Pastor Karen Helsel
As former missionaries to Thailand, Asia is a very special place to us. Our daughter and her husband have also served for six years in a mission school in Salatiga, Indonesia, on the island of Java. Our hearts are heavy for the human toll the earthquake and tsunamis have taken, for Asians and for nationals from other countries.
The Jan. 10 issue of Newsweek contains an article entitled, Countless Souls Cry Out to God. Kenneth Woodward looks briefly at the religious differences found in that area of the world. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, along with animists, ancestor worshippers and others all try to make sense of the tragedy that has overwhelmed so many countries and people.
We want to understand. We want to come up with plausible explanations for the "whys" of events in our world. It is how we find some sense of security and control. If we understand how and why, we can take steps to avoid a similar situation in the future.
We study volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes. We watch the fault lines in Southern California, Japan, Mexico, South America, and the Pacific Rim of the U.S., from Alaska to California. We prepare as best we can, with the realization that there are some things we cannot control.
I don't know the "whys" of this terrible earthquake and tsunamis. I believe in God's creative force. I believe God continues to work in our world. I also believe He allows the natural course of events, which may seem to bring more destruction than anything else.
Quoting scriptures at times like this sometimes feels trite, meaningless, and perhaps insensitive. But for me, there is no other place to go. The scripture does not give all the answers to our questions. It does not always tell us why things happen. It does, however, offer hope, and a light to shine along the paths of our simple searching.
Paul wrote to a bunch of young Christians in Rome, facing difficult times ahead, And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Paul did not say "all things are good." He was basically saying, God can bring good out of all things.
What good can possibly come from the devastation in Asia? Two needs we are praying for: 1) that the continual war between the Tamil rebels and government forces in Sri Lanka can be put aside as people work together to survive, that they will comfort each other at the loss they have all experienced, and 2) on the island of Banda Aceh, where Muslims and Christians have been struggling for years, there can finally be unity around the common need of all survivors.
This week a news reporter said a "cease-fire" has been called on Banda Aceh. Indonesian government workers and outsiders are being invited in to provide basic necessities as never before.
May these steps of unity bring an end to violence, fear and mistrust, some good.
One more thought of Paul's (vs. 38-39) can bring hope to all of us. When we face our own tragedies, our tsunamis: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We will all face tidal waves of one kind or another, but NOTHING, Paul says, can keep God's love from us. His promise is His presence: I will never leave you nor forsake you. May His peace be yours today!
- Pastor Karen Helsel of the Sunnyside First Church of God, North Avenue.