“The Lord is with us” and there are “many reasons to be filled with hope and even to rejoice,” says a pastor in Florida in an update after Hurricane Ian made landfall with winds of 150 mph, killing at least 32 people and causing catastrophic floods and life-threatening storm surge.
Communicating on behalf of Pastor Tom Ascol, Hannah Ellis posted a message on his Facebook page Saturday morning, saying that cell service and power are down in the area and relief efforts will be ongoing for a long time as homes and businesses are rebuilt and restored. Many people have asked how they can help, she said, providing a link to where financial donations can be sent directly to the church to assist their efforts in the community.
At least 27 people were killed in the storm in Florida, and the number could grow, NBC News reported, adding that more than 1.3 million customers in the state remained without power three days after Hurricane Ian’s landfall Wednesday afternoon.
“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,” wrote Pastor Tom Ascol of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, in a Facebook post on Thursday.
“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,” added Ascol, who ran for Southern Baptist Convention president in June.
Ascol said efforts were already underway to check on church members and help with relief and recovery efforts.
“In and through it all I was reminded of the Lord’s mercies,” he continued, sharing that he and his wife were away on a prescheduled trip during the storm, but their children, grandchildren and church family endured the storm.
“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.”
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had saved 325 people and 83 pets in its response to Hurricane Ian as of Friday evening.
“The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that has been done is historic,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday. We’ve never seen a flood event like this, we’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.”
Ascol said his church members and their neighbors were working together to start the recovery process in the community. “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.”
In June, when Pastor Ascol was a candidate for SBC president, a debate was raging over the best legal approach to abortion and how it informs resolutions within the Southern Baptist Convention.
He told The Christian Post in an interview at the time that the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists were “completely pro-life” but he didn’t like the way in which the disagreement within the denomination had been framed.
“The ERLC has been planning for over a year the acknowledgment of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Why not put all of our resources into ending Roe v. Wade before the 50th anniversary?” he asked. “It’s not so much incrementalism versus abolitionism. Anything we can do to save one child, let’s do. But let’s not take our eye off the prize of ending abortion now.”