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After the hurricane

By Marilee Pierce Dunker
May 13, 2014
©Marilee Pierce Dunker
Sunset at Kauai, Hawaii; a category 4 hurricane hit the island in 1991.

My husband, Bob, and I have owned a timeshare on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for nearly 30 years. It is one of our favorite places on earth. The white sand beaches and jagged, majestic mountains take my breath away, and everywhere I look there’s a riot of colors and textures and tropical flowers and trees. The lush landscape is one of the things that made us fall in love with the island. 

Then, in 1991, Hurricane Iniki hit. The category 4 hurricane swept over our little paradise with winds up to 145 mph. Within a matter of hours the island was stripped of everything except the hardiest vegetation. Only that which had the deepest roots and the most solid covering remained.

Just months after Iniki hit, we returned to Kauai. It was heartbreaking to see places we loved utterly destroyed by the storm and harder still to realize how much it would take for the islanders to rebuild. But as we made the 40-minute drive from the airport toward Princeville, we realized that the raging winds had also cleaned away years of dead wood and decaying jungle.

Waterfalls we never knew existed had been uncovered and now danced down the mountainsides like silver tinsel on a Christmas tree. And at every turn in the road we saw breathtaking vistas of ocean and rocks that we had never seen before because of the trees.

The hurricane had been an instrument of destruction. But God had turned it to good, using it to restore the island to its original beauty.

I thought of Hurricane Iniki when World Vision went through our recent storm. I am still processing and praying in an attempt to understand how we found ourselves in such a vulnerable place. But one thing that is absolutely clear is that God allowed this “category 4 hurricane,” and He is turning it to good.

One of the Scriptures upon which my father founded World Vision is I Chronicles 29:14 (paraphrased): “All we have comes from God and we give it out of His hand.” The fact that World Vision exists and thrives by the blessing of God through our donors and partners is as true today as it was in my dad’s time. And that blessing must never be taken for granted. What God gives, He can also take away.

There are two things that are absolutely mandatory in order to move forward in the full blessing and power of God. We have to know who He is and we have to know who we are. This is as true for a Christian organization as it is for the individual believer. But holding on to our identity in Christ is challenging.

James 1: 22-24 (NIV) says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

World Vision has always been great at the “doing” part. There is no organization more dedicated or determined to serve a hurting world than our staff. But when there are 45,000 people serving in thousands of places scattered across the globe, it is increasingly difficult to hold on to a single identity. The Church itself is proof that even though we are bound together by a mutual faith in Jesus Christ, the world we live in holds up many different mirrors that attract our attention and threaten to fracture our identity and vision.

Within World Vision we deal with this same challenge on a daily basis. Our work is reflected in mirrors labeled “poverty” and “injustice” and “emergency response.” There are church mirrors and social mirrors and denominational mirrors that demand consideration and respect.

But for World Vision only one mirror must be used to reflect our true identity — and that mirror is the Word of God. My mother, Lorraine, was once asked how she and my dad made it through the difficult days of their lives and ministry. She said, “God said it and we believed it. It was that simple.”

Today it is still that simple. Through God’s Word we are pointed back to the love of our Savior and the hope of His cross. We are reminded that we all are sinners saved by grace, and that it is God’s will that none should perish. We are empowered to stand in unity as pleasers of God rather than men. And we are commissioned afresh to work every day to earn the right to share our faith by loving and serving all people — meeting their needs in the name of Jesus.
God’s eternal and unchanging Word is the solid rock upon which this organization has stood for 65 years. And it is the reason we will survive the battles and storms that inevitably come when we choose to live in that rarified place of faith and obedience called “God space.”

Marilee serves World Vision, the organization her father, Bob Pierce, founded in 1950. Like him, she travels the world, witnessing and fulfilling God’s mandate to care for the poor. Request Marilee to speak.
All we have comes from God and we give it out of His hand.
I Chronicles 29:14 (paraphrased)