Peace through the storm

making things new

Brooke Sabrsula is learning that peace must be a truth anchored in Christ. Enjoy her story about God’s peace guiding her family during one of the most traumatic experiences they have ever faced. 

By Brooke Sabrsula, KUMC member

When I became a mother eight and a half years ago my focus shifted along with my priorities.  The purpose of my life changed.  I now had the responsibility to provide, nurture and care for my children.  I always strive to give my children safety and structure.

Sabrsula fam

About a year ago I wanted to become more intentional with prayer and scripture in our home.  I started writing scriptures on my bathroom mirror, framing scriptures around the house, putting a chalkboard scripture weekly on our breakfast table and creating a small kid-size prayer table.  On August 29, 2017, my vision of having structure and safety in my home literally flooded away.  My husband, three kids, dog and cat sheltered in place upstairs as water started to rise in our bottom floor of our house in the middle of the night.  All that we had worked so hard for over the years was turning into chaos.  Not just the physical items like furniture, appliances, clothes and cars but the intangible things like our safe haven, structure, routine and safety.

It’s true that adrenaline kicks in when faced with imminent danger, because it did, and we were on auto-pilot.  Those nine hours of water rising and waiting for boat rescue were intense, scary and filled with what-ifs.  It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly.  Just the day prior there was no inclination that our house would even remotely flood.  There was no report of the release of the Conroe Dam, so we were kept in the dark quite literally.  Many areas in and around Houston were projected to flood and had warnings, none of which included Kingwood.  Since our house was built 34 years ago, there had never even been water in the street.  Since we were home during the rising of the waters, we were able to save some important and irreplaceable items however since we were home we were also in harm’s way.  The water was over the top of my toddler’s head who has an adventurous spirit and no safety awareness of drowning.

In the wee hours of water rising we prayed and we waited.  I’d like to say we waited patiently but I definitely was NOT patient.  I tried to stay calm and keep my tears at bay to help our children from getting scared.  The water came in from all sides of the house.  The kids’ playground in the back was submerged, I couldn’t even see the top of the baby swing.  All of the mailboxes were hidden under the murky flowing lake water.  The sound of helicopters hovering over our house, cabinets opening and our belongings clanging, car alarms going off, the cat howling with nerves from being crated for seven hours, the smell of gasoline filling the house from the garage when Scott bravely shut our power off, the sight of the banana peel floating by the stairs….it was surreal and it was tough.  The toughest part was feeling like a failure with my biggest responsibility, keeping my children safe.  I had never felt I couldn’t protect my children until those 9 hours.  It’s a horrible feeling and I knew I had no control.

sabrsula rescueThe latest scripture I had written on my bathroom mirror was Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  I kept saying it to myself and it allowed me to relinquish all control to the Lord.  It put me at ease.  Water reached 34 inches in our home and 8’ in the street.  It had nearly peaked by the time we were rescued.  Many boats could not get down our street because of the fierce current.  Alas, a boat appeared.  I cried happy tears and thanked God.  There were four men manning the boat that rescued us, two with oars, one steering and the other watching the path ahead to alert of obstacles like submerged mailboxes, cars and ferocious currents.  We had about 15 people, 6 dogs and a cat on board.  I handed off my six-year-old son and he was carried on a man’s shoulders to be the first to board the boat by ladder.  I have never felt so helpless in my life as I passed my children off to get on that boat.  I was the last one out of the house, carrying the pets.  I will never forget pulling the front door shut against the water and locking it.  Nothing about this experience says peace.  It was the opposite!  But, I knew on that boat the Lord was with us.   These brave captains were civilians and a couple of them members at KUMC.  When we got off the boat and were trudging through ankle deep water to dry land, my eight-year-old grabbed my hand and said “mommy, right when I finished my prayer is when the boat came.”  At that moment, I was at peace.  I knew that I wasn’t a failure at the most important role in my life as mommy.  I had equipped my children with hope and trust in the Lord.  She knew the Lord heard her prayer and answered.  I knew we were going to be ok.  “Be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation and faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

We are not designed to be the protector and provider.  We are merely a branch of the Lord to use what He has given us to guide our family to cling to hope and find the peace in the midst of chaos.  That water was not high enough to destroy my dry-erase bathroom scripture on my mirror and it STILL remains there, covered in dust and muck.  It continues to remind me of courage, peace and strength because He is my shepherd.  Peace is not the absence of trouble, it is the presence of Christ.

