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  • Jeff Koch

Faith Through the Storm

It was a highly-anticipated December trek from our Keesler AFB home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to central North Dakota; our Dodge Caravan was loaded down with presents, luggage, food, and two toddlers anchored in car seats. Vectored north, we were determined that our three-day trip would find a Bismarck family home filled with everything that is Christmas magic. Instead, day three found us in the middle of an historic Dakota winter blizzard. With feet of snow already on the ground, wind gusts 50 to 60mph slammed highway visibility to mere feet off the front grill. And if that wasn’t treacherous enough, ambient temperatures unable to reach zero plummeted wind chills to the frigid, deadly range. Downright scared and desperate, and after an unsuccessful (even monetary) plea to a highway snow plow driver to guide us to a nearby town, we forged on down the interstate again aligned with two other vehicles, relying on that plow driver’s word there was a rest stop just a few miles further where we would find “facilities” with electricity, running water, and heat. The fear of my young family being stranded and freezing in a roadside ditch was consuming me—all the prayers I said repeatedly didn’t seem to cut through the anxiousness. Tension consumed my entire being. Where was my faith? Was I being the calming influence for my family?

So by God’s grace at about 20mph and just before noon, we somehow found the rest area off-ramp to a simple brick structure on the Dakota prairie that would be home for the next 24 hours. By the time darkness fell that afternoon and with Interstate-29 now closed, our family of four huddled with 27 of our newest and closest friends. We all found safety, warmth, and fellowship, and had formed our own little church community amidst winter’s fury on the outskirts of Christine, North Dakota. We shared stories of harrowing highway travel that landed us such “luxurious” accommodations. We all dined together on a potluck feast of peanut butter, pretzels, chips, summer sausage (already wrapped and ready for under-the-tree), water, sodas (“pop” in the Dakotas), and crackers —we made it all work! And then the post-meal conversations. Everyone took time to tell the group what they did for a living. Plumbers, electricians, college students, retirees—everyone had a story to tell. Everyone was so eager to tell their story—except three of us. That’s when we finally had to disclose that both my wife and I were weather forecasters. And the other holdout? That gentleman was a Coors beer distributor. A beer distributor WITHOUT BEER! So the uneasiness of facing: “How could the family of two weather forecasters find themselves in such a position…?” was quickly consumed with the fact we had a Coors man in our midst, but no Coors!

More and more, it seems everyday life finds challenge in some form. For many, challenge that can press us to question faith. Often at the heart of struggle is where, like the weather, we find circumstances we cannot influence or control, such as personal or family health emergencies, passing of a close friend or family member, or unanticipated financial strain, etc. So, we lean on our faith. We turn to God. We pray. We look for God to ease our fear and anxiety. When the fierce winds and chaotic seas of life threaten, God shelters us with a community of people to feed and care for us, while we endure.

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