I am sure that many of us read or heard about the tragic earthquake that rocked a section of Italy at the start of April. I find it very difficult to read about such things and I mainly confine my attention to reading the headlines and short summaries. The loss of life is never an easy thing for me to stomach, especially when it is sudden.
I find it more palatable to however read about rescue personnel braving inclement weather and putting their lives at risk in order to try and find survivors. It makes one realise, firstly, how dedicated these people are to their jobs, and secondly how highly they, and other volunteers, value the lives of those around them. I am sure that the joy they experience when they are able to pull a survivor from the rubble after a week of digging, is unparalleled, and it gives them a fresh surge of optimism and adrenaline to keep digging and searching.
It is while I was dwelling on these things, and a news report that I will refer to later that my thoughts turned to us as Seventh Day Adventists living in the toenails of the statue of Daniel 2. I began to wonder what goes through our minds when someone to whom we are not related passes away. Do we, when we see earthquakes and other disasters claiming the lives of scores of people, pause and wonder how many of them had heard the gospel of salvation? Or is there such a disconnect between us and those people that thought does not cross our minds?
When we see the rescue personnel and volunteers working through the night and adverse weather conditions in search of survivors from these wreckages, do we ever wonder whether or not the life they are making all those attempts to save will be saved for eternity? When we admire their effort, do we compare it with what we are willing to do in order to rescue the lost sheep and find the lost coin? If so, how does it compare?
Furthermore, when a survivor is found, and there is jubilation all round, do we consider whether or not we have that same joy when a sinner comes to repentance? After all, there is joy in heaven when the lost sheep is found. Are we involved in soul-winning, and do the fruits received through the Holy Spirit provide us with the fresh legs to continue to work in the fields during this harvest time, or are we happy to sit on the sidelines and do nothing but watch?
What further disturbed me was an article, from which I have quoted: “A powerful earthquake tore through central Italy on Monday …The quake hadn't been completely unexpected. Italy muzzled a scientist who foresaw it. "Vans with loudspeakers had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses after seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani predicted a large quake was on the way, prompting the mayor's anger," Gavin Jones reports for Reuters.
Jones adds, "Giuliani, who based his forecast on concentrations of radon gas around seismically active areas, was reported to police for 'spreading alarm' and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet." The Telegraph reports he also "posted a video on YouTube in which he said a build-up of radon gas around the seismically active area suggested a major earthquake was imminent." A New York Times blog report notes, "The Italian version of PC World has an article about Mr. Giuliani’s warning, featuring an interview with him posted on YouTube, in which he repeated the prediction just a few days before the quake struck."
I found the above article to be extremely tragic. What made it even worse is that in it I find disturbing parallels of what will happen to us as God fearing individuals trying to warn the world about its impending demise. I could however not help but to admire Giuliani and the efforts to which he went to spread the word about what he believed in. He believed the earthquake was round the corner and when people would not listen he drove around with loudspeakers and made videos. It kind of reminds me of Old Testament prophets.
My question for us is this: Do we believe that Christ will soon return? If so, what are we doing to announce it to the world? Giuliani did it to save their temporal lives, how much more important eternal lives that we are called to save?
Closer to home, how many of us are so comfortable in our “L'Aquila, Italy”, that we are not willing to leave even when we hear Giuliani’s voice as he drives around in his van? How many of us seek to muzzle Giuliani’s warning and are angered by it like the Mayor when the message touches on our holy cows? How sad that what has played out in Italy is a parable of what is happening in our churches all over the world today.
Let us pray for each other, and most importantly ourselves as we dwell on this message.
© Adapted from Prisoners of Hope's May 2009 Editorial by Ndaba Nkomo/Painting by Nathan Greene courtesy of Adventist Book Center.