After the demo and cleanup, which was no easy or pretty task, we brought our older kids back to the house for the first time to write scriptures and motivation on the studs.  I was blown away by their innocent and hopeful words.  Some may have included Astros and Jeff Bagwell (after all, we are big Astros fans), but most of them were filled with hope and trust.  It was a great way for us to process our chaotic life and another moment that brought me peace.  My children were once again putting their words and affirmations of faith and filling the walls of our home with them.  How sweet is that?  Our home will forever be encompassed in their faith and His word…. and Go Astros!sabrsula studs

Many people told us to prepare for a marathon and not a sprint.  This proved to be accurate.  The time and energy it takes to rebuild, coordinate efforts and make decisions is astounding.  Most of the time during the rebuild we lived with my newlywed sister and her husband.  They graciously opened their home up to us.  I commuted with the kids to school, work and extracurricular activities each day which would take me 35-50 minutes one way depending on traffic.  Driving with tired and cranky children daily is not the most fun but we adjusted, and I learned to crank up Christian radio when I was stressed.  Scott was our fierce leader and he stepped up to the plate to provide for our family just like the Bible speaks about.  Many nights and mornings we never saw him because of his hard efforts but he has been our rock and I have never felt more blessed to have him than during this time.  I gained peace knowing that my husband was piecing the puzzle back together.  I’d say we have grown stronger together as husband and wife and as a family.

Throughout this entire ordeal, we have been blessed with so much support from angels all over the world.  Yes, the WORLD!  We have received assistance and love from as far as Japan.  Our family and Kingwood community have been amazing and provided for us in so many ways with hard physical labor, rides to and from places, childcare, meals, clothes, toiletries, prayers, gift cards, donations, conversation and much more.  Our crazy family of five has stayed at six different homes before we were able to move back to our house 75 days post flood.  None of this has been easy but we have seen the works of the Lord and so many blessings through it all.  I am forever changed, amazed and overwhelmed.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   Romans 15:13

We still have a long road ahead of us financially and emotionally, but I know now more than ever, that there is always hope, no matter the situation because God has promised us that and I continue to see it daily as we rebuild and recover.  There is always peace among the chaos.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

 

Advertisements

Making All Things New

Kingwood United Methodist Church Staff

By Rev. Scott Dornbush

Christians confess and proclaim that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This is the great message of the incarnation that Jesus Christ was born into human history in the fullness of time for the salvation of the world.  This is what we seek to celebrate, proclaim and live out in the Advent/Christmas season.

Advent is a season of great tension. It is primarily a season that focuses on the second coming of Christ and expresses our expectation of God’s final kingdom of shalom—justice, peace righteousness and reconciliation, God’s promised end for all of his creation.  Yet, Advent also invites us to give thanks for the gift of Christ to us in the past.  In seminary, we referred to this as celebrating “the already and the not yet”.  We give thanks to God for the gift of the babe in the manger and we anticipate that day when his kingdom is fully revealed.

This year our theme for Advent/Christmas is, “Making All Things New”. That’s what we celebrate during this time of the year, we worship a God who makes all things new.  The world changed when Christ was born among us and the kingdom that started then will be culminated when his kingdom fully comes.  What powerful words of hope and comfort for us during the trying times of life!  As a community and as individuals many of us have experienced the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the flooding that resulted.  Houses and possessions were lost, relocations were forced and for many both current and future plans had to be altered.  While many experienced the devastation of Harvey there arose in the midst of it all the light of Christ shining over and above the darkness.  Stories of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love emerged from the flood waters.

Our Sunday services during Advent will lift up the stories of those who have given witness to how the presence of God has been with them during trying and difficult times. We will have Advent/Christmas decorations around the campus that will have been constructed with lumber that has been reclaimed from the flood (don’t worry, it has been sanitized).  What a powerful witness, that our God is a God who makes all things new.  We will share and celebrate the faith and the stories of those, who in the midst of difficulty, have been able to witness and bear witness to; Reclaiming Hope, Reclaiming Joy, Reclaiming Peace and Reclaiming Love.

Join us for worship this holy season as we celebrate Christ’s presence among us and anticipate the promise yet to be fulfilled.

Pastor Scott

God’s promises; Always faithful

Day 6 – KUMC’s mission team somewhere northeast of La Progreso, Honduras

By Gladden Lawrence

As long as I can remember when I’d see a rainbow in the sky, it always represented God’s promise never to destroy the earth and those living on it. It would even show up after a rain shower

This afternoon as we left our drill site after the 4th day of drilling, then preparing the pump slab for tomorrow’s well dedication, it happened again.

God’s promises and faithfulness to the team was shown day after day, struggle after struggle with constant downpours of rain, slow going on drilling through stubborn rock formations, minor equipment glitches to test our patience and endurance; prayer after prayer.

For reference, in Genesis 8-13 God begins his promise this way.

