Remembering 9/11: God Is Still Our Shelter and Strength
20 years after 9/11, the promises of God’s Word continue to offer hope
In this special reflection, John Greco, American Bible Society’s Managing Director of Operations, remembers 9/11 and shares verses from God Is Our Shelter and Strength, a Scripture resource created by American Bible Society to offer hope amid tragedy.
For me, my personal and professional memories of that day blend together.
I remember that my American Bible Society colleagues and I were in Princeton, NJ, for an offsite planning retreat. Most of us were returning to work from various summer vacations and well-deserved time off with family and friends. The retreat was supposed to be a chance to reconnect as we embraced the challenges and opportunities that the new fiscal year presented. But on the morning of September 11, 2001, we couldn’t begin to guess how our plans as an organization, along with our personal lives, were about to change.
The conference center buzzed with preparation for a full day of fellowship and planning. As I went to get my first cup of coffee, I noticed several people gathered around the television in the lobby. I joined them, and together we watched in disbelief, then horror, as the events of the day unfolded before our eyes.
Our world would never be the same.
A CALL TO HOPE
In the days after 9/11, I will never forget the grave uncertainty of what would happen next. I remember being overwhelmed with feelings of dread and unceasing anxiety, especially about returning to our office in New York City.
And yet, as my colleagues and I sought comfort in God’s Word, my confidence and focus began to return. We read, prayed, and rested in the promises of the Bible, and we began to heal. We knew that we could depend on God, no matter what happened.
I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.” Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The LORD ’s kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning. Deep in my heart I say, “The LORD is all I need; I can depend on him!”
Lamentations 3:18-24 CEV
A MISSION OF COMFORT
As our staff unified around the promises of God’s Word, we became solely focused on reaching a nation desperate for hope.
In my now-26 years at American Bible Society, I have never seen my colleagues work together in such a cohesive, selfless way as they did following the events of 9/11. Our mission to help all people experience God through his Word has always been central to our work. But after 9/11, it consumed every action, every resource, and every conversation. We dropped all our other plans and projects to focus on this work—God’s work.
Within 48 hours of 9/11, our departments galvanized to repurpose a Scripture resource designed to offer comfort in times of tragedy and pain: God Is Our Shelter and Strength. We printed the booklet with a new cover depicting the devastation of the World Trade Center, combining this new universal image of tragedy with the hope of God’s Word hidden inside.
Once we’d printed the booklets, we had to get them into people’s hands. We organized outreach teams of staff and volunteers, who went to Ground Zero, all five boroughs of New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania armed with God’s Word. In addition to providing Scripture resources to hurting people, our teams worked side-by-side with the NYPD, FDNY, PAPD, EMTs, the National Guard, and other heroic first responders on the scene to distribute food and water.
Our mission didn’t stop in the Northeast. In order to help thousands across our nation find comfort in the Bible, we offered God Is Our Shelter and Strength as a free digital download on our website—a huge feat in 2001, and all accomplished in a matter of days.
In total, American Bible Society distributed 3,469,472 copies of God Is Our Shelter and Strength, along with Bibles and other Scripture resources, completely free of charge. God sustained our staff and volunteers in this work, allowing us to reach our fellow Americans with the message that they were not alone.
You people of Israel, say, “God pays no attention to us! He doesn’t care if we are treated unjustly.” But how can you say that? Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The LORD is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; his wisdom cannot be measured. The LORD gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.
Isaiah 40:27-31 CEV
A FUTURE OF PROMISE
Just like American Bible Society has done since 1816, we were able to meet a real need for God’s words of love and comfort in the weeks following 9/11. The impact of this massive project informed and inspired our ministry strategy over the next several years. We launched additional booklets
exploring human emotions like fear, anger, confusion, anxiety, sadness, and despair and helped people learn how to find faith and confidence amid an ever-changing world.
Twenty years after 9/11, we still hold tightly to the promises of Scripture and remain ready to serve those in need, in our nation and around the world, armed with the Word of God—our shelter and strength.
Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”
Psalm 91:1-2 CEV
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