God’s Grace and Power – Saved from Drowning
Testimony by John Ko—Brisbane, Australia
For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. (1 Thess 5:3)
Ever since the beginning of 2010, a series of major natural disasters has occurred around the world due to climatic abnormalities. Devastating earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and tornados in different parts of the world have taken hundreds of thousands of lives and stripped people of their possessions and homes.
PEACE IN THE MIDST OF AUSTRALIA’S FLOOD
In the past, Australia and New Zealand were considered to be paradise on earth because these places were rarely struck by disasters. For this reason it was even more surprising that both countries were hit by natural disasters this year.
In January 2011, the worst flood in a hundred years hit Australia, flooding Queensland, including Brisbane and nearby cites. More than fifteen thousand houses were submerged by the floodwaters, over eighteen thousand houses were flooded and twenty-two people lost their lives. On February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. Ten thousand houses and one thousand shops collapsed, and 181 people lost their lives.
All these disasters came suddenly—they were like terror that comes like a storm, and destruction that comes like a whirlwind, causing distress and anguish (cf. Prov 1:27)
I have been living in Brisbane, Australia for more than twenty years, and witnessed the century’s great flood. In January this year, there was continuous heavy rain in the northern part of Queensland as well as in the Toowoomba and Ipswich regions, which are west of Brisbane. Due to the heavy rain and water overflowing from a reservoir, the river level rose rapidly, up to a dangerous eighteen meters. The flooding on January 10, 2011, devastated Toowoomba and Ipswich; the citizens could only watch as the raging flood washed their vehicles and houses away. When the flood reached Brisbane at 4:00am on January 13, 2011, the river level in Brisbane rose to 4.46 meters and all the houses in the lower regions of Brisbane were submerged by the floodwaters.
Thank God, the flood did not so seriously affect the area where I live, although the water stood knee-high, most basements were flooded and many high-rise buildings had no electricity and water. From my apartment on the 44th floor, which faces the Brisbane River, I saw how the raging flood swept over the private and public harbors, washing yachts and public ferries all the way out to the ocean—it was really a terrifying sight.
When the flood came, Brisbane Church was hosting a short-term National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS) and a working youth seminar on Mount Cootha, near Brisbane. Thank God, due to His protection, the raging flood did not affect the divine work. In addition, none of our church members’ houses was flooded, and all the brothers and sisters had peace during this turbulent time.
Witnessing Australia’s greatest flood of the century with my own eyes, made me reflect: What is man? We often hear that science is all-powerful and that nothing is impossible if we work hard. These statements truly reveal the ignorance of man. Although we are indeed able to achieve many things with our own hands and are even able to predict the coming of floods, we cannot do anything to stop nature’s forces. When disaster strikes, we can only watch helplessly as nature’s forces destroy our possessions. What is man? Man is so small and insignificant! There is nothing that we can boast about.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? (Ps 8:3–4)
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; (Isa 40:15)
PEACE IN THE MIDST OF NEW ZEALAND’S EARTHQUAKE
On February 20, 2011, after the flood had receded from Brisbane, my wife, my mother-in-law and I traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand. We wanted to tour the region and visit my brother and aunt. According to our original plan, we were to tour mountains and seashores on February 22, and Christchurch city center on February 23, but we changed our mind after our arrival. So, we decided to visit a museum in the city center first. However, on the morning of February 22, my mother-in-law and my aunt decided to stay at home. Therefore only my brother, my wife and I went to the museum.
When we arrived at the museum, I was so captivated by the surrounding historical buildings that I took my camera and walked toward the city center. We had originally planned to visit the main tour attraction, the Christchurch Catholic Cathedral, and then have a meal at the site that had been hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 4, 2010, to see the damage that had been done. However, after our visit to the cathedral, we decided to have lunch nearby first, before going to the earthquake-ravaged site.
After lunch, we walked slowly towards our destination. While strolling along a main street in the tourist area, the earth suddenly began to shake violently. I thought, “Is this an earthquake?”
Thank God, at that moment, we were standing right in the middle of the street, and so we were able to avoid the falling bricks. We saw the ground crack open, with mud gushing out; the walls and windows of the shops around us were breaking and the people around us were screaming in fear. At that time, I had only one thought: “Lord, have mercy on us”. With this thought in mind, I kept praying silently in my heart.
Thank God, as I prayed, I did not panic and was not afraid, for I knew that God would protect us—He will not slumber nor sleep (Ps 121:4–8); He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1–3).
I then took my camcorder and recorded this historical moment, still not aware of the earthquake’s severity. It so happened that we were standing right in front of a sister’s store, when we saw this sister with her baby in her arms, rushing out of the building, followed by her husband and her father in-law. A coffee shop on the other side of the road was on the verge of collapsing, and some courageous individuals rushed into the coffee shop with chairs held above their heads to save others who were still trapped inside. Soon afterwards, two persons were carried out of the coffee shop and placed on the roadside. Attempts were made to resuscitate them, but it seemed like a futile exercise. Together with others in the city, we were evacuated to the field in front of the cathedral.
When we reached the field, it dawned on me that this earthquake was the most serious in decades. The cathedral that we had visited just an hour ago was devastated—its tower was broken, the bricks that had fallen from the walls piled up to about a person’s height and cars parked beside the cathedral were crushed.
Had my mother-in-law and my aunt accompanied us that morning, we would have still been in the cathedral when the roof collapsed, because they would have walked at a slower pace due to their age. If we had taken our lunch at the earthquake-ravaged site, we would likely be trapped in the collapsed restaurant. Reflecting upon all these coincidences, I have to say that we would have been buried under the rubble, if the Lord had not protected us. But the Lord was not only looking after us: by the mercy of God, the earthquake did not harm any of our brothers and sisters in Christchurch, nor did it damage our local church building.
TRUE PEACE IN THE LORD
Natural disasters are so terrifying, because they always come unexpectedly—when we realize that there’s a disaster, it’s already too late.
As human beings, we are unable to have full control over our lives or to escape any natural disaster—we are not exempt from suffering. Yet, we can find peace in God to face our trials. For this reason, we need to acknowledge our own insignificance and learn to rely on God.
People often try to obtain peace through different methods of their own, but more often than not, they loose peace instead. The Bible teaches us that the True God is our refuge in times of dire distress. If we earnestly seek God, He will grant us true peace that transcends all human understanding. His peace is a complete peace of body, soul and spirit. If we have true peace, we will be able to face and overcome the difficulties in the flesh.
The True God, Jesus Christ, is the source of peace (Lk 1:76–79; Ps 29:11; Jn 14:27; 16:33) and the Everlasting Rock (Isa 26:3–4; Ps 56:13). If we know Jesus and listen to His commandments, we will have peace flowing like a river. When we meet with trials and tribulations, we do not have to be anxious, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6–7).
Personally experiencing God’s protection in the midst of these two natural disasters has once again proved to me that “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa 26:3).
In fact, all the natural disasters that have struck the earth in recent years, remind us that the end time has come:
And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Mt 24:7–8)
May we have the wisdom to recognize the signs of the end time (Mt 24:32–33) and be watchful and sober. May we treasure our life that God has given to us, be zealous for Him and prepare ourselves for the second coming of the Lord. Amen.
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thess 5:2,6)