Is the world ending? Churches too busy serving victims to notice, workers say
December 1, 2005
A tsunami in southernAsia. An earthquake in Pakistan.
Widespread floodingin India and famine in theAfrican nations of Niger andMalawi.A plague of rats in Nicaragua.
A possible bird flupandemic and a record-breaking 23 storms in the Atlantic Ocean.
Church members aroundthe world have seen a seemingly endless series of natural disasters in the past12 months.
“I don’t think anyonethinks that 2005 was ‘just another year,’” said Phyllis Goncalves, who workswith her husband, Antenor, in Itu, Brazil. “At thevery least, people are wondering if God is trying to tell us something! Others,of course, are thinking about the end of the world.”
But church members inItu have been too busy sending food, clothes and money to