Our first Lent Devotion comes from Jamie Grubb, a crisis and trauma chaplain, grief coach and spiritual director working with the spiritual life team at Habitat for Humanity International.
The ocean roared, roofs were ripped off, and houses and coconut trees toppled. Fighting against the wind and flying debris, Nerissa and her family fled to her parents’ house two kilometres inland. They believed they would be safe, but the rising waters followed them. They were trapped inside the interior bathroom with no means of escape as they clung to their children and fervently prayed.
When the waters finally receded and they returned home, they discovered that the sea had taken their home and their business, a birthing centre, and had destroyed their beloved community. Filled with gratitude that their lives were spared, they were overwhelmed at the loss that surrounded them.
The book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah, also tells the sad story of a people who lost everything. Taken captive by Babylon into a land of strangers with unfamiliar customs, Jeremiah pens the example of how we are to live through times of great affliction. He knew first-hand that although we grieve, we survive by living in the embrace of God’s hope. Amid the turmoil, when the situation seems overwhelming, hope reminds us that God’s compassion springs forth new every morning. We may suffer, but God never fails.
I met Nerissa in the Philippines after a super typhoon devastated the island of Leyte. As a trauma chaplain and trainer, my job was to provide emotional and spiritual support and education to the staff, patients and community at a maternal and medical clinic in the middle of the disaster zone. Nerissa came to deliver babies to those in even greater need. Sleeping in a tent amid the rubble of her home, she commuted over an hour to work in the clinic, which was also housed in tents.
In 15 years of deployments to disasters and a lifetime of experiences, I’ve never been impacted like I was after the typhoon. Nerissa and many like her were living examples of Jeremiah’s words: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” They trusted in God for a better tomorrow. Nerissa later received health care grants to rebuild her home and clinic, and now she delivers babies every day for the poorest of the poor. God’s compassion is new every morning.
By responding to disasters and helping to secure housing with those who dream of tomorrow, Habitat for Humanity is a hope giver. Every need that is met is an example of God’s great compassion. As we move through the 40 days of Lent to the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus, may we remember that we are serving alongside a faithful God who will never fail us.
Gentle God, You have given us the promise of resurrection through Your Son Jesus Christ that we too may live in hope. Even when we fall into darkness, loss or suffering, You guide us with Your light that we may find a way out of our distress. Help us to be people of hope that others who suffer may see Your light and Your hope in us. May Your Kingdom and Your glory be revealed in us. Amen.