By Katie Sciba
Perhaps you have those moments — although they may not come often — when different points and places from your life converge into one room, one hallway, one setting. You don’t plan it, but then it happens. And it is fun and amazing to see how God is forming all things together. It’s happened to me a few times these past few months.
On Thursday August 24, I began to make emergency preparations for my work place as Hurricane Harvey approached. That evening and the next morning as I gathered water and food for Hurricane Harvey, it took me back to our time as CBF Field Personnel in Indonesia. Immediately, I went into this survival mode — a lovely operating mode that living in a different culture had taught me. Packing what we could, we moved out to our extended family’s ranch. We prepared for the unknown, wondering what we would face and for how long. Our nuclear families became one — same schedule, same menu, same resources.
When the electricity went off and the wind howled, we made do with the gas stove, pooling our food. We knew how to live without power. We made sure we had enough of what we needed. We conserved our drinking water, and the water from the swimming pool made for good toilet flushing. The kids settled into communal living with their cousins as we braved the weather to take care of the ranch animals.
Sunday, the 26th, passed with more wind and with rain that constantly pounded. Church services everywhere were suspended until further notice. We became experts at guessing how fast the wind was blowing, before it eventually died down.
On Monday, we made our way back into town, marveling at the destruction all around us. After a few days, we moved back into our house with no power and under a boil water order. When I went to work the next day, without working traffic lights, my trip to get downtown in this not-so-big town was long and protracted. But I saw people working together. At one point I looked out our windows and saw neighbors picking up limbs together. It was collaborative work, which is how I think we were created to work.
Eventually, for us, life began to return to normal. Traffic lights worked again; our electricity came back on; the boil water order was lifted; we dealt with insurance matters; and the kids went back to school. But for so many in our region, life is still not normal. So, with many others, we have rolled up our sleeves, ready to see how we can help.
When I went to the meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to discuss a multi-partner collaborative effort of CBF, as I moved down the hallway towards the exhibit area, I wondered whom I might know there. Immediately I saw the Truett Seminary exhibit and Greer Howard. My husband, Matt, and I had gone to seminary at Truett and Matt had worked with Greer when he was the director of recruitment for Truett. After catching up on events in our respective families, we talked about connecting seminary students to hurricane recovery for churches.
I also met other people from my past missions experiences over the years — from serving in Victoria all the way back to my summer as a Texas Baptist Student Missionary in Australia. It was a trip down “ministry experience memory lane” and the reminiscing was fun. All these folks, including Allen Williams, the last Cooperative Baptist Fellowship supervisor we had in Indonesia, now a pastor in Priddy, Texas, who were connected to me in my past, were connecting to me once again. It was an amazing experience to realize the ongoing formation of God within me and within them and now within you as you read these words. What a wonderful thing — to see all this connecting strands in decisions we had made, in weather, in what is called acts of God — even in insurance policies!
That evening, I walked onto the stage and presented a portion of the funds that an anonymous Texas Baptist donor had given to begin an effort in collaboration to make churches whole once again. In a culture where choosing sides usually wins over cooperation, what if we could surprise the world and work together on this Coastal Church Recovery Project? It is forming together and working together in a wonderful collaboration toward wholeness. Even now, I can see God making us what we need to be for each other and for the world as we join together.
Katie Sciba is a licensed social worker, writer, ordained Baptist minister, pastor’s wife and mother from Victoria, Texas. She currently works for AARN Health Services as a medical social worker. Sciba and her husband, Matt, previously served as CBF field personnel in Southeast Asia from 2003-2008.