I’ve spent most of my life in Zimbabwe, so I was very excited at the chance of working and living abroad. My placement site is in Mozambique, on the south-eastern coast of Africa. I work in a small rural town called Chicuque, Inhambane. This small town was right in the middle of Cyclone Dineo, the worst cyclone some of the locals have ever experienced.
It’s the only cyclone that I have ever experienced, and I was petrified! Even before the cyclone hit, everything I was reading about it scared me: the wind speeds, the amount of downfall, and especially the direction of the storm. My little town was right in the center of the storm. Oddly, all the locals that I spoke to about it did not seem too scared–they made plans for the following day while I was thinking, “God may we please survive this!”
By 3pm the winds had picked up intense speed. My fellow missionary, Noe, and I rushed home, getting pelted by needle like raindrops along the way. For a moment it was a beautiful sight. The tall trees succumbed to the persuading wind, while the dark clouds danced to it. It left me awe. That is until I heard the first tree falling to the ground, too close to our house, and the reality of what was about to happen sunk in.
We lost cellphone network and electricity had been cut the previous night. It was dark, pitch black, and all one could hear was the terrifying wind. My friend Elizabeth described it as “laying on the runway of an airstrip with planes flying over… like banging metal sheeting being ripped from their nails just waiting to break free.” I put earphones on and played music, trying to drown out the sound of the wind. It was a very long and frightful night. As morning came the winds and rain died down, but left behind them a wounded town. According to the National Emergency Operational Center 650,000 people were affected by this cyclone. Many people lost their homes, 7 people lost their lives. So much property was damaged including 70 hospital units.
Seeing all this damage and hearing all these stories, I asked, “Why?” I like to believe there is a reason for everything, and I try to find this reason to make sense of even the most horrific situations. As I asked myself why this happened, I came out blank. What was the purpose of this? It is similar to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why would a community already facing hardships be exposed to even more suffereing from this cyclone? Why would families, that have very little to begin with, have everything taken away from them overnight? Why wasn’t there more effort to evacuate people? Why do bad things happen to the most vulnerable people?!
I shared these thoughts with Noe, and he helped me to realize that maybe the “why” is not for us to comprehend; it’s beyond human understanding. Maybe all we can do is discover how the situations shape us-inwardly, spiritually. So my perspective has to change. Instead of trying to figure out why the cyclone came through Chicuque, I should try to help the people that I interact with change their perspective as well. What do they have to gain or learn from it, as a community and individually? How could the experience help them towards becoming the kind of people they want to be?
Honestly, sometimes life is unfair, and bad things happen to the least deserving people. No matter how much we prepare for the coming storm, no matter how much we heed the warnings and take shelter, we get hit by the cyclone, get flooded, lose everything we have, and ask “why?” When this happens, reflect on why it happened to YOU. What lesson could you take away from the experience? How could you grow from it? This perspective may seem impractical, cliche even, especially in a world drowning in injustice. This is not to belittle the gravity of the situation, but to empower one to learn and grown from the tragedy. Sometimes we feel stuck in a season with no growth because we are not opening our eyes to the lesson in the season.
Center of Hope
GMF International Class of 2016-2018