Two Faces of a Disaster
By Awake! correspondent in Mexico
GODOFREDO and Gisela, a married couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their small children were inside their home made of asphalted pressboard when Hurricane Pauline struck the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. One by one, the sheets were ripped off. Finally, when only part of the frame remained, the family was left completely without shelter.
With the eight-month-old baby in Gisela’s arms and the other three children holding on to her and Godofredo, they struggled against the strong winds for more than two hours. At times, the force of the hurricane would knock them down and roll them about on the floor. In the end, all of them survived.
In Acapulco, when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses named Nelly saw water coming into the house, she woke her family. The water level rose incredibly fast, and the force of the current dragged Nelly under, but her daughter pulled her out. They held on to the window grating and watched helplessly as the water rose up to their necks. Then they heard a man’s voice calling out to them. It was their neighbor; he helped them get out and took them to his home. From there, they watched in horror as a car completely smashed the house where they had been minutes before.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, October 8, 1997, Hurricane Pauline pounded the coast of the state of Oaxaca with winds of over 100 miles [200 km] an hour. Then, on Thursday, October 9, in the early hours of the morning, the hurricane ravaged the state of Guerrero, especially the city of Acapulco, churning up waves 30 feet [10 m] high and creating floodwaters that swept away houses, cars, animals, and people. By the time the storm moved on, there were gullies more than 30 feet [10 m] deep where streets had been. According to the newspaper The News, the Red Cross in Mexico gave a combined estimate of at least 400 dead and 20,000 to 25,000 homeless in the two states. Yet, in the midst of this disaster, there were touching demonstrations of Christian love.
Jehovah’s People Respond
As soon as the news about Hurricane Pauline became known, the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico began receiving calls from Witnesses throughout the country who wanted to know what they could do to help. Aid was also offered from overseas. A relief committee was soon formed, and tons of food, clothing, and other items were distributed.
Also, construction materials were bought, and repair work began immediately on the 360 houses and several Kingdom Halls that had been damaged or destroyed. Thousands of Christian brothers and sisters were busy donating, classifying, packing, transporting, and delivering relief items or repairing damage.
Some storekeepers were so impressed with the Witnesses’ activity that they kindly donated food, construction materials, and other things. Others sold them items at a reduced price. The Witnesses affected were deeply moved by the love shown to them, especially when they read the encouraging letters included with the provisions.
Unfortunately, José Faustino—an 18-year-old Witness—and three people who were studying the Bible with the Witnesses were killed by the hurricane. Their relatives, especially José’s parents, have appreciated the prayers in their behalf and the encouragement given to them by the congregation.
Some Positive Results
After Hurricane Pauline many people asked for a Bible study, including unbelieving relatives of the Witnesses, and many neighbors were more willing to listen to the Witnesses’ message of hope. Also, Witnesses shared in the general distribution of relief food. In one case, when a Witness asked a man why he had chosen Jehovah’s Witnesses to distribute the food donated by his company, the man replied: “Because I know that you people are organized and honest. Besides, you really know who has the greatest need for this aid, for you know the people in your territory.”
As the end approaches and there are more and more disasters worldwide, it is always encouraging to see Bible principles in action, even in the face of adversity.
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Youngsters help in reconstruction
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Witnesses building a new Kingdom Hall in Oaxaca after Hurricane Pauline