I’m not sure the date March 11, 2011 will emblazon itself on my memory like December 26, 2004. On both days, the earth shook, the deep awakened and swept thousands away. Both days can be quantified by earthquakes measuring nine-point-something on the Richter scale. Both quakes and resulting tsunamis set records in the number of deaths and did damage into the billions of dollars. But unlike the recent Sendai earthquake off the coast of Japan, I wound up in the middle of the recovery effort, thanks in large part to the folks I serve in The JOY FM community. Unlike this recent disaster, I can look back in wonder on what God did six years ago to bring glory and good out of tragedy.
A Tsunami of Support
On a cool January morning in 2005, I went on the air with my team, linked with other stations in our small, southeastern network, trying to raise $75,000 to build about a village-worth of permanent homes in South India, the third-hardest hit area of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We announced the rebuilding effort as the result of having a local church contact within India who had connections on the coast to move in and rebuild small homes for families who lost everything. Pastor Paul had no idea, nor did we, that the small effort to rebuild a village was going to suddenly become a massive initiative to lead the country in restoration, setting the pace for government projects in several devastated areas.
By the time we got off the air, just after 10:00 a.m., we had received gifts and pledges totaling $720,000 – nearly ten times what we were asking! By the end of the day, the total was $1,000,000. I got to deliver “the check” personally, due to a previously-arranged trip to India. I presented it (symbolically) to Pastor Paul on the very beach where 60 families had just buried their loved ones. Initially, our presence there was suspect to the locals. Now, having returned five years later to see 650 permanent homes, I have been greeted with open arms.
To say “it was a God-thing” is almost profane. The sacred orchestration of so many pieces coming together in just the right way so that a legacy of Christian love and Gospel-giving (the Good News of Jesus’ redeeming love made tangible in bricks and sweat) is a holy witness to God’s good providence and His determination to “so love” the world (John 3:16). As one listener put it: “We wanted to rebuild a village, but God wanted to build a city!” Actually, He is building his kingdom there through the ongoing missionary efforts of many connected with the areas in which we have built “Homes of Hope.”
I don’t know what God is doing or what He will do in Japan. But I know this: a tragedy of any size—personal to global—is an opportunity to see the goodness of God in action. We can all do something that eases pain, feeds hunger, shares hope and saves a life.
To give to relief efforts in Japan, visit the dedicated JOY FM page: http://www.thejoyfm.com/headline/japanese-earthquake
To see videos from Bill’s trip back to India, visit the blog site: http://bricksandsweat.wordpress.com/