Jehovah’s Saving Acts Now
THE Bible tells us this about Jehovah: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him” and, “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—Psalm 34:19; 2 Peter 2:9.
How does Jehovah come to the aid of his people when they are in distress? Not by miraculously reversing the forces of nature or by some other supernatural act, as many persons think he should, but by another force that most people do not truly comprehend—love. Yes, Jehovah loves his people, and he has nurtured among them a love for one another so strong that he is able to accomplish for them what appears to be almost miraculous.—1 John 4:10-12, 21.
Some may argue that at a time of emergency, what is needed is food, medicine, and equipment—not love. Of course, food, medicine, and equipment are important. However, the apostle Paul reasons this way: “If I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.”—1 Corinthians 13:2, 3.
Often we read of relief material sitting on piers rotting or being eaten by rodents while people in need perish from disease and starvation. Or worse still, such material may fall into the hands of greedy and unscrupulous people who make personal profit out of it. Thus, it is one thing to have supplies available, but it is quite another to see that those in distress benefit from them. Genuine love and concern can make the difference.
Love in Action
In September 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit the Hawaiian island of Kauai, population 55,000. Packing winds of 130 miles per hour [210 km/hr] and gusts up to 160 miles per hour [260 km/hr], it killed 2 people and injured 98, damaged 75 percent of the homes, left 8,000 people homeless, and caused an estimated $1 billion worth of destruction. Among those living on this small island were some 800 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in six congregations. How did they fare?
Before Iniki actually hit, the congregation elders, under the direction of the traveling overseer, had already contacted all the members of the congregations to make sure that they were safe and secure, ready for the onslaught. Such loving care was instrumental in preventing serious injury or death among the Witnesses.—Compare Isaiah 32:1, 2.
Even though communication and transportation were badly disrupted, three representatives of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s branch office in Honolulu were among the first to arrive on the scene following the hurricane, having been granted special permission by civil defense to fly to Kauai. Immediately, they contacted the local Witnesses and, the next morning, organized a meeting to map out the strategy for relief. A relief committee was set up to assess the needs and to obtain the needed materials through the branch office in Honolulu. Working around the clock, they directed the work of getting supplies to those in need and cleaning up and repairing homes that were damaged.
Witnesses on the other islands responded quickly to their brothers in need. As soon as the airport on Kauai was opened, 70 Witnesses flew in to help. Relief supplies valued at $100,000, including generators, camp stoves, lanterns, and food, were shipped. One of the Kingdom Halls on the island was used as a depot; however, there was some fear that it might be looted. Then some Army trucks pulled up at the Kingdom Hall parking lot, and the drivers asked if they could park their trucks there. The soldiers posted to protect the trucks also eliminated the problem of looting the relief supplies.
The brothers took the generators from house to house, running them at each home for two or three hours to help people keep their freezers usable. Groups of brothers were dispatched to various homes to help clean up and repair the damage. When they worked on the house of a sister whose husband had opposed her fiercely in the past, the husband was so moved that all he could do was stand by and cry. A visitor from the mainland who saw another group of Witnesses working was so impressed by their conduct and organization that he approached them and asked what made them so different. When a brother explained that it was their love for God and for their fellow Christians, the man responded: “How can I get to know God?” (Matthew 22:37-40) Then he added: “You people are so organized you will probably have someone waiting for me when I return to Florida!”
In all, Jehovah’s Witnesses assisted in cleaning up and repairing 295 homes on Kauai. Of these, 207 required minor repairs, but 54 were severely damaged, and 19 were totally destroyed. Their work also included calling on every known Witness on the island to make sure that each one was cared for. When supplies were delivered to a sister, a Buddhist neighbor observed that he had not received even a tea bag from his group. Another lady, who had her house cleaned by a Witness team, said: “You have been coming to my door for a long time, and I thought of you as good neighbors, but this expression of neighborly love shows me what your organization is about. Thanks for all your hard work.”
Besides caring for the material needs of all their fellow Christians, those in charge of relief were equally concerned about their spiritual well-being. Less than two days after the hurricane, several congregations were already holding their meetings. Quickly, small book study groups were back into operation. Ten elders from the other islands came to Kauai to assist the local elders so that shepherding calls could be made on every Witness on the island. The next Sunday, all six congregations had a Watchtower Study, a 30-minute talk on relief procedures by a member of the Relief Committee, and a concluding 30-minute talk by a member of the Branch Committee who had come over from Honolulu for this purpose. An on-the-scene report states: “All were comforted by the fine direction given and felt spiritually ready to tackle their remaining problems. There were very few dry eyes in the audience as the program concluded, and applause was spontaneous.”
A Worldwide Brotherhood
Such love and concern is a mark of Jehovah’s people worldwide. When Cyclone Val swept through Western Samoa about a year earlier, it caused quite a lot of damage, but Jehovah’s Witnesses in other parts of the world quickly came to the aid of their brothers there. Later, when the government provided funds for all the religions—including Jehovah’s Witnesses—to repair their premises, the Witnesses returned the funds with a letter stating that all their damage was already fixed, and the funds could be used to repair some government buildings. Their action was reported in a local newspaper. Noting this, a government official told a Witness that he felt rather ashamed of his own church because they had accepted the money from the government even though all their buildings that were damaged during the cyclone were covered by insurance.
Similarly, in September 1992, when the Ouvèze River in southeastern France flooded and devastated Vaison-la-Romaine and 15 surrounding communities, the Witnesses responded quickly. Overnight, the flood had claimed 40 lives, destroyed 400 homes, damaged hundreds of others, and left thousands of families without water or electricity. Early the next morning, Witnesses from the local congregations were the first to come to the aid of flood victims. Those in need of shelter were lovingly taken in by Witness families in the region. Hundreds of Witnesses came from far and near to offer assistance. A relief committee was set up in the nearby city of Orange to coordinate the efforts of four teams of volunteers, who removed mud and cleaned houses, washed mountains of mud-soaked clothes, and prepared and delivered food and drinking water throughout the affected areas. They even volunteered to clean up a local school and several municipal buildings. Their tireless efforts were appreciated by their brothers and people in the community alike.
In many other places, Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered from disasters, such as floods, storms, and earthquakes, just as everyone else has. Understanding that these are the consequences of unforeseen or unpreventable circumstances, they do not blame God or anyone else. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Rather, they are confident that the self-sacrificing love of their fellow believers will come to their rescue no matter what dire circumstances may befall them. Such loving acts are a result of the faith they share in common. The disciple James explains: “If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it? Thus, too, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.”—James 2:15-17.
The Source of True Protection
Rather than expect miracles in the form of divine intervention of some sort, Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that protection is to be found in their worldwide Christian brotherhood. As a matter of fact, what that brotherhood is able to accomplish in times of distress is nothing less than miraculous. They remember Jesus’ words found at Matthew 17:20: “If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Yes, mountainous obstacles disappear when true Christian faith, coupled with love, goes into action.
Jehovah’s people worldwide feel the protective hand of their God in these unstable and perilous times. They feel as did the psalmist: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you yourself alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in security.” (Psalm 4:8) Confidently, they focus their attention on the task at hand: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) And with certainty they look forward to the realization of Jehovah’s promise of a peaceful, righteous new world, in which they will no longer experience disasters of any kind, man-made or natural.—Micah 4:4.
[Pictures on page 12]
Witnesses came from far and near to help flood victims