Again, God said to Noah and his sons:

I am going to make a solemn promise to you and to everyone who will live after you. 10 This includes the birds and the animals that came out of the boat. 11 I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood.

12-13 The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever.

God showed us all his every present and abiding love to the people of the community we were serving in, along with the spirited students that kept us laughing, smiling, and always on our toes when several of the students would test our knowledge of Spanish.

kids
Students captivated by Spencer (from Bastrop, TX) showing the flexibility of his earrings.

——————————————————–

By the way, we did find water; shallow, but we found water. Since the casing was installed yesterday (Wednesday) it’s was now time clean out the wellbore, flush, then pack with gravel and concrete before a slab and pump can be installed for tomorrow’s dedication.

A team was sent to a nearby river to bring back sand, river rock, and driftwood for tomorrow’s lunch celebration. The sand will be mixed with gravel, cement, and water to construct the pump slab.

Pictured below: river rock was used as an economical filler.

River rock was used as an economical filler prior to filling the form with concrete.

 

concretepour
Fresh concrete is smoothed around the pump housing that would soon deliver clean water.

————————————————

About the time everyone was on the bus headed back to La Progreso for a final team dinner, God reminded us He is still in control and sent us another shower for Nugget to navigate the bus through the narrow schoolyard gate.

One more rain shower to send us back to the hotel.

____________________________

Prayer for Day 5 – Thank You Father that You are the faithful, good and righteous God. You always keep Your promises. You are the God who is gracious and merciful in salvation, even as You are just and wrathful in Your judgments. AMEN!

Celebrating Living Water

Day 6 – In the Colonia of Juta, Honduras to celebrate living water

By  Gladden Lawrence

Let the celebrating begin! The well was dug, the pump installed, pictures were taken, clean water flowed, the schoolyard was full of students, parents, and all the community turned out to pray over the new source of water.

handsonwell

This event was undeniably the best part of the week. The reason why we were there became as clear as water. Pastor Hector summed it up in his scripture reading from John 4. The story of the Jesus interaction with the Samaritan woman. It reads in part beginning with verse 7-10;

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

kidgroup
Students at the local school now have clean water to drink.

———————————-

Judyfirsttodraw
Honored by pumping the first measurable amount of new water, KUMC’s Judy Weatherwax enjoys her moment.

_______________________________

With our work completed, the KUMC team was treated to a Honduran-style celebration lunch before taking off for a little r&r in a coastal town called Tela.

After shopping and a snack of coffee and pastry, it’s back on the bus for the trip to the hotel to pack and prepare for the trip home. I’ll always remember Maria’s smile that melted my heart along with others on the team. To me, she’s the reason why we’re here.

maria

 

Closing prayer for KUMC’s Living Water Mission Trip – Holy Father, thank you for sending me to work on your behalf for the people of Honduras. May the work done here be pleasing in your sight and honor your name. AMEN

An Undrillable Rock!

Day 5 – Wednesday — In a community northeast of El Progreso, Honduras
By – Gladden Lawrence

A rather large rock we  pass
going to our drill site.

Continuing my rock theme from yesterday; recall our Living Water International driller (Nugget) recommended moving our rig 30 feet to the right in order to change our fortunes after spending hours of painfully slow drilling through a challenging rock formation. Prayer got the team going in the right direction as the days to work are quickly coming to a close.

prayers to begin the dayThe local community pastor, Hector Cruz, stops by to give thanks and encouragement before the days drilling begins.

We actually had a day with very little rain and a decent amount of progress. The rig functioned with limited stops to make adjustments to the chain and rotate teams so everyone could get the opportunity to get the first-hand experience at drilling a water well.

After the final string was drilled, it was time to set the casing and begin ‘completing’ the well. This meant inserting several feet of PVC casing, flushing the well bore out with clean water, then as dark approached, Nugget attempted to give the well a boost with a jolt of air pressure to get water to begin flowing.

It was late and daylight was at a premium so this would have to wait until Thursday morning when the well would be dedicated and the first gallons of clean water will be pumped out of the hold with a hand pump.

Pictured below are drill team members placing the well’s outside casing into place prior to completing the well Thursday

casing set

if you’re wondering what ‘An Undrillable rock’ title references, I’m reminded of a famous hymn by Edward Mote, 1797-1874, “My Hope is Built on Nothing less with a chorus saying with a verse that says,” On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

This week the schoolyard where we’ve been working, praying, fellowshipping with the community, and breaking bread together, has been (an still is!) pretty sloppy and unstable due to the constant rains. Even the large rocks that occupy the hills surrounding this community may not be permanent, but stand as a reminder from Psalm 18:2, The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Prayer for Day 5, Holy Lord, you are an immovable, unshakable, faithful, fortress. … You are my rock, my fortress, and my savior; in whom I find protection, endurance, and encouragement. Amen

Only some things are certain

Day 4 – Back on the drill site in the hills near La Progresso, Honduras

By Gladden Lawrence

If I was in the prediction business, I’d say it was going to rain today, the sun would come up, but we wouldn’t see it because of the rain clouds, and we most certainly would be back on out drill site for the second day of the KUMC team’s Living Water International mission trip.

