After Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Fort Myers, Florida, local pastor Tom Ascol expressed trust in Jesus Christ as his congregation recovers from the damage.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, tearing through western and central Florida at nearly the strength of a Category 5 storm. With winds exceeding 150 miles per hour, the system was tied for the fourth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the Sunshine State.
Ascol wrote in a social media update Thursday that although his family was safe, some members of Grace Baptist Church had lost their homes. He announced that efforts were underway to help each household.
“In the wake of such catastrophe it is easy to be disoriented by the traumatic experiences you have just lived through and the catastrophic loss that is evident everywhere,” he explained. “But God’s people, those who have tasted and know that He is good, who have experienced His grace in the salvation found in His crucified, risen Son, our Lord — Jesus Christ, we have many reasons to be filled with hope and even to rejoice.”
Ascol, a recent candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention who ran on the platform of reversing the denomination’s leftward drift, explained that church members and their neighbors have been working together to begin the recovery process. Though he and his wife were away from Fort Myers on a previously scheduled trip, Ascol coordinated efforts to keep congregants in touch with one another.
“In and through it all I was reminded of the Lord’s mercies,” he continued. “Very often these reminders came from the people with whom we were communicating. God kept babies safe. He kept first-responders strong enough to fulfill their duties … He gave wisdom to our governor and local officials. He displayed His power over His created world in ways that are undeniable for those who have eyes to see. The greatest meteorological minds could not precisely predict the track of the storm, much less control it. Our God displayed that He, and He alone, is God.”
Nearly 90,000 people reside in Fort Myers, according to data from the Census Bureau, while Lee County is home to nearly 800,000. Roughly 85% of businesses and residences were without power as of Friday morning.
Ascol cited the words of Lamentations, a series of poems mourning the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
“As we start the long, arduous process of digging out, healing, and rebuilding, we will do so fully aware that we are not on our own. The Lord is with us. His mercies will sustain us. He is faithful.”
Winds had weakened to 65 miles per hour as of Thursday, rendering Hurricane Ian a tropical storm. According to a forecast from the National Hurricane Center, however, the storm has remained more powerful than initial estimates, threatening South Carolina and Georgia as winds gain speed and the system becomes “a hurricane again.”