Embarrass, Minnesota is a challenging place to live. Known as the coldest place in a very cold state, the community was named for the French word embarras, “to hinder with obstacles or difficulties.” This week it lived up to its name as temperatures dropped to -42 degrees Fahrenheit.
By contrast, the coldest day reported by NASA’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station on Mars is -24 degrees Fahrenheit. To be fair, the rover is stationed inside a crater at about the same latitude on Mars as Venezuela is on Earth. But you get the point.
The cold front creating today’s record-setting temperatures is known as a “polar vortex.” It was locked in Arctic Canada for so long that its air became unusually cold and dense. When it finally began moving south, it brought havoc with it. By tomorrow nearly half the nation—140 million people—will be in temperatures of zero or lower. All public schools in Minnesota were closed yesterday. Schools in Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee have followed suit. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or delayed.
Not all the weather news is bad, however. The cold snap has come during the slowest shopping season of the year, giving retailers down time to replace winter merchandise on their shelves with spring items. Cab drivers are receiving unusually large tips. And the God who redeems all he allows is calling his people to use the weather for good.
Some churches have made their buildings into homeless shelters. Others are holding all-night prayer meetings with food, clothes, and fellowship for all who come. Some are taking special collections to pay heating bills for those in need. Believers around the country are being God’s hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).
And a family has found their lost son as a result of the winter weather. Nicholas Simmons had been missing since New Year’s Day. A photographer snapped a picture of the 20-year-old in Washington, D.C., wrapped in a gray blanket and warming himself on a steam grate. His sister spotted Nick in the photo and called police. He was picked up and reunited with his family at a local hospital.
Authorities say they had no leads until the photo appeared. “It was pure dumb luck how all this happened,” the lead investigator said. “It’s truly a miracle.” His mother agrees: “God took that photo, God made us find him…. This is by far the greatest example of God’s love and divine intervention I have ever experienced.”
When our secular culture sidelines God as a religious hobby, a single storm reminds us of our finitude and our King’s omnipotence. “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm” (William Cowper). What storm would you entrust to him today?