These are pretty safe predictions. Another prediction would be drilling through a challenging rock formation.

Today was a new day full of prayers and promises that we would go through this stubborn rock zone with a bit designed for such a task.

The first several strings were made, cutting through the initial sandy soil like it was butter, then it was deja vu all over again. The motor turned, the mud flowed, and we all anxiously watched the pipe for the slightest indication it was making small pebbles out of big rocks.

Eventually, our driller, “Nugget” opted to shut the rig down and move it laterally about 30 ft in hopes of perhaps guessing correctly that by moving the location would change our luck and continue our task of finding water for the village.

Drilling is an inexact science. Unless we had seismic data that showed where the formations were, there is no certainty just by changing the location of the rig a few feet it would make any difference…it might, but it might not.

We moved and will return today with great anticipation that our plan will ease the struggle of drilling through a temperamental rock formation.

RigMoved

The rig’s new position above. Notice the empty position just to the right of the water tank.

The uncertainty of moving the rig a few feet to bypass a rock zone got me to thinking about my relationship with Jesus. It’s certain that Jesus loves me and wants the best for me and my family. It’s certain that Jesus came and walked among us, took on our sin and went to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

In Luke 11:9-13 Jesus says,  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

Paul says in Romans, “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.”

——————————————————————————————————————–

Honduran culture snippet: We took a timeout today between downpours to sample the fruit of a local plant growing in the area. Some call it a ‘hairy eyeball’, others call it for what it really is; a Honduran Litchi Fruit. Once the outside cover has been split, a sweet, tasty white center is revealed. The sweet taste is a welcome change for the team consumed with finding water in a schoolyard in Honduras.

step1Lichee  step2lichee

Day 4 Prayer – God of the heavens and the earth. With joy and humility, we give you thanks for sending your servants to serve on this Living Water team. Continue to build us up with endurance, strength, and patience to finish the job. We ask all this in the name and for the sake of your Son Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Drilling Under an Almond Tree

Day 3 – Monday — In a school yard near El Progresso, Honduras, under an almond tree

AlmondTree

By Gladden Lawrence

My Monday morning began with our larger team of 20 split into 2 groups to begin drilling 2 separate water wells.  Living Water International has yet to drill a well in this western region of Honduras, so as pioneers on a new journey, new community to serve, and for me, a unique opportunity to experience helping to drill a water well, we said a prayer then off on our week’s task of providing water in Jesus’ name.

The group of KUMC team members and the team from Bastrop; along with Living Water reps, was met by volunteers from the village to help us.

waterforlife

During the Honduran rainy season, it rains about every 30 min; and not just a sprinkle or a steady rain, but a real ‘gully washer’. The almond tree where the drill rig is set up helped provide a nice canopy, but a blue tarp was soon needed to help protect the Living Water equipment from these regular intervals of heavy rainy season downpours.

From our devotions at meal time, to dressing in the latest foul weather gear, water seems to be in every conversation this week.

Now if you’re wondering as I am, water also represents Gods Word in 107 places in the Bible. Two books in particular, Psalms and Ephesians, calls out water as symbols of God’s word. Ephesians 5:26 to make her (the Church) holy, cleansing her (the Church) by the washing with water through the word.

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that whoever sees the lest of their brothers and sisters hungry or thirsty, and you offer them something to eat or drink, you did the same for him.

I had the phrase ‘living water’ in my head on the trip out to the drill site. Ever mile or so a canal would be churning with rain water, drain pipes would be flowing continuously, and river currents splash over and against rocks as the water moves along from the all to frequent rainy season down-pours.

We even had to pause in setting up the rig early this morning (see picture) until a passing shower let up enough to lower the first section of pipe.

AlmondTreeRaining

The day ended with more rain, but a new found appreciation for the life giving, thirst-quenching living water available to all of through Jesus.

Tomorrow is another day for drilling. Hope my boots and rain gear dry out by then!

Prayer for Day 3 – Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the opportunity to serve you and the people of El Progresso, Honduras. Thank you for our Son Jesus who came to Earth to save us from our sins. Thank you for give us living water from which we will never go thirsty. Amen.