LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Evidences of God’s grace have been reported in the midst of the horrors stemming from the earthquake and tidal waves that devastated 3,000 miles of shoreline around the Indian Ocean.
According to reports filtering out of the region through various news services, God’s grace has been evident from the very beginning of the crisis:
— A church in Sri Lanka turned their new building into a refugee camp and helped set up temporary sanitation for their community.
— Members of another church in Sri Lanka were spared — even though the tsunami washed away their entire village — because they were all at their church building in the mountains when the waves hit.
— “We are doing what we can,” a pastor in Thailand said. “As Christians, we need to let every opportunity be one to show the love of God for those affected. I feel so thankful and grateful for those who share this concern. There are only a few churches here. Practically, we have very limited resources. But when we all come together, we can become much more powerful and effective.”
— A missionary couple left a vacation area in Thailand the day before the tsunami and was able to move quickly in the disaster’s aftermath, providing emotional support to victims and ministering in a hospital.
— Believers in another area of Thailand assembled rough, badly needed coffins outside their church building, which was still decorated with Christmas lights and a banner proclaiming a message of hope: “Joy to the world.”
Countless Christian organizations are gearing up to aid southern Asia’s tsunami victims, such as the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, Purpose Driven Ministries and Samaritan’s Purse.
IMB President Jerry Rankin noted, “With a significant number of Southern Baptist missionaries in most of the affected countries, we are positioned for providing immediate aid and long-term ministry in partnership with local government officials and other Christian organizations.”
Mark Carver, Purpose Drive Ministries’ international director, said, “Our plan for response in each place is being developed by the local church with the local church believers as the primary workers,” according to a news story from the movement that has gone worldwide from Saddleback Church led by Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren.
“As we connect Purpose Driven congregations in other parts of the world with the churches on the scene, we are all being the church — assisting our sister congregations in the region to become lighthouses of care, comfort, and — most importantly – Christ,” Carver said.
From Sri Lanka, Darren Tosh, a Samaritan’s Purse relief team member, reported that tsunami-affected areas are “awash in garbage, debris, carcasses, bodies, and grief. … The tsunami may be over, but the disaster is just beginning.” Samaritan’s Purse, like various other organizations, will be working to provide clean water, food, shelter and medicine.
People in the West were opening Christmas gifts as word broke of the disaster. News services reported that many hearts were moved to respond in the spirit of the season:
— A widow in Kentucky invited her whole town to a New Year’s Eve party to raise money for the victims.
— Children in Washington stood in the rain to sell hot chocolate and raised $255.
— In California, a college gave free basketball tickets to sports fans who brought a gift for relief efforts.
— A fireworks show in Sydney generated more than US$850,000 for relief efforts in neighbor countries to the north.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity and an open door for the local church to make a difference in these people’s lives,” a Christian missionary in southern Asia told one reporter.
“These are the times when people evaluate their lives,” said another. “God is moving through this crisis. We are seeing the face of God already as the church responds strongly … as people give generously.”
Dave Kenney, pastor of an English-language congregation in Jakarta, emphasizing the urgent need for prayer, said:
“We need people to pray that the Lord will give supernatural wisdom to the relief teams. Thousands of people are injured and dying, many of them in areas where no relief efforts have yet started. Our resources are limited.
“We need to get large amounts of relief goods into these areas. Please pray that doors will open. Pray that the Lord will direct the teams to the places where they can do the most good for the most needy. Pray for the protection of the teams.
“Your prayers can make a difference — and bring a miracle to pass. Please pray for the Lord’s hand to intervene, open doors, protect, and heal in the days to come.”
Adapted from reports by Mark Kelly with Purpose Driven Ministries, on the Web at www.purposedriven.com, and Samaritan’s Purse.