I never thought I’d watch The Anchor House flood. Days prior to Hurricane Matthew’s arrival on the North Carolina coast, Chris and I watched the weather radar. The prognosis looked as if Matthew would be a tropical storm that would only lightly touch our coastline and drift onward. Both our home and The Anchor House are built near a creek.
I love storms and late Saturday afternoon as Matthew’s winds picked up, I stayed at home to write. I was contemplating ingredients for soup and organizing my poetry when I noticed my backyard was beginning to look slightly flooded. Chris was out checking on The Anchor House with a board member. In shock, I placed my wine glass down and stood up. I peered through our five large windows watching the back yard saturate. Quickly several small pools turned into a growing pond that connected to the creek behind our home.
In a haste, I threw on my galoshes and ran outside. Wading through ankle deep water to our back barn, I saw water was about to enter into the building. I unplugged our freezer and lifted my pottery wheel, carrying it inside. Chris arrived and within 30 minutes we had moved all the precious items inside from both our barns and driven our cars out of the drive way and across the street. Our backyard was now a lake, our driveway a swift stream and water was coming up our back steps. I’m grateful that water never entered into my home.
Sunday morning arrived with sunshine and strong coffee. Chris inspected the damage. Our backyard was soggy with a few fallen limbs and some broken places in our fence but we were on dry ground.
In the morning light, our concerns turned towards The Anchor House. In my heart of hearts I believed that surely God in His goodness would not let The Anchor House flood.
Mid morning we arrived at The Anchor House to find the driveway under water. It appeared that the cottage was 25 yards from water but the main building seemed extremely distant. I thought, “Oh good waters have made their peak and from here they will descend back into the creek, just like my experience last night.” We sent out prayer requests to partner churches, friends and family. We asked God to send angels to fight on our behalf, to protect and cover us.
We waited, watched and prayed.
A few hours later, Chris received a call from a local pastor, relaying news that a dam in a neighboring county broke and the access water would cause catastrophic flooding in our area. His words to Chris were, “If you want to save anything in The Anchor House from flood waters, we need to move it now.” Chris and I quickly made our way to the home.
From the road I could see that the cottage was surrounded by water. I saw the life of The Anchor House flash before my eyes, the journey of heartache to build this home was now cast into oblivion.
I remember praying under my breathe, “Jesus you are late, you’ve failed us!”
Chris and I boated down the driveway, along with a volunteer crew. As we passed the gate we saw cottage one already flooded. My heart sank, I couldn’t feel my feet, or process the madness that was happening right before my eyes. We docked our boats in front of the main building on higher ground with water 10 feet from the door.
Quickly the volunteers assembled a line to carry all our belongings upstairs. God sent angels that day, human angels, to let us know we were not alone on a day that felt like death.
As we left The Anchor House, waters were 3 feet from the door of the main building. I’ll always remember that one last look, the pristine beauty of the house, before I stepped into the John Boat with a box full of Restore One files, holding the past while unsure of the future.
The flood waters reached 19 inches in cottage one and 9 in the main building. As days passed, the water left the buildings and with the help of volunteers we’ve begun the restoration process.
I have felt angry and unsure of my own personal faith in this journey, yet within hours of starting to pull out sheetrock and flooring I felt the spirit lead me to the story of Lazarus found in John 11.
I’ve seen Lazarus miracles in my life, moments where the stench of death seems stronger than any ounce of glory; And although pain lingers Jesus shows up embracing my humanness as he weeps with me and then something beautiful happens. In the midst of suffering, he awakens death and shakes my eulogy.
Days before Lazarus’ death, Mary and Martha waited for Jesus’ arrival. He did not come. Their brother died. It was four days after his death when Jesus shows up. As soon as Mary sees Jesus she falls at his feet, laying out the story of her brother’s death. I picture her angry and sad exclaiming her disappointment and asking Jesus why he was late. In his compassion Jesus joins his beloved friends in weeping.
In a moment of absolute intensity, full of sadness and longing, Jesus asks Mary and Martha to pull back the tomb and trust him. Lazarus is raised at the command of Jesus.
The Anchor House will never look the same. Walls will be covered in new paint and we will have new cabinets, baseboards and flooring. However, the wood beams will always hold the marking of flood waters.
In the midst of a great destruction I felt Jesus calling forth restoration within my own heart. A new belief for his glory to be known again through the restoration of The Anchor House.
The Anchor House is a Lazarus miracle.
While I’ve not chosen this path, I know Jesus is with me at the tomb, and until renovations are complete, you’ll find me weeping and dancing as I live out this Lazarus miracle.
Anna Smith is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restore One, where she works diligently on their chief project, The Anchor House. The Anchor House will be the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.