Expect Calamity, Believe in Hope

At breakfast in the cafeteria at Wheaton College on that Tuesday morning, someone I knew—I don’t even remember who—mentioned something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. In my mind I envisioned a tiny Cessna accidentally clipping the building. Didn’t think much of it. If this had happened in later years my phone would have been buzzing with texts and tweets telling me of the event’s magnitude. But this was 2001.

By lunch, I had seen it all on TV. Horrors my 18-year-old college freshman suburban self had no prior paradigm for. Planes full of people crashing into buildings full of people, collapsing them onto even more people. People on fire jumping to their deaths from heights unimaginable. The Pentagon attacked. Another plane down in Pennsylvania. Reports of a fire on the National Mall. Rumors that the Sears Tower was also targeted. In that moment, the worst was possible, even expected. What other disaster movie fictions would become reality before the day was done?

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What Might Jesus Say?

This is just becoming all too familiar. The first reports, the death toll climbing every half-hour or so, the news of those who survived, grieving for those who did not. I first learned about the earthquake today in Chile from Twitter - from Alyssa Milano on Twitter, in fact, retweeting photo images from the New York Times. I jumped on Facebook and learned that several friends of mine have relatives in Chile; thankfully, all reports are good news so far.

As I continued combing through news reports, I discovered that there was also an earthquake in Japan this morning. Then I heard further news - the warning of an impending tsunami. I have just been looking at the images on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center web site, and I see nations and cities along the Pacific coast that are now at risk: Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga and many other place.

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Haitians Cry Out To Jesus. How Will He Answer Them?

It’s breaking news everywhere. Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, shook yesterday as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the tiny island country. An earthquake of this size is devastating regardless of where it strikes. In poverty stricken Haiti, it is of the highest level of trauma. Haiti, comparative in size to the state of Maryland, lacks infrastructure and the means to enable recovery from such a force as this quake. Haiti needed help before the quake and Haiti needs help now.

In 2007, Haiti ranked 43rd in the world for highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS. The risk of contracting a major infectious disease is high for Haitians due to unclean water. While 80% of Haitians identify themselves as Catholic and 16% as Protestant, nearly half of the 9 million island inhabitants practice voodoo.*

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Tsunami 2004 Five Year Anniversary Stories of Survival

Five years ago the Earth shook off the coast of Indonesia causing a tsunami to rise up on dry land and consume everything in its path.  The devastation was and remains, overwhelming.

 

December 26, 2004 was no doubt a long and frightening day for those who lived through the chaos.

 

The Thomas Reuters Foundation along with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released a short documentary which tells the stories of four individuals who are still picking up the pieces of the wreckage. I had a chance to view the short stories of these individuals. They are broken people, courageous people, vulnerable people and they are rebuilding their lives.

 
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Floods, Tsunami's and Earthquakes Oh My!

It’s been a tough week for those in the south pacific and south Asia. Let’s review:

*The Philippians: MANILA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The Philippines ordered the evacuation of people living in low-lying coastal areas on Friday as a "super typhoon" threatened devastation a week after flash floods killed nearly 300 people in and around Manila. The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent days, including Typhoon Ketsana which killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

*American Samoa: SIUMU, Samoa, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Rescuers fished bloated corpses from the South Pacific off Samoa and pulled bodies from the mud and twisted rubble of devastated islands as the death toll from a series of tsunamis neared 200 on Thursday.

*Indonesia: A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Indonesian city of Padang on Sept. 30, trapping thousands under debris. A second quake, initially put at magnitude 6.8 but later revised down to 6.6, hit another part of Sumatra Island on Oct. 1, causing fresh panic. As of tonight the death toll is over 1,100. It is still climbing as search and rescue teams begin to break through the rubble looking for the hundreds of unaccounted for individuals.

If I were in the South Pacific at this very moment I might be thinking the world was coming to an end. Disaster after disaster has struck this region of our Earth just this week. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and monsoons. And, there have been people. These people had families and jobs.  These people had stories.  

Check out the island of Indonesia for just a moment. I started to count the number of casualties and the number of displaced and was quickly too overwhelmed to continue.

Disasters like what the south pacific and south Asian countries have experienced this week raise many questions among both followers of Christ and those who practice other faiths. The most prominent question that arises is to do with the problem of evil.

I was in graduate school north of Boston when the tsunami of 2004 hit Sumatra. I was taking a class called World Mission of the Church. My professor, Dr. Timothy Tennent (Dr. T, not to be mistaken with Mr. T) gave a sermon to a local church regarding the devastation. He shared his sermon notes with our class to help us make sense of that horrific event. It felt fitting to read it again in light of this weeks happenings. The following are pieces taken from his sermon.

Christians ask questions like:
Q. Were the people who died this week more sinful that people other parts of the world?
A. Of course not.
Q. Could God have stopped it?
A. Of course, He is sovereign over the whole universe.  If even a sparrow does not fall… Matthew 10:29
Q. Why didn’t God prevent it?
A. “Why is there any death and suffering at all?” And it has to be faced squarely by Christians, since we claim to have the answers to the true meaning of life, the universe and everything. God does not put a hedge around the world  - book of Job… Satan says, no wonder Job loves you, look how you have blessed and protected him… and God says, no, even if he loses everything… land his children, his health…he will still love me, because Job realizes, despite his wealth, that his hope is in God….

The disasters this week have all taken place in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Tsunami occurred in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism….(Indonesia is the largest Islamic country on the earth, Sri Lanka is the heart of Theravada Buddhism, Thailand is a Buddhist country, India is 85% Hindu……

Explore how other religions in the area would respond to the problem of evil….
Hindus say…  All is karma, impersonal law of cause and effect, due to bad karma in previous lifetimes…
Buddhists say…  life itself is an illusion
Muslims say…  it is the active direct will of Allah…   Allah is sovereign and you cannot question why?  He could have done it for pure sport if he choose to….

No one has said, “why did Krishna allow this?”  “Why did Allah allow this?”

The Christian answer to this is unique. A mystery really. First, this life is fleeting. We are fragile beings. We live in a world with a shelf life. Matt. 24:7, Ps. 102:25,26. Second, it puts life in perspective. Each day is a gift from God. Third, it reveals the hearts of men and women. Odd testimony to God’s sovereignty… no one has pointed a finger at me and said, why did you let this happen?  They point to God because they know he is an all powerful, sovereign God…. Fourth, it points us to the mystery of the crucified savior. God in Jesus Christ has entered into the world of suffering through the incarnation….. the problem of evil can only be met at the foot of the cross.

God does not give us an “answer” to the problem of evil.  He takes the mystery of the problem of evil and it is swallowed up by an even greater mystery… the suffering of his Son on the cross of Calvary, the only truly innocent sufferer.
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