Love to the Rescue
EARLY last September two storm systems collided over Korea. In a matter of hours, some areas were drenched with more than 20 inches (50 cm) of rain. The result was the worst flood to hit the country in 40 years. Over 200,000 people were left homeless, and 181 were reported dead or missing. Property loss ran into millions of dollars, and crop damage was beyond reckoning.
The downpour started Friday evening and continued all day Saturday. Six dams on the upper Han River overflowed, swelling the river to more than a foot and a half (0.5 m) over its safety level. Early Sunday morning, without any warning, a drainage sluice gave way, and the surging river spilled into the surrounding countryside. By the time the waters began to subside that evening, some 60,000 people in this area were rendered homeless.
Every section of the country was hit by flooding. But the capital city of Seoul, where there are 174 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was hit the hardest, especially the two areas served by the Mangwondong and Sungnaedong Congregations. Between them a total of 130 Witness families lost their homes. Immediately and spontaneously, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea responded to the needs of their fellow Christians.
Although phone lines were down in many areas, reports started to come in to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society. Two committees were quickly formed to organize relief for Witnesses in the two badly devastated areas. The traveling circuit overseers in Seoul were instructed to get in touch with the brothers to see what the needs were or what could be done to aid those in the two worst-hit areas.
Witnesses in other areas learned about the extent of the damage through TV news reports. They started calling the branch asking where to send donations for their brothers in distress. (The Watch Tower branch in Japan also phoned, offering to help.) Donations of money started to come in from all over the country. Rice, noodles, and other foodstuffs, along with clothing and blankets, were also made available. These were distributed quickly by the committees on the scene. The brothers contributed so generously that soon the Seoul office had to make it known that no more money donations were needed.
Next came the enormous task of cleaning up. Three hundred Witnesses volunteered for this service. They were sent out in twos to each home to assist with the cleanup and to help get things back to normal as quickly as possible. One volunteer observed: “Through the training in our assembly and convention organizations, we know how to cooperate and get things done.” Many in the community were upset when they saw some people taking advantage of the victims. On the other hand, they were surprised to see the calm, joyful, and generously helpful attitude of the Witnesses, even in such dire circumstances.
“Once more it has been demonstrated,” said one Witness at the scene, “that disaster can take away our material goods quickly, but it cannot take away our faith.” With tears of joy, a Witness woman said: “Even though we lost everything, we are not helpless. The warm love of our brothers has given us strength.”
Truly, it was wonderful to see love in action. The initiative by the Witnesses on the scene and the immediate response of those ‘related in the faith’ were outstanding. (Galatians 6:10) The brothers in Korea were greatly encouraged by this experience. They were convinced by the well-organized assistance so lovingly given that there can be only one explanation—love came to the rescue!