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Surviving the snowpocalypse

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If an issue of WORLD arrived only once in 50 years (by design, not by postal inefficiency), what surprising headlines would dominate our magazine’s first appearance since 1971? Three of them would be OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHRATE TRIPLES … ABORTION TOLL TOPS 60 MILLION … LGBT TRIUMPHS. We’d also report two evidences of God’s mercy: NO NUCLEAR WAR and SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES UNDERMINE ATHEISM.

Nevertheless, since WORLD appears biweekly, this issue’s headlines include BETHANY’S BREAK and BIG TECH AND A CANCELED BOOK. And yet, since last March we’ve had the pleasure and misery of reporting on two and one-fifth once-in-a-century stories. The first two are well known: COVID-19 (worst pandemic since 1918) and ELECTION-20 (the first since 1876 that sent armed bands heading to Washington). The third, SNOVID-21, is just a one-fifth because it was a major event only for some who live in the South, and particularly in parts of Texas.

Northerners with well-insulated houses and utilities prepared for cold might ask: Why was a half-foot of snow and ice a big deal? Well, take Austin, please. We have a slight dusting of snow once every five years, and single-digit temperatures only five times since 1898. (Last time was 1989.) A “snowplow”? What’s that?

Just because I’m now an Austinite is no reason for WORLD to be Austin-tacious. On the other hand, the city has quadrupled its population in the past half-century (from 250,000 to a million) and is now the 11th largest in the United States, so it’s worth a little coverage. Plus, U.S. News & World Report three years in a row (2017-2019) ranked it the best place to live in the country.

Much of the South had storms and hard freezes during the week that began on Valentine’s Day, but Austin had it among the worst: no heat, light, or running water. Some elderly people died of hypothermia as their body temperatures fell below 95 degrees and stayed there. My wife and I had it relatively easy: We were without power Monday through Friday, and the temperature inside almost all of our house was in the 30s, but we sat close to our fireplace in layers of clothes that made us laughably look like the Michelin Man.

55 years after Time suggested God is dead, He and His people show amid crisis that Biblical faith is still very much alive.

We also used a gas-powered stovetop for tea and soup, ran our car twice a day to warm up and recharge our cell phones and computers, and piled on the blankets at night. Most important, we had each other and God. Sadly, my prayers often overload on the supplication end, but that week we had a lot of thanksgiving for food, fire, bottled and boiled water, and marriage. I can truthfully say it was an OK experience physically and an excellent experience spiritually.

Our correspondent Sharla Megilligan reports some of the ways churches, businesses, and individuals helped the needy. Austin, home to the University of Texas and Silicon Prairie biggies, is highly secularized, but it also has a Christian-led Austin Disaster Relief Network that comes up big during floods: It came through again amid snow and ice. Hundreds of volunteers with 4x4 vehicles drove people to shelters and hospitals. They distributed food, water, and hygiene kits. At least 10 churches became clean and safe shelters.

Ecclesiastes and other parts of the Bible tell us our life is but a breath—and sometimes we report breathlessly. Still, our half-century issue could report that 55 years after Time (channeling Friedrich Nietzsche) suggested God is dead, He and His people show amid crisis that Biblical faith is still very much alive.

“May you live in interesting times” is an ironic curse, since what’s interesting is often hard—but for Christians hard times can be a blessing. Some people list two other similarly ironic curses: May you come to the attention of a powerful person, and may you find what you are looking for. Those two do not apply to followers of Christ: A powerful Person cares for us as well as for sparrows, and we can look forward to finding joyfully what we seek.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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