Next Wave International Next Wave International™ is a faith-based communications group which is
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In The Face Of A Tsunami

Mal Fletcher
Posted 31 December 2004
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As the Christmas holiday season draws to a close and we celebrate the birth of a new year, people the world over have been moved by the plight of those affected by the tsunami which has so devastated parts of Asia.

As of this writing, more than 125,000 people are reported dead or missing, after the worst natural disaster of its kind ever recorded.

In some areas, waves of 20 to 30 feet high swept ashore, taking people completely by surprise and carrying all and sundry in their destructive path.

There had been no warning of impending disaster. Authorities in the Hawaiian islands registered evidence of an earthquake out at sea, but did not know what the results might be closer to land nor whom they should contact with warnings.

Even if they had known, there would have been precious little, if anything, that local authorities could have done. The whole thing unfolded so very quickly and with such unexpected force.

The heaviest hit areas include parts of Indonesia, which already has a death toll of more than 80,000, as well as Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. Popular tourist areas, such as the Thai island of Phuket, were among the worst hit. In some areas, bodies are now being buried in improvised mass graves, wrapped in nothing more than plastic coverings.

It seems likely that we will never know the full death toll. Any records will be at best guesstimates. This disaster will stretch international relief efforts to the limit, as local govenments and international agencies face up to the very real threats of further aftershocks, health epidemics and long-term damage to local economic infrastructures.

On TV today I saw a Catholic priest in Sri Lanka responding to the question: 'Does a disaster like this one challenge your faith?'

He looked sorrowfully at the devastation all about him and replied that yes, it was difficult to tell people that God loves them while they're working through something like this.

His answer was honest and down to earth. It also reflected what thinking and caring people will be feeling all over the world. It is difficult to know what can be done to help in the face of such overwhelming tragedy. The problem seems so huge and we seem so small.

Yet this priest's demeanour suggested that, had edit time allowed, he might be going to follow it with a sentence offering hope.

At times like these, people need much more than words and it is difficult to talk about God's love without some people thinking that you're simply trying to make light of disaster. The people enduring this unimaginable turmoil need practical support. They need our gifts of finance as well as our good wishes.

Yet while words may at times seem cheap they do count for something, and this is exactly the time for people to hear that God does care.

When it seems that every security has been stripped away and that life itself has been revealed in all its fragility, we need to know that Someone up there is capable of bringing good out of the worst moments of despair.

According to the Bible, our words are never more powerful than when they're uttered in heartfelt prayer. Jesus taught that faith-filled prayer can move mountains. The prophets taught that prayer can even heal a nation's wounds.

When words are turned heavenward with heartfelt intensity and a genuine love for God, they can and do make a difference.

So, at times like these we give all that we can financially and then we give some more in prayer.

If the Bible is to be believed, the phrase 'God is love' is not simply a cliché but a statement of eternal truth and one which we can test in our own experience, as we put our faith in his help and deliverance.

It may be hard for us to see this now, but at the end of all the turmoil, God will somehow bring some good from even this horrific event – if people of faith will commit themselves to pray.

© Mal Fletcher 2004

What’s your view?

Does prayer make any real difference in difficult situations like this one?



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