The following letter was submitted by three local pastors and their congregations to a local South Florida newspaper. It was not published by the newspaper. We include it here as a testimony of the validity of what has been written:
Covenant Life Christian Church
Good News Church
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
New Dawn Community Church
Coral Springs, Florida
James Lee Witt, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in his persuasive letter to the editor of November 2, wrote in support of the bond measure in Deerfield Beach. We agree with Mr. Witt's heartfelt concern for hurricane preparedness, and we applaud Deerfield's preparation and farsighted approach.
However, Mr. Witt ended his letter by adding, "No one can predict when the next hurricane will hit or how strong it will be." At any other time such a statement could pass without comment. But in view of the events which preceded Hurricane Irene, we believe that this statement must be corrected. A local church in Broward County did, in fact, accurately predict that Hurricane Irene was going to hit the South Florida area by surprise, and that Deerfield Beach would be an area which would receive a glancing blow from the hurricane. This prediction was first publicized in a meeting of Broward County pastors on December 2, 1998 for their input, discussion, and comment. We are also aware of the fact that this information was submitted to several national and internationally recognized ministries for their response and critique.
After the prediction had passed through this review process, it was appropriate that it also be shared responsibly in Broward County. At the end of February letters and facsimiles were sent to approximately fifty Broward County congregations to enlist them in prayer against Hurricane Irene. The purpose of the letter was to invite area churches to pray that the hurricane would not be the category four which the prediction stated that it could be. In May, July, September, and finally on October 13 when Tropical Storm Irene formed, each of these congregations was once again contacted. Several area Christian radio stations were also contacted by facsimile at various times. Each contact pointed out that the prayers were having an effect on the hurricane's strength, but more prayer was needed. In addition to these contacts, on October 1, 1999 WPTV Channel 5, the NBC affiliate from West Palm Beach, aired an interview with the pastor of the Broward congregation from which this prediction first issued. In that interview more prayer against Irene was enlisted.
As a result of these contacts, many churches and individuals throughout Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade Counties joined in this prayer effort. Joint meetings with representative from area congregations were held in March, September, and October to pray specifically against a hurricane by the name of Irene.
On October 15, when Irene hit, many congregants and the churches which they attended were prepared for a far worse storm, since we honestly did not know at what strength the hurricane would be when it hit our area. Those who had received the information about Hurricane Irene, but did not believe it, must have watched along with us in openmouthed wonder as Irene moved inexorably our way. Every hurricane model to date was shattered by this hurricane as it made its prophesied surprise march toward Broward County. The most destructive edge of the hurricane, the eastern eye wall, passed over Deerfield Beach in the evening hours of October 15. However, our gracious God, who gave the information because of his great love for the people of our area, listened to the concerted prayers of all the people who responded to this prediction, and Hurricane Irene was not nearly as severe as it could have been.
We mourn because of the lives which were lost. But we also recognize, in view of the lack of preparation on the part of most of South Florida's citizens, that an even slightly more potent hurricane would have resulted in a far higher death toll. We thank our God that this did not happen.
We write this letter, not to glorify any church, person, or group involved in this prediction, but rather to glorify our loving God. There is a living God. He loves us. He demonstrated it by giving detailed information about a hurricane hitting our area so that we might unite in prayer against it, and that many lives might be saved.
Mr. Witt wrote that no one can predict a hurricane. We appreciate Mr. Witt's point of view, but his statement is clearly inaccurate since someone just did. This statement is easily verifiable. If we humble ourselves and thank God for his great mercy, he may speak just as clearly in the future. In any case, we know that he deserves all of the glory and the honor. His love for the people of South Florida is great.