In October 2012, Soldier Carmen Ivette Ortiz of the Bayamón, P.R., Corps visited the United States with her husband. They had come to see the museums and the Statue of Liberty, to visit her friend Irma Kawazo, and to enjoy autumn in New York.

Unfortunately for the Ortizes, they arrived just in time to witness the nation’s first “Superstorm,” named Sandy.

“Superstorm Sandy took us by surprise,” says Ortiz. “In Puerto Rico, we’re accustomed to seeing these big storms. But at the time, they were rare in the U.S.

“We weren’t able to see any [museums or landmarks] or to go anywhere; no boat trips, no trains. Sandy had closed everything. Even worse, our hotel canceled all bookings due to the storm. We were lucky to find a smaller hotel, farther away, that took us in,” said Ortiz.

Godsgracethroughthestorm_smAlthough Carmen’s trip had been dramatically altered by the storm, it also gave her an opportunity to witness the Lord’s presence.

Carmen had made plans to visit her friend Irma Kawazo, who works at the Salvation Army’s College For Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y.

“Irma is one of the most hardworking, charitable people you will ever meet. During Sandy, she had family visiting from Peru staying with her. And even with a full house, she still offered me and my husband a place to stay, if needed, when the hotel canceled on us,” says Ortiz.

Irma lives on a cul–de–sac in Mahwah, N.J., in front of a river. The storm caused the river to overflow and to severely damage the houses in the area.

“After the storm, I visited Irma’s house,” said Carmen. “I saw the destruction; homes were torn apart, abandoned, and cordoned off with yellow tape that read ‘Do Not Cross.’ The storm destroyed eight beautiful houses in the cul–de–sac. Yet Irma’s house was spared.”

Though Irma’s basement flooded, her house had stood firm against the wind and rain. God’s grace had proven to be stronger than the storm.

Eventually, Irma repaired her basement and continues to live on the cul–de–sac. She’s looking forward to Carmen’s next visit and is holding on strong to her faith. She knows that her home, as well as everything in it, is a gift and a blessing from God.

“Irma has an enormous heart, and a strong belief in the Lord,” says Ortiz. “We both believe that, in our lives, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But when we truly honor God, He will provide and protect us, even in the midst of loss and destruction.

“He blesses us in ways we would never expect.”

by Hugo Bravo

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