Hurricane Florence: 200 Chaplains on Standby; Residents Trusting God

By   •   September 12, 2018

Millions of residents along the East Coast are making last-minute preparations as Hurricane Florence looms. Here, a 4-year-old girl from Virginia Beach helps her family put down sandbags.

And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
—Matthew 8:25-27, ESV

The ancient account of Jesus calming the storm keeps coming to Kristen Yarborough’s mind as she and her family drive westward, away from their Wilmington, North Carolina, home and the massive hurricane churning off the coast.

Kristen, Chad and Eden Yarborough on the site of their new home, the day before the foundation was poured. They dedicated their home to the Lord and say they’re leaving it in His hands as they evacuate Wilmington, North Carolina, ahead of Hurricane Florence.

“With trusting hearts, holding back tears, we turn our beloved home and town over to our God who is mightier than any storm,” Kristen wrote Wednesday morning on Facebook, where she’s been updating friends around the country as weather forecasts place Wilmington directly in the path of Hurricane Florence.

As a Christ-follower, Kristen says she doesn’t spend much time worrying about material things. Still, leaving the home her family just moved into eight months ago was difficult.

“It’s been a struggle to let it go and trust the Lord,” Kristen said.

She and her husband, Chad, and their 4-year-old daughter, Eden, recently watched as their new house on the Cape Fear River was built from the ground up. They wrote Bible verses on the foundation and beams as they prayed over their home—that it would be a place where the Lord is loved, honored and worshiped.

Now, as they say goodbye and head to the mountains, “He’s reminding us that it’s His.”

Chaplains Ready to Respond

While millions of coastal residents evacuate, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) is preparing for a potential deployment.

Jack Munday, international director of the RRT, says more than 200 crisis-trained chaplains are on standby. The team, which was founded in the aftermath of 9/11, has deployed alongside Samaritan’s Purse after devastating hurricanes including Katrina, Sandy and Harvey.

“This hurricane could be the worst natural disaster the Carolinas has ever seen,” Munday said from RRT headquarters at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We are praying for the best, yet preparing for the worst.”

Peace and Joy in Uncertain Times

Residents preparing for the hurricane have faced difficult decisions over the past few days. While many beach towns and low-lying areas are under mandatory evacuation orders, those who live a little farther inland have grappled over whether to stay or go.

Many Wilmington residents have been crying out to God for their town. “We’ve just been trying to align ourselves with the way Jesus told us to pray,” Kristen Yarborough said. “Our prayer is, we don’t want [the hurricane] to move anywhere else that affects someone else. We just want it to go out to sea and get disorganized and dissipate.”
In many cases, residents have sick or elderly relatives to consider. Others, like the Yarboroughs, have young children and pets to take into account. And there’s always the question of whether homes and businesses will withstand the storm.

“Our decision was simple math,” Randy Reed said with a laugh.

He and his wife, Becky, have lived in Hampstead, North Carolina, near Wilmington, for 15 years. This is the first time they’ve evacuated.

“We have a roof that’s rated for 130 mph winds,” Randy said. “They were talking about maybe a strong Cat 4 or a weak Cat 5 (which could mean windspeeds in the 140s or 150s). So our decision was simple math and physics.”

Randy and Becky Reed say they’re praying for many friends scattered along the East Coast. “Our prayers are for their safety, and also that we would respond to the situation based off of our relationship with Christ instead of responding to the circumstances,” Randy said. “We just remember what our foundation is, and we’re good. It’s not happy, it’s not fun, but we’re good.”

Randy and Becky are spending the next few days in Durham with their adult daughter. They had been looking for an opportunity to see her, but everyone’s schedules were hectic.

“Then the storm stopped everything, and off we go,” Randy said.

The couple realizes the gravity of the situation along the coast, but their lighthearted laughter revealed an inner joy and peace that’s allowing them to take the uncertainty in stride.

“It was initially hard as I was going through and closing all the doors,” Randy said. “I felt sad. But Becky said, ‘You know what? I can make a home with you anywhere.’ And that was it. We’re good. Our foundation is Christ.”

“Wherever we are, He’s there,” Becky said.

That’s a truth Chad and Kristen Yarborough and so many other believers are holding onto, whether they’re hunkering down at home or seeking shelter elsewhere.

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.'” (Genesis 9:12-13)

Just a half hour into their 300-mile journey to the North Carolina mountains, the Yarborough family spotted a double rainbow.

“I just feel like the Lord’s been reassuring us with His promises,” Kristen shared over the phone from the interstate, as little Eden in the back seat made it clear she was ready for a lunch stop.

“It’s been a lot more emotional for me than I thought it would be. But I feel like I have peace from the Lord. “I don’t know how we could do it without Him.”

Please join with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains and many coastal residents in praying for the hurricane to weaken and spare the coast.

You can have peace in the midst of a looming storm. Start here.