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SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2007
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Rev. Charles Owens

Sin can be taken away like storm refuse

I was serving as pastor of a church in Key West when Hurricane Wilma struck the island in 2005. It was the most devastating hurricane there in decades. Because it came in from the Gulf side, there was no reef to stop the tidal surge. Within hours after the hurricane had passed, a surge of 10 feet covered the island.

Although the hurricane was gone and skies were clear, the water slowly began to rise. The surge came at high tide, worsening the effects.

Sitting in the den, I could watch the trickle of water coming in under the door and keep rising past the feet to the knees and into the chair. It was a helpless feeling. Houses were flooded with up to 6 feet of seawater.

I learned then that salt water destroys whatever it touches. More than 30,000 cars were lost. Homes were decimated. Mildew raced up the walls behind the paneling overnight and completely covered the interiors of houses. Appliances and electrical outlets shorted out. All furniture was ruined.

Thankfully, help arrived almost immediately. The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinated the efforts of several charitable organizations. No one missed a meal. Travel trailers began arriving by the scores for temporary housing.

People were told to take all furniture, appliances and paneling that had been removed from the houses and pile everything in the streets. What had just the week before been a beautiful island now looked like a garbage dump.

Even though the nation was reeling from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there were still resources available to help people in Key West recover from Hurricane Wilma. Large trucks moved in and systematically began cleaning the streets and clearing the heaps of garbage. Local and federal officials gave the instructions: “Remove all the garbage and take it away!”

Because of resources generously allocated to those in need, and because of the swift and determined action of those truck drivers, everything ugly was removed and beauty was restored.

In all of that, I was reminded of the boundless grace of God. The Greek New Testament word translated as “forgive” is aphiemi, which means “to send away.”

Sometimes ugly things happen that seem to overpower us when we are the most vulnerable, and we think life has been irrevocably ruined because of something we have done.

Not so. God’s word tells us that even though sin abounds, his grace abounds even more! He generously draws from his unbounded supply of grace and sends ugly things away. We are promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The Rev. Charles Owens, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Somerville, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

Rev. Charles Owens Rev. Charles Owens

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