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Unheeded Warnings

I write this 30 days after hurricane Florence (a category 1 storm) hit the coasts of North and South Carolina. Tidal surge and rain flooded towns, businesses, homes, farms and land miles from the coast where the winds were the strongest.

According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency): 40 people lost their lives and countless others were injured. The estimated economic impact is expected to exceed $60 billion. Impact on agriculture alone is expected to exceed $1.1 billion.

Just 5 days ago, hurricane Michael devastated the Gulf Coast in the panhandle of Florida and many communities in Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. The death toll as of today (14 Oct) is 18 and rising as more and more homes and rubble are being searched to find survivors or casualties. Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for. The financial impact is not yet known, but it will probably be more costly than Florence due to the high winds and the impact on five states. Michael was the 3rd strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. and the strongest to ever hit the Florida panhandle with winds up to 155mph, just 2mph shy of being a Cat 5 hurricane.

Florence was expected to be a stronger category storm than it actually was, but tidal surge and torrential rains ended up being much worse than expected and were the greatest causes of loss of property and life. Michael, on the other hand, was projected to be a category 1 storm, but ended up being just 2mph less than a category 5 storm (the strongest category of hurricanes). The expected tidal surge and flooding from Michael were much less than projected, but wind damage was catastrophic and entire communities, towns, military bases and coastal districts were completely leveled. It is projected that power grids in some of the most devastated areas will still be in the process of being rebuilt into early December.

In Michael's path, winds were so strong that rail cars were blown off their tracks and overturned. Military hangers at Tyndall Air Force Base that were constructed to withstand hurricane force winds were torn apart with F22 fighter jets inside. Seventeen F22s (10% of the U.S. inventory of F22s) were destroyed or suffered major damage from the storm. These jets cost $147,000,000.00 each, but the hangers where they were secured were expected to protect them from any potential hurricane. On a base of 3,600 Airman and their families, not one building was left habitable! According to Tyndall's website, even the flight lines where all of the Air Force's F22 training takes place sustained "catastrophic damage".

In days leading up to Michaels's landfall, the base went through all the various levels of preparedness. Initially, residents were warned to gather some supplies and secure outdoor toys, plants, etc., that could be blown away. Eventually, as the storm intensified, all base personnel were ordered to evacuate. Buses and cash advances were issued for those needing assistance to flee.

Everybody in the Florida panhandle went through the various levels of preparedness, mostly expecting a category 1 hurricane. Within 48 hours before hitting the coast, Michael went from a Cat 1 to a very high Cat 4. Various levels of warnings were going out on virtually all of the television, radio and social medias. The warnings went from the basics of gathering bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, etc., to the most extreme warning to evacuate or be prepared to die or survive on your own for days or weeks without assistance or medical support. Though most did something to prepare for the storm, far too many disregarded the warnings. Those who did prepare, were not adequately prepared.

Nobody expected or could have imagined the catastrophic damage that actually occurred! Entire towns were completely destroyed. Even some of the evacuation shelters that were considered safe for people to weather the storm, were destroyed or heavily damaged.

Nobody expected or projected that the eye of hurricane Michael would still be intact as it passed through parts of southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. Warnings were issued to the degree that could be predicted, but warnings of the catastrophic damage that actually occurred did not come until it was too late.

Here on the farm in Enterprise, we bought up some water, non-perishable foods, batteries and gasoline. We cranked our generators for a test run. We tied down creep feeder and grain bin lids, and loaded the barn and cattle trailer with items that could blow away. We did all we could do to prepare for the coming storm.

We were greatly blessed that we had very little damage and just a few trees were blown down. Significant structural damage and power outages occurred within 15 miles to the south and east of us, but the major, catastrophic damaged occurred within 50-70 miles of us--way too close for comfort!

Currently, just days after the storm, gas lines are miles long in some places and many stations are either without gas or without electricity to run the pumps. Grocery stores that survived have empty shelves. Neighboring towns that have a Lowes or Home Depot are sold out of what people need. Water, food, toiletries, chainsaws, generators, gasoline, cleaning supplies, extension cords, batteries, etc., are all in very short supply.

Survivors are desperate for not only food and water, but for cell phone service so they can contact family to check on them. They are asking for mobile ATM machines so that they can get money from their accounts since banks are either closed or destroyed. Survivors are searching for somewhere to have shelter because their houses are gone. Most are searching for a means of transportation because their vehicles were destroyed. Radio stations are broadcasting recovery information around the clock, trying to help people find loved ones that are still missing, and to tell the survivors where they can go to get food, water, gas and FEMA assistance. So many people are feeling hopeless and bewildered.

As I reflect on these catastrophes, the warnings that were issued, the insufficiency of many of those warnings, and the consequences of so many not being adequately prepared for such devastation, I cannot help but think about another event that will take place--soon I expect--that for everyone will have ETERNAL consequences: The return of Lord Jesus Christ or our death before He returns.

Either way, all of mankind will soon stand before Him and give an account! Either we will be ready by placing our faith in the completed work of Christ and following Him and will inherit eternal life in a place called Heaven, or we will not be ready because we refused to allow Him to be Lord of our lives, and we will be eternally condemned by our own sin to a place called Hell, where torment and suffering never ceases.

We will be ready or we will not be ready! There is NO middle ground! There will be no one to come to our aid to help us. There will be no relief efforts that can reverse the consequences of our level of preparedness. Whatever our state is when we die or if He returns while we are still alive, will be our state and destiny for all eternity. Jesus will either be the Lord of our lives and our Savior when we meet Him or He will not be. Jesus paid the price for our salvation, but the choice is ours. This very moment is the only guaranteed time that we have to get ready!

This being true, why are the warnings of the most significant event since the resurrection of Jesus from the dead not being sounded? Why are we not making preparations for what will be either the most blessed or the most cataclysmic event of all times? Why are we not proclaiming the Gospel message to all those around us and around the world, pleading for them to repent and trust in Jesus if we really believe that He is the only hope for mankind?

Matthew 25:1-13 tells of ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were wise and made preparations by bringing with them plenty of fuel for their lamps, but five of them were foolish and did not prepare, having only the oil in their lamps. The bridegroom was delayed and all ten virgins fell asleep. At midnight, a cry was heard: "Behold the bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet him!" The virgins awakened and trimmed their lamps. The five foolish virgins were out of oil and they asked the five wise virgins to give them more, but they could not and still have enough to meet the bridegroom themselves. So the five foolish virgins left to go buy oil, but when they returned the bridegroom had already arrived and the doors to the wedding banquet were shut. They shouted: "Lord, Lord, open to us! But, he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you do not know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!" We will see Jesus when He returns to gather His children, or we will see Him when we die--whichever occurs first. Are you prepared? Have you placed your faith in, and surrendered your life to Him? Is he the Lord of your life? Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me: 'Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.'" (Matthew 7:21). Be ready. Ask Jesus to forgive you, to save you, and to be the Lord of your life today, while you have a chance. Tomorrow may be too late! Nothing else will save us from the judgment that is surely coming for all the world. Today is the day of salvation! Sound the alarm! Share His love!

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