Naming Hurricanes

Last week Hurricane Imelda left a trail of flood damage in southeast Texas, fueled by up to 43” of rain between Houston and Beaumont. People I know and love, who had sustained flood damage at the hands of Hurricane Harvey a couple years ago, were hit hard also by Imelda.

My heart is sad for those who now need to pick up the pieces, muck out the silt, strip the sheetrock, remove the insulation, refinish the floors, replace the furniture, and rebuild their homes and lives. Indescribable and unimaginable damage can be caused by a hurricane, even by a tropical storm, destroying in hours what took a lifetime to build and accumulate.

Do you know how and why hurricanes are named? Here’s what I found in a May 31, 2019 online article by Deanna Conners:

Meteorologists long ago learned that naming tropical storms and hurricanes helps people remember the storms, communicate about them more effectively, and stay safer when a storm strikes a coast.

These experts assign names to hurricanes from a formal list approved prior to the start of each hurricane season. The U.S. National Hurricane Center started this practice in the early 1950s. Now, the World Meteorological Organization generates and maintains the list of names.

Atlantic hurricane names for 2019: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, and Wendy. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

In the 1950s a formal practice for storm naming was developed for the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Storms were named according to the alphabet (e.g., Able, Baker, Charlie) and the names used were the same for each hurricane season.

In 1953, to avoid repetition, the system was revised to give storms female names. By doing this, the National Weather Service was mimicking the habit of naval meteorologists, who named the storms after women, much as ships at sea were traditionally named for women.

In 1978–1979, the system was revised again to include both female and male hurricane names.

This week Tropical Storm Jerry (that’s my name) is in the Atlantic, moving toward Bermuda. Tropical Storm Karen (that’s the name of one of my younger sisters) is headed north from Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. And further east, Hurricane Lorenzo is moving west. Lord, have mercy.

Do you know the story of Peter walking on stormy water in Matt. 14? The winds died down after Jesus got into the boat. And how about the story of Jesus calming a storm in Mark 4?

Lord Jesus, according to your holy will, apply your calming hand to troubled waters and violent windstorms. And if you choose not to intervene in that way, bring peace and calm to those whose lives are seriously disrupted by storms who bear the names of some of your children. I pray this in your holy and precious name, the name above all names. Jesus. Amen.

 

Family History

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Credit: Roman Kraft on Unsplash

My good friend Rev. Robert Greene, in heaven since passing away two months ago, was an avid family history buff. In his retirement Bob spent much time at his computer almost every day, researching the history of his and his wife Jean’s family. At the time he died, Bob had identified over one million people to whom he or Jean were related. Seriously. I kid you not.

Several years ago in preparation for a family reunion, I spent a bit of time collating the names and important life event dates of my great grandfather’s family. I’ve identified 454 people related to my great grandpa Carl Otto Kieschnick and great grandma Christine Sohns Kieschnick.

Though it’s highly doubtful that my affinity for family history will ever come close to that of Bob Greene, I do find it interesting to talk about family. So does my dear Terry, who occasionally mentions her desire to dig into her genealogical roots. Perhaps someday she and I will do that.

A question that had always intrigued me is how my great grandfather could afford to keep his family in Thorndale, Texas, while he cleared and built a grand home on property he had purchased just north of Bishop, Texas, 275 miles south of Thorndale. Then one day I finally figured it out.

It started the day I preached at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Thorndale a few years ago. I began my sermon by noting my relationship with this congregation through my great grandparents who had lived in Thorndale just after the beginning of the 20th century. I also expressed my desire to know the location of the home and farm of Otto and Christine Kieschnick.

After worship was over, a man named Dennis Hengst greeted me at the door, identifying himself as a realtor who might be able to help. A few months later he called and said he had found not only one but two farms that had been owned by Otto and Christine.

Shortly thereafter my sister and I met Dennis for BBQ lunch at the Thorndale Meat Market. Then he took us to those two farms. The answer to my question was that Great Grandpa had sold one farm and applied the proceeds to their new adventure. He had left Great Grandma and their eight children in Thorndale while he went to Bishop, cleared the land, and built their new home. He then brought his family to Bishop, where he lived for most of the rest of his life.

The point of this article is not my family’s history. It’s simply to illustrate that everyone has a family history. Some, like Bob Greene, go to great lengths to learn about their ancestors. Others, like me, do a little research to satisfy their curiosity. Others either have no interest or simply don’t spend the time and effort required to discover the people from whom they came.

For an interesting genealogical story, check Matthew 1:1-17 in the New Testament. You’ll love the main character. Actually, I think most of you already do. Happy reading!

The Eighteenth Anniversary

Hard to believe today marks the 18th anniversary of the day we know as 9/11. How well I recall where I was and what I was doing Sept. 11, 2001, when hearing the news of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. How well I also remember the second such incident, another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower moments later.

Then the tragic news continued. A third airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. And yet a fourth plane whose passengers thwarted another hijack attempt crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93. Those airlines and flights are etched into the annals of American and world history.

The four attacks killed 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others. Additional women and men died from 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years that followed.

All four attacks were coordinated against the United States by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. The events of 9/11 comprise the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters (343 died during and following the attacks) and law enforcement officers (72 lost their lives) in the history of the United States of America.

As some of you are aware, all this occurred only three days after my installation as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I was leading a staff meeting in the LCMS International Center. Numerous related events transpired during my nine year presidency.

One of my most poignant memories of this historic tragedy is the full page letter unanimously approved by the LCMS Council of Presidents for publication in USA Today and The New York Times Oct. 2, 2001, three weeks after the event. Here is the letter:

A Promise – The New York Times and USA Today – October 2, 2001

In the aftermath of our nation’s tragedy three weeks ago today, we of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod wholeheartedly offer our love and prayers for those tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.

At such a time it is natural to wonder how we can get on with life.

Still heavy with the burden or our enormous loss, we face the potential for even more danger at our doorstep. And as we look out upon the world seeking a promise of comfort and hope, we may see only darkness.

Yet we are not the first people to suffer such darkness, nor to long for such a promise.

David in the Old Testament, in time of great personal and national distress, looked to God and took comfort in His promise:

“The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” 

Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our “Good Shepherd,” spoke words that are particularly poignant right now:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”    

That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death … and His own death and resurrection promise hope and comfort to us all.

In these days of great personal and national trial, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul as we struggle with ‘getting on with life’:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And that’s His promise!

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Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
St. Louis, MO
www.lcms.org

This day will never be forgotten. Lord, have mercy!

Leaving Home

It was on or about September 1, 1960. My mother had driven me the 100 miles from our home in southwest Houston to College Station, Texas. I had been accepted and enrolled as a freshman in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets in the Pre-Veterinary Medicine curriculum.

Accompanied by my two younger sisters, Karen and Debbie, still in elementary school at the time, Mother and I made our way to the YMCA building on campus where pre-registration and academic orientation were scheduled to occur. My older sister Carol had already begun living independently and Dad was working that day. Thus both were unable to join us on this trip.

In addition to anxiety connected with moving away from home for the first time, what I remember most about that day was the tearful parting as my mother and sisters walked down the YMCA steps toward the car and the journey back home. There was a palpable four-way sense of at least a temporary loss. A natural response in any such circumstance, but new to us.

Three months earlier I had graduated from Bellaire High School and had spent the summer living at home, working with my father in the meat department of Lewis and Coker grocery stores in Houston. That job and a scholarship were the sources of my self-funded education.

My high school years were non-spectacular. I wasn’t on the honor roll. Nor a super star athlete. Just focused on home chores and agricultural pursuits. We lived on three acres, which allowed my involvement in vocational agriculture and Future Farmers of America projects.

That included raising for stock show competition a “fat” steer, four market calves, and two Hampshire pigs. In my younger days, Dad and I raised 150 rabbits, along with chickens, a milk cow, and nine sheep. My departure from home meant that all those chores and non-academic interests were no longer a part of my life, adding to the sense of loss that day in 1960.

As it turned out, we all survived the temporary trauma of my leaving home.

The point of this story is that what my family and I experienced 59 years ago is not unique to any one family. It happens throughout our land and across the globe. It’s a natural and normal part of the maturation process. People who have lived their entire or major part of life at home with family members are, sooner or later, faced with the departure of one of those beloved family members.

Sometimes that separation, as in my case, is the result of academic or work-related pursuits. At other times, delinquency, divorce, or death are the causative factors. Be that as it may, for many if not most families, the leaving home of one member of the family produces a very real sense of loss.

At such times, the promise of the Lord to Joshua, both to those who leave and to those who remain, is poignant: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:5