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Did God turn Irma away from most of Bahamas

Examining the role of prayer when a hurricane takes aim
  • The majority of Bahamian islands were spared the full brunt of Hurricane Irma. Ragged Island and Salina Point, Acklins were most heavily impacted.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Sep 14, 2017

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When it became clear that most of The Bahamas escaped the force of Hurricane Irma, many people took to social media declaring that their prayers turned the storm away.

However, others suggested that this was a selfish position.

Some even called it a silly conclusion to draw.

The majority of Bahamian islands were spared the full brunt of the storm.

Ragged Island and Salina Point, Acklins, were most heavily impacted.

Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction as it moved across the Caribbean, ripping roofs off houses, collapsing buildings and flooding.

It did the same as it moved through Florida.

As of yesterday, the death toll from the storm was over 65.

The debate on science versus religion is an age-old debate.

What role, if any, did prayers play in driving Irma away?

Bahamas Christian Council President Delton Fernander said whether it was religion or luck that shifted the storm away from The Bahamas, the fact remains that God is ultimately in control.

“We believe that God would have sustained us in the storm or if He diverted it, it was still God’s hand,” Fernander said.

“The act of prayer, it is really saying that from The Bahamas, we are asking God to watch over these islands.

“We couldn’t tell God what to do.

“That means God is in control but we give Him thanks, that through His mercy and grace, that the track of the storm would have changed.

“Now whether you give that to science or would have said global warming or what itself did it, we definitely would accept the preposition of luck, that we were ultimately in God’s control.”

Without a doubt, there were prayer warriors in other countries also praying hard, and quite sincerely, that God would turn Irma away.

But Irma devastated parts of the Caribbean, including Barbuda and St. Martin.

Parts of Turks and Caicos and Cuba were also battered.

Fernander noted that prayer warriors in The Bahamas did not pray for the hurricane to move from their country and hit another country.

“The prayer was God’s covering and the fact that it hit another place doesn’t mean that they are any better or any worse than us,” he said.

“What we are saying is if the storm had hit us, as it did St. Martin and other places, we would have been in God’s control.

“And so, when we prayed for the covering of The Bahamas, we still yield to whatever God will do and however God will do.”

Fernander pointed to the Psalms 1:3, which says “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water”.

“The same tree that God plants is the water that God sustains us by,” he said.

“So we are in the hurricane belt and for the last three years we have had three Category 4 and about storms, and there’s been absolutely no loss of life and we contend it’s through the prayer warriors.

“Sometimes, it’s made fun of, that God’s grace has been extended to these islands.

“I’m saying that if God had allowed the storm to come, and He chooses to spare or not to spare, we are still under God’s control and the act of praying is that we ask that God in his mercy would give us that mercy.”

Fernander said The Bahamas experienced the grace of God.

“Bad things happen to good people; it doesn’t mean we are any less good,” he added.

“We get robbed, we get our houses taken, we get our cars taken, but we submit to the sovereignty of God; that’s what prayer does.”

For the scientists, however, Irma’s redirection from The Bahamas was a combination of environmental factors and the luck of the draw.

Veteran meteorologist Wayne Neely said when it comes to this debate he tends to look at the science of it.

“It’s just a number of environmental factors that caused the storm to do what people call turn away,” Neely said.

“Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.

“Sometimes you get a hurricane that, for example Betsy of 1965, it passed us and made a loop and came back and hit us.

“You can’t say that, that’s God.

“I tend to look at the science part of it rather than the religious side.

“I look at the steering current. What causes a hurricane to change? What causes a hurricane to strengthen? What causes it to weaken, the environmental factor that determines what the hurricane will do.

“I will leave the spiritual part to the church and up to the men of God.”

Neely noted that Hurricane Irma was a very difficult hurricane to track.

“It kept moving either farther east of the projected position and moved farther west, and eventually it got so near to The Bahamas that it kept shifting west and that’s what caused it to bypass us,” he said.

“A lot of that had to do with the Bermuda high, or what we call the subtropical high.

“Whether God played a factor in it, I tend to believe that everything on this earth is created by God and each thing was created for a purpose.

“I look at the purpose of the hurricane and I judge it from there.”

While Neely said he looks at hurricanes through scientific eyes, he also said he believes that prayer changes things.

“I definitely think that with prayer you can cause some things to happen or not, but to say that, that was prayer and people prayed away the storm, I can’t say yes or no on either one because I’m not in that position to make that determination,” he said.

“That determination is made by God and God alone.

“I’ll leave that part for the men of God.”

When asked whether he believes that science and religion can co-exist, Neely said yes.

He said Arawak Indians had sacrificial ceremonies seeking to turn away storms.

Neely noted that once you consider that God through prayer can turn a storm away, it must also be considered that when a storm hits, this is also the work of God, giving the example of Hurricane Matthew last year.

This part of the debate then becomes a slippery slope, he said.

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