetrock and debris was hauled out of the house. The cost of mitigation to place tarps on the roof and board up gaping holes in the siding was born by Carillon’s efforts. Water both for dinking and cleaning, which was a great need, was provided. Salvageable items were washed and bagged and stored. Carillon volunteers returned again and again to help with whatever was needed at the moment as the process continued.
In the meantime, a friend with a similar residential program that had not yet started receiving clients had a home that was offered to Titus 2 for temporary use as an alternate shelter for Titus 2’s program and occupancy began there within two weeks after the storm. Others in need of substance abuse recovery care were already approaching us about needing a program. It was clear that the need for Titus 2’s ministry had not ended and that God was providing the means to continue.
The spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial first aid of the Carillon Chapel community and others sent in the first few critical days is the reason Titus 2 was able to rebound, returning 2 women to the Tropical Drive residence by mid-February. Today, all the major work is completed. Final insurance claim submissions are pending. The women in care at the time of the storm are settled in jobs and homes beyond Titus 2. Other women and families have been served this year because we were able to continue ministry in the midst of the recovery efforts. A new class of four women and another one who has been with us since spring are able to have the time and space and support they need to pursue deeper relationships with God, themselves, and others.
When we started Titus 2 Partnership’s ministry in April 2014, we knew that God’s call was to a specific group of people and to a renewing purpose, not a place. So we set out in faith and God provided first one place, then another in which to house the ministry. The ways in which God provided for Titus 2 through the storm and this year of recovery has affirmed our call. And because we continued in hope and with faith to be good stewards of the place he has provided, God has made it even stronger, more secure, and with a bit more TLC, it will be even more beautiful and welcoming than before for the women God will bring to Titus 2. God has proven that no matter how great the storm, He is greater.
We thank you for your prayers, your labor, your resources, your hospitality to us since the start of this ministry. From the words of Romans 8:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If we ever doubted these words, we no longer do. The devastation from Hurricane Michael was great, but the Lord Our God is greater