Safe Through the Flood

When all seems lost, a missionary family is reminded of a basic truth.

From Message magazine issue "2020 Candidate Issue"

A cyclone hit Durban, South Africa, with no warning.

ABWE missionary Kathy Ishler and her family were going through their morning routine as the rain steadily increased outside. Soon, the rainfall intensified into sheets of water dumping from the sky.

The Ishlers moved to soak up leakage with towels, but it was futile. The water poured into the house at a rate they couldn’t keep up with. They glanced outside to their driveway—a storm-carved river rushed downhill toward their front door.

Their bowl-shaped backyard was already filled with feet-deep water, and their two dogs desperately paddled for survival. Acting out of impulse, Kathy opened the kitchen door, and the dogs flew past her head on a tidal wave. The Ishlers knew they had to flee the house immediately. There was only one exit—out the front door to face the torrent of water.

The family started slowly up the treacherous slope, but the current was too strong. Just six feet in front of her, Kathy saw her daughter, Alexis, stumble and get swept off her feet, the unyielding river forcing her back down the incline. With a dog in one hand, Kathy reached out with her free arm and caught her flailing daughter, refusing to let go of either. All three were trapped at the front door.

A week before the cyclone, their neighbor was learning to drive when she knocked down a portion of the wall that separated her part of the driveway from the Ishlers’. It was a minor accident at the time, but in the moment of the Ishlers’ despair, it proved to be their means of escape. Ella, Kathy’s older daughter, helped pull Kathy and Alexis over the fragmented concrete and into calmer waters.

Although the Ishlers lost almost all their belongings, they were grateful God had prepared in advance a way to save them through the broken wall.

“God sends us trials like a flood for different reasons,” Kathy later wrote. “It brought our family closer to God and each other. We just have to trust that Christ knows what is best, and that he loves us and is good no matter what circumstance we are facing.”

Their youngest daughter reminded the family of this truth a few days later, when they returned to the house to assess the damage. Kathy and her husband, Darin, were overwhelmed by the destruction. Amid the wreckage, on the dining room floor, Alexis, who had almost washed away and nearly drowned, wrote “I Love Jesus” with the tip of her shoe in the thick mud.

“The inscribed message served as a testimony to everyone who came to help,” Kathy remembered. “To the insurance adjusters, neighbors, our friends, and especially to me.”