Hurricane Michael didn’t just pass over Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. It stopped over it, dumping a massive amount of rain on it and the surrounding region. When the storm finally moved on, the danger wasn’t over, however. The Abbey at Pawley’s Island, located on the Waccamaw River, received word it would be hit with a storm surge of five to 10 feet of water.
Members of the church quickly banded together to build a dirt levee around the building where they’d worshiped since 2014 and move everything from the first floor to higher ground. Then, they evacuated.
By God’s grace, the flooding wasn’t as severe as predicted and members began to return. The church met in temporary facilities at first as it began the laborious process of moving furniture and settling back in. However, as many members were still scattered, the church lost much of the momentum it had built over the summer.
But the Lord’s faithfulness was still evident in the unpredictable and uncontrollable. Stu+ Boehmig, rector of The Abbey at Pawleys Island, saw God’s hand in three big ways. “One: God spared the church. Two: We believe he spared it for a reason. Three: The upheaval created a sense of community and body life.”
Both before and after the hurricane, church members stepped in to do the heavy lifting at the Abbey, and they’ve been able to help another congregation in the area not only through their tangible donations, but through the gift of encouragement. These are opportunities no one could have predicted, but that God, in his sovereignty and goodness, provided.
While the church was meeting in a borrowed location, Stu+ asked the congregation, “How many of you scheduled this hurricane in your day planner in January?” No one had expected to be displaced by Michael, and the storm served as a demonstration of God’s power. “It was a reminder of how powerless we are, even in a post-modern society, to control a drop of rain, let alone a storm or a river or a fallen tree. It was a reminder of who is really in control.”
This simple but powerful reminder was especially poignant for the church in light of the recent loss of their beloved leader, Bishop Chuck Murphy, founder and long-time leader of AMiA and the forming rector of the Abbey, who passed away in January 2018.
“I’m praying that we’ll be of one heart as we go through the unexpected,” Stu+ shares. He explains that God often uses the unpredictable to clarify, purify and unify us. The Lord clarifies what we believe about him and reveals what’s truly important to us. He purifies us, helping us shed the things in our lives that are unnecessary and cumbersome. And he unifies his people through adversity, bonding them together through their shared trust in him in the midst of hardship. By His grace, The Abbey will continue to grow in clarity, purity and unity as it moves ahead with a renewed and shared understanding of God’s faithfulness and power.