The wind was howling and shaking the palm trees by the time Grandma’s car reached Ana Luisa’s house. “Grab your things, girls, and go inside,” Grandma said. “I’m going to find some rocks to put behind the car’s tires.”
“Why?” Rebecca asked.
“So maybe the car won’t blow away,” Grandma said.
Rebecca and Sarah looked at each other, their eyes wide.
The girls didn’t remember the last hurricane that had come to Puerto Rico eight years ago, when Sarah was two and Rebecca just one. But they knew that the Arecibo River had flooded their neighborhood and that a lot of houses had been destroyed. Now Hurricane Georges was on the way, and newscasters warned that this hurricane might be even worse.
“So, girls, are you ready for Hurricane Georges?” asked Ana Luisa as they stepped through the front door.
“Brother Soto came to our house this morning and nailed boards on all the windows. Grandma says we need to pray that everything will turn out all right,” Sarah said.
“That’s right,” Ana Luisa said. “Heavenly Father will watch over us.”
Ana Luisa was a friend from their new church. Even though the girls were worried, Ana Luisa’s comforting words and the familiar smell of rice and beans inside her cozy house made them feel better.
The sister missionaries, who had taught Grandma and the girls the gospel just three months ago, were spending the night at Ana Luisa’s too. “It’s going to be fun,” Sister Lewis, one of the missionaries, told them, “like a party, except with really bad weather.”
For a while it was like a party. They ate dinner, then munched on cookies and listened to the radio. Every once in a while they heard a crash outside. Rebecca and Sarah wondered if Grandma’s car had blown away after all, but it was too dark to see.
Later, the lights flickered and went out. As Rebecca made a funny face in the beam of her flashlight, Grandma said, “Now is probably a good time for bed.”
After they put on their pajamas, Grandma called Sarah and Rebecca back to the living room. “We’re going to say a prayer together,” Grandma said. Sister Lewis asked Heavenly Father to keep them all safe during the hurricane and to protect Rebecca and Sarah’s house. Hearing Sister Lewis pray helped the girls feel calmer.
* * *
The next morning, when Sarah cranked open the metal window slats, Ana Luisa’s street looked like it belonged on a different planet. Grandma’s car was still there, but some trees had fallen down, and sheets of metal from people’s roofs were on Ana Luisa’s lawn. Pigeons waddled helplessly down the sidewalk, too heavy with rainwater to fly. “If Ana Luisa’s street looks like this,” Sarah asked Rebecca nervously, “what do you think ours looks like?”
Early that morning Grandma had driven over to check on their house. She finally came back around lunchtime. “The neighborhood is flooded,” she said. “I couldn’t even get near our street.”
Rebecca wanted to cry. Sarah asked, “What do we do now, Grandma?”
“If it’s OK with Ana Luisa, we’ll stay here for a few more days. Maybe by then the water will go down, and we can go home.”
* * *
Everyone from church wanted to help Grandma, Rebecca, and Sarah. Ana Luisa cooked dinner for them, and the sister missionaries brought clothes that Sister Lewis’s family had sent. Bishop Espinosa even came to give Grandma a blessing when she was feeling sick. But it was hard not to be in their own house and harder still not to know if their house was even there anymore.
After eight days the streets in their neighborhood were finally clear. Buckled into the backseat of Grandma’s car, Sarah and Rebecca felt a twist of excitement and fear in their stomachs. As they rode, they saw houses with walls that had been blown down. Broken tables, waterlogged mattresses, and mud-crusted refrigerators lay abandoned on the side of the road.
“What if our house is gone?” Rebecca asked.
“Then Heavenly Father will help us find a new one,” Grandma replied.
The streets in their neighborhood were still oozing with thick black mud, so they had to drive very slowly. Finally, Grandma turned the corner onto their street.
“I see it!” Rebecca shouted. “Our house is still there!”
“There’s a hole in the roof,” Sarah pointed out.
Inside, everything smelled musty. The girls leaned their mattresses against the wall to air them out and helped Grandma wipe up the water that had come in through the hole in the roof. “Can we stay here tonight, Grandma?” Rebecca asked.
“I don’t think so. We’ll have to wait a few more nights until we can get the roof fixed.”
Rebecca sighed and sank onto the damp couch. “I wish we could stay.”
“I’m just glad our house is still here,” Sarah said.
“Heavenly Father listened to our prayers,” Grandma said. Then, looking through the doorway, she pointed toward the street. “I think He’s still listening.”
Outside, a large truck with a crane was pulling up. Bishop Espinosa and Brother Soto hopped down, along with some other men from their ward.
“Do you need any help?” the bishop called. “Maybe some people to fix your roof?”
Sarah and Rebecca grabbed hands and squealed. “Does this mean we can stay, Grandma? Can we sleep here tonight?”
Grandma smiled and nodded. “Welcome home, girls.”
“The protection promised to the faithful … is a reality today as it was in Bible times.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 39.