By Tarvick Linder
I am a member of the North Carolina National Guard. On September 10, 2018, my unit received word that we would probably get activated for State Active Duty in support of Hurricane Florence Relief.
The Governor and the State Adjutant General said that the activation would not affect the entire National Guard, but I was only a few weeks into the semester at Duke Divinity and classes were tough this year. I was concerned. I was reminded that not only my enlistment into the National Guard was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but so was my journey at Duke. So, I knew that no matter what, God was still in control.
My unit was activated, and I was placed as the Task Force 60 Religious Support Team Religious Support NCO. That is a very technical and complicated way of saying that our team is now responsible for the religious support of 6,000 National Guard Troops. Troops who were now faced with being separated from their families, friends, jobs, and schools.
With this activation also came the uncertainty of the coming storm. No one was certain of the path of this storm. No one was certain of the strength of this storm. No one was certain of the potential destructiveness of such a slow-moving storm. There was fear of the unknown all over the eastern part of the state. Grocery stores were bare. Gas stations were out of fuel everywhere or had lines for miles if they did still have fuel. There was looting of stores and homes, and horrific traffic jams from people trying to escape the coming storm.
Where was God in all of this?
I saw the Holy Spirit of God. I saw the work of the Holy Spirit in the compassion and dedication of the first responders and the soldiers of the National Guard and the diligent command structure communicated with shelters all over the state to keep supplies full. As the storm surge would come, and change direction, and pummel inhabited areas, the troops would work ceaselessly to rescue all civilians that were stranded—in many cases putting their own lives in danger to save another. As the rivers crested, planning was put into place to provide support for predicted areas of destruction. Each day for 15 days, soldiers were running 24-hour shifts; tracking the numbers of reported by hundreds of shelters, following weather reports, and sending out rescue missions sometimes in the middle of the night. 6,000 troops focused on accomplishing their mission while their families were at home.
So, as the Religious Support Team, we knew what our mission was. We needed to continually support our troops. With each unit that was positioned in affected areas, we had a ministry team with them. Not to distract from the mission and focus of the units, but to add even more encouragement to the diligence and compassion that we were already seeing. With any available opportunity, we would provide an opportunity for prayer, or bible study, or the eucharist, or just to sing a few songs of praise to God.
Yes, Hurricane Florence was a catastrophic event for North and South Carolina, but in the middle of the storm or any distress, peace and calm is always with our Savior. And if we allow the Holy Spirit to have its way, we will survive and recover from any storm that we meet along this journey of eternal life.
Tarvick J. Linder is a CBF Leadership Scholar and serves as the Religious Support NCO for HHD 60th Troop Command of the North Carolina National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from UNCG and is currently working on his M.Div at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.