A refuge from the stormLike most Americans, Tom and Classie Johnson will always remember how Sept. 11 devastated their lives. But instead of the Twin Towers in New York City, they will be remembering Hurricane Irma attacking their home in Jacksonville, Fla. 

Even though they lived 400 miles from the storm’s landfall, the city of Jacksonville was drowning in heavy rain. A record storm surge turned streets into rivers. Ferocious winds drove waves and debris through windows.

The Johnsons piled into their car and fled inland from the flood. When authorities allowed them to return home, they discovered all their belongings were ruined, and backed-up sewage had destroyed their home. In despair, Tom, Classie and their three kids – Jasmine, Jaylan and Joshua – got back in the car and started driving north.

“We didn’t know where we were going to go,” Classie says. “When we got to Atlanta, I googled places where we could get help, and MUST Ministries came up.”

But other hurricane refugees had hit town as well, and at first the Johnsons were told MUST had no room in its shelter. But as Tom kept talking about their desperate situation, a light came on in the staffer’s eye. “Let me check something,” she said.

With some divine providence and a little ingenuity, MUST was able to take the family in and keep them together.

“It was the sheer grace of God that we slipped in the door,” Classie says. “We had nowhere to go. I just can’t explain how badly we needed it – to have some place my kids could lay down at night, some place we could take a shower.”

Most people don’t realize how easy it is to find yourself in a situation like theirs, Tom says.

“We were just a normal family, married 20 years,” he explains. “The storm took everything we had, and MUST helped us with clothing, personal products, hot meals and a place to stay while we looked for jobs. It was the next best thing to being at your mama’s house!”

Classie saw God’s hand at work in the first job she found: packing meals for Hurricane Maria survivors in Texas and Puerto Rico.

“I was thinking, ‘God put me in this special place to do this for somebody else in need,” she recalls. “It’s an important point: helping others when we needed help.”

MUST was able to help the Johnsons because of your generosity. But their story reminds us that we all can say, “There but for the grace of God ....”

Explore mustministries.org to learn about the many ways you can help families in desperate need.