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SHANNON WILLIAMS President and General Manager Indianapolis Recorder

This past week has been one of deep reflection for me for a variety of reasons, but most significantly I have reflected on the awesome power of God.

What I have always believed is, though most of us continually acknowledge and thank God, being at our most vulnerable allows us to truly reflect on his awesome power. When there is absolutely nothing else for us to do but let God be God, that is when we see his work in action, up close and personal.

This week I was able to speak with individuals who experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irma firsthand while on a business retreat in St. Martin.

The partners of Engaging Solutions, an Indianapolis consulting firm, shared their story with me and one of the Recorder’s reporters and oh, what a story it was. They talked about being moved to three different homes in an attempt to escape the dangers of Irma. They shared some of their strategies and coping mechanisms, like gathering any items they could get their hands on to aid them during the worst of times. They also shared stories of the encouragement they received from others who tried feverishly to help and encourage them from afar.

However, the part of their experience that most resonated with me was their faith and their refusal to think of any alternative except to survive.

At one point when Irma had reached her peak, most of the partners and their traveling companions were huddled into one bathroom, a couple others were in a closet. There were deafening winds and sounds of destruction all around them when one partner, Tammy Butler Robinson, said, “Peace be still.”

“At that point there was a calming spirit that came over my body,” she said.

That spirit kept them going throughout the duration of the storm.

Venita Moore, another partner at Engaging Solutions said, “Any (uncertain) moment was overshadowed by God’s grace.”

“We knew we would get out,” said Debbie Simmons Wilson. “We just did not know when.”

The group was eventually rescued by a military plane.

In a separate but just as amazing incident, this week marked the one-year anniversary of former Indianapolis Recorder publisher Carolene Mays-Medley’s brain aneurysm rupture. It has been 12 months of deep reflection for Carolene, overcoming obstacles and amplifying her already intense, steadfast and passionate Christian walk.

This time last year, Carolene was near death. Her doctors and others I personally reached out to said it was nearly impossible to make a full recovery after such an experience. I vividly remember a physician friend of mine say, “Historically, this type of medical occurrence is irreversible, the damage is too great and recovery of any kind is unlikely.”

Those words sunk in my heart and I became physically ill.

As a trained journalist, we are taught to get the facts. When doctors provided facts, my mind occasionally drifted off to the “what-ifs.” What if she is incapacitated her entire life? What if she doesn’t get better?

But then I would remember my dear friend and sister Carolene and her resolve. I would reflect on how she overcame every obstacle in her life, even the really challenging blows. And I would remind myself of Carolene’s deep Christian faith. I found myself reciting some of her favorite scriptures. I pulled out hand-written notes from the Bible study sessions we would have at her and her husband Fred’s home. And I would constantly recite one of my own favorite scriptures, Luke 18:27: “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.”

Since Carolene’s aneurysm, she and I have spoken candidly about the ordeal. The amazing thing is that through all her medical scares and challenges, she has always maintained her faith. She told me how, while lying in the hospital bed, she knew she was covered by God’s grace. She was never fearful because she knows “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we could ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Carolene’s experience and the experience of the partners at Engaging Solutions have so many parallels that we can all appreciate.


1.There is strength in vulnerability

Hurricane Irma wrecked havoc on the land and property Engaging Solutions occupied, and Carolene’s aneurysm wrecked havoc on her body. All individuals in these two instances were probably at the most vulnerable points of their lives, yet they didn’t succumb to the what-ifs. Instead, they remained focused on God’s awesome power.

2.Even in times of distress, we can display unselfish love

Despite being in such a difficult situation, the executives at Engaging Solutions were determined to help others on the island. When they were mobile, they gave the locals rides to one of the only grocery stores in the area. And when they were rescued, with only one bottle of water left for all of them to share, they also shared it with a stranger who had lost everything.

When Carolene was bed-bound, she wasn’t concerned with herself. Instead, she was praying for her daughter, husband and bonus sons. She was also praying for her mother and friends. She didn’t want her illness and hospitalization to be a burden to anyone else; she was concerned that they weren’t resting enough and that her situation was causing them emotional distress. There she was literally lying in her deathbed and her attention was focused on others. Such a truly unselfish act.

3.We are stronger together

Both Carolene and the Engaging Solutions team had a village of people working on their behalf. Whether it was rotating shifts sitting with Carolene at the hospital, people using their connections or calling in favors to get Engaging Solutions rescued, or the countless prayers for all individuals, the efforts of others aided in Carolene’s recovery and Engaging Solutions’ rescue.

There is power in unity and strength in numbers. It truly takes a village for each of us to be better. It is wonderful to reflect on the togetherness that was demonstrated during two very difficult and uncertain occurrences.

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