Hurricane season arrives every year along the Gulf Coast, overlapping with the beginning of a new school year. This year initially seemed to be no different – school supplies and backpacks were readied for a first day of Kindergarten or middle school or college. Families in Texas weren't expecting a tropical storm to reach hurricane levels and deliver record-setting rainfall before school buses took to the streets. The storms of life rarely give advance notice.
Storms can be devastating, especially when they take us by surprise. But it is precisely at these times that we are comforted by knowing we are not alone. Our loving God is not only with us during life's storms, but He goes before us to prepare a way.
Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us, "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
God goes before us. He prepares the way.
Thousands of Texans found their homes flooded and escape routes closed as Hurricane Harvey delivered more than fifty inches of rain. Houstonians could not prevent the flooding, but preparation has paid off. First responders were prepared to treat injuries. Helicopter pilots had been trained to conduct rescues in challenging weather. Pastors and chaplains were ready to offer comfort to those who mourned the loss of possessions and property and those they loved. God prepared the hearts and hands of medics and pilots and pastors through years of training and practice -- for such a time as this.
God goes before us. He prepares a way through the storm.
We cannot predict every storm, but we can prepare. We can develop our skills, refine our talents, keep our hearts sensitive to God's call and ready to respond, "Yes, Lord. Send me."
Those still reeling from the storm in Texas will be in our prayers as thousands of churches prepare to celebrate Education Sunday this weekend. Those local heroes – first responders and tireless volunteers, those opening their homes and businesses to those in need – were once the children headed back to school. They were students studying for exams, developing their unique talents. Now their preparation, of hand and heart, becomes God's blessing to their community, their world.
As America's children return to school – or hope to return as flood waters recede – let us recommit to preparing students for life's storms. Every child's gifts are needed for the flourishing of our nation and our world. We can teach them to love the Lord with 'all their hearts, all their souls, all their strength and all their minds' by embracing high standards inside the classroom and out. We can set standards high. We can ensure that neither zip code, nor race, nor poverty deprive a child of the high-quality education needed to fulfill their divine purpose.
God goes before the children. He prepares their way. May we do the same.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC/CONEL). He has been named by CNN and Fox News as "the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement" and TIME Magazine nominated him among the 100 most influential leaders in America.