When a storm comes through that rattles our windows, blows down our fences, uproots trees and throws chairs around the yard…. we know there must be some serious strength in the wind gusts.
When we look out the window and see just white, nothing visible beyond the verandah and all we can hear is the pounding on the tin roof…. we know the amount of rain falling is significant.
But when those two things come together in a couple of hours of storm fury – lashing rain and violent wind – all we can think about is our friends’ and neighbours’ homes, which likely cannot withstand such an onslaught.
I cannot imagine how people must have felt that evening, huddled in their homes, or whatever shelter they could find, hoping, praying it would pass them by. Then in the lull that finally came, how they dealt with the devastation around them yet hoping that more was not still to come that night.
As we surveyed the damage the next day it was clear this was no ordinary storm. Roofs were gone. Houses destroyed. Fences flattened. Trees strewn around.
There were a few reports of physical injuries to people from walls collapsing and roof sheets flying around, but given the severity of the storm it’s surprising that most walked away in one piece. Physically anyway. Emotionally, who knows.
Saturday morning there was a chance for us to visit with people, help clear the many trees and debris strewn around. We’ve been able to get a few basic things into people’s hands since then to help with their recovery – some plastic for roofing, dry blankets and food.
People here are amazing though and many have bounced back already. It was amazing to watch in the days that followed. Roofs being repaired, fences back up. But for some the price is very high. Some who had invested in their bricks and mortar, only to lose it all are struggling to move forward. People are tired, from fixing things up again while still maintaining their farms. Even those who didn’t lose homes and roofs have had to deal with flooded houses, wet bedding and food. As one chief said to us, ‘Some people are doing well. Some will not be good for a long time. Depends’.
But through it all there’s been a sense of community. A joint facing of the storm together. People are talking about how they felt, damages done and who was hardest hit. In a village this week I was asked about our place. I said it was just our fences that blew down, not a big deal to me – but the women disagreed and showed a high level of concern for our loss and discussed how and when we would put them up again. It was heartwarming to be included in their community and cared for.
There’s discussion too of what the cause might have been – was God angry, did the spirits speak, was a tree cut down in a sacred grove? People want to believe there could be a way to avoid this happening again, yet deep down it seems that there’s a resignation too of this being the life they live and the uncertainty they face on a yearly, monthly, daily basis.
Being able to stand with people, sit in their loss, grapple with uncertainty, help practically and work alongside is something we’re thankful for. It’s been a full week, but we wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else. And we look forward to continuing to walk with people, and them with us, in the coming days and weeks.