Sunday, Sept. 3 was declared a National Day of Prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana by President Donald Trump, following the lead of Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s proclamation for a statewide day of prayer in Texas the same day.
I first read about President Trump’s call to prayer on Facebook Sunday morning. A few minutes later, I saw a call to non-denominational prayer to be held at Riverside Park in Libby at 2 p.m. It was a rather impromptu invitation by local pastors to come together as a community to pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, our nation and the victims of the ongoing fires in Lincoln County and all of Montana. I arrived at the park at 1:45 and quickly found a spot at one of the picnic tables.
Steadily they came, one-by-one, in pairs and in family groups. Some coming straight from church in their dresses, suits and ties; others wore more casual attire from jeans and T-shirts to shorts, tank tops and flip flops.
Nearly 100 people showed up ready to pray, not in tears, but as neighbors greeting neighbors.
The mission was simple — to pray.
What I witnessed was a microcosm of the United States assembled in Libby. The community was not divided. Men, women and children of Libby came together in a time of crisis to call upon a Heavenly Father to intercede supernaturally with snow or rain to put out the fires ravaging, not just our community, but the throughout the state.
We prayed for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. We prayed for the President. We prayed for a return of our country to Christian values. We prayed for forgiveness and for seemingly turning to God more often in a time of crisis than making Him our priority every day — for being wayward like sheep.
There were also hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Others read passages from their Bibles. One woman turned her face to the sky and appealed to God to bring forth the rains because, as she reminded everyone, as Christians, we have the authority to call upon the name of Jesus and even Nature must obey. Yet another person prayed for people to be willing to serve in some capacity during this time of unpredictable weather and fires. Someone prayed for everyone to be willing to yield to the will of God regardless of the outcome and to acknowledge that God is Love at all times, even during a crisis when it is easy to look for someone or something to blame.
The energy under the pavilion was undeniable. Gathered there by the Kootenai River in a smoky haze, I found peace instead of worry. I found a sense of everything turning out alright because I saw love there.
I even prayed out loud. I began with a favorite quote from Hebrews: “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes upon Jesus, the Source and Perfector of our faith.” I said that just as we cannot always see the work being done on our behalf by God right away, so we cannot always see behind the scenes the work of those who have responded to any crisis. We cannot see what they are seeing, nor can we see how hard their jobs are or do that work for them. I prayed for a hedge of protection around everyone who is working behind the scenes in Lincoln County and elsewhere in Montana and in Texas and Louisiana during this time of crisis.
I prayed for my husband, who was working in Texas and unable to leave the South before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. His company has suspended all their operations to assist their employees and their families who have been flooded. He is part of that unseen force of people working behind the scenes bringing food, water and bulk supplies to the Houston area to help in the relief effort.
Many of our friends and neighbors are working behind the scenes during the fires in Lincoln County. Others have come from other states to help. We owe them so much… And even if you are not a person of faith, it costs nothing to express gratitude to those who are working to keep you, your family and friends safe. Everyone can make a difference in some way, even if it is only to offer support and encouragement to others or to express gratitude.
My family has a lifelong history of surviving natural disasters—Betsy, Camille, Ivan, Katrina and Rita — being from Louisiana ourselves.
We understand what it feels like to lose all your possessions and your home, to be displaced. We know what it feels like to lose a loved one because of a natural disaster. For my part, I could not face those times without my faith. Having faith does not mean we become immune to crisis, only that we believe that Something or Someone greater than ourselves is taking the journey with us.
What I saw Sunday at the National Day of Prayer event in Libby gives me assurance that the people of Lincoln County can survive anything because this is a community that loves and holds tightly to values that some might call outdated.
Christian or not, I see the people of Lincoln County love and are protective of this community and our way of life. In fact, we cherish it, and we believe in one another. No matter what, something good will come from this — some things we will see right away and some will be realized in time.
To those who responded to the President’s call for prayer on Sunday, thank you for making it happen. And thank you to all who are working to fight these fires, to save lives and property here and elsewhere in our state and to shelter those in need — from the Forest Service to the Sheriff’s Office, the local police and emergency responders, Red Cross, Emergency Management, County Commissioners, churches, Libby’s three newspapers and KVRZ for their tireless coverage of the fires in Lincoln County (and special thanks to John Blodgett for his coverage of events in real time on Facebook), area ham radio operators and volunteers.
Everywhere I look, I see heroes and love.
Rebecca Dupre is a resident of Libby.