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Spider Bites
Photo: Christophe Libert
For the first five hours of the hurricane (Katrina), Ashley Bleidt and her beloved cat, Tom-Tom, hid in the linen closet in her bathroom. Then the water started coming in under the door. Ashley waded through waist-deep water to her kitchen counter and climbed up. But soon that, too, was flooded. Suddenly, there was a tremendous splash as the refrigerator toppled over on its back and floated in the water. She jumped on the refrigerator as it floated and pulled Tom-Tom up next to her.

The room was churning like a giant washing machine. Ashley was having a hard enough time staying on the refrigerator herself; how could she save her cat? She jerked open the freezer door and shoved him inside, leaving the door open just enough so he could breathe.

The refrigerator floated into the living room. Then a strong surge of water ripped the front door away, and Ashley felt herself being sucked outside. She clung to the door frame, but the current was too strong, and the refrigerator slid out from under her and floated away. Ashley screamed for Tom-Tom, but she realized it was no use. Her efforts now turned to saving herself. She managed to swim to a tall tree in her yard.

The water continued rising, forcing her to climb up the tree. Ashley wedged herself between the trunk and a large limb, praying that it would hold as the wind stripped away the leaves. Looking down, she watched all kinds of debris float by in the putrid, foul-smelling water—furniture, cars, metal, animals.

Suddenly, Ashley felt something crawling up her leg; she tried to brush it off. A few minutes later, she felt a crawling sensation on her back, then across her arm. Ashley took one look and shuddered. Her body was being invaded by huge black spiders! At any other time she would have screamed and fled. Now she could do nothing. The water swirling below was far more terrifying.

Then, without warning, Ashley was forced violently against the trunk. The pain was excruciating, but she held on. A funnel of water rose beside her. Looking down, she could see a circle in the water all the way to the ground. Other funnels were spinning around her. She was being hit by tornadoes! Ashley began to panic. She thought she was going to be shaken out of the tree. I’m not going to make it! I’m going to die! she thought.

Then her skin began to burn from the chemicals in the polluted water. It felt like needles stinging her. Ashley clung to that branch for eight hours. At one point she looked around and was surprised to find she was not alone. There on another branch was a possum, clinging to the tree. Together—unafraid of each other—they waited out the fury of the storm.

When the water went down, two men waded through the muck to her tree. “We can’t reach you,” they called out. “You’re going to have to slide down yourself.”

Straining, Ashley managed to grab an overhead branch. She lifted herself just enough to get her legs off the limb where they had been wedged and then slid down the trunk, scraping her body against the rough bark. The men caught her and held her up until her legs were strong enough that she could stand alone. Putting their arms around her, the men walked until they found a police officer, who directed them to a clinic.

Although her body was bruised and bleeding and her back was killing her, it was the pain in her ear that was driving her crazy. It was as if something was hammering on her eardrum. A nurse poured alcohol down her ear, and a big black spider crawled out! Ashley almost fainted! She had spider bites, bruises, and scratches all over her body. Later, she learned that her pelvis was broken, probably by the tornado that lifted her out of the tree and thrust her back against the trunk.

When Ashley was able to return home, she was devastated to see that her house was completely destroyed. “I’ve lost everything! I’ve got nothing left, nothing!” she cried. “But at least I’m alive, and I’m thankful for that!”

What does it take to be a survivor? As you consider the fear factors endured by the Katrina survivors, you probably think you would die of a heart attack before you could endure spiders, frogs, and water moccasins, not to mention the shear terror of the storm itself. But truth is, you can survive more than you think. “You can do everything with the help of Christ who gives you the strength you need?” (Adapted from Philippians 4:13).

You can’t choose the trials that will come to you. Only God knows what lies ahead, and in mercy he chooses not to reveal the future. If He did, and you knew what you were going to have to endure, you would spend your life worrying about it! Jesus came to give you an abundant life. When tough times come, what an incredible sense of calm and security you can have if you believe that God will never ask you to go through something you can’t handle. (See 1 Corinthians 10:3). With Jesus, you can always say as Paul did, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

Did you enjoy this article? Many more are available in the book "Between Hell and High Water" by Kay Kuzma and Brenda Walsh. To order call: Adventist Book Center 1-800-765-6955 or go online at AdventistBookCenter.com

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By Kay Kuzma and Brenda Walsh. Excerpts reprinted with persmission from Signs of the Times, July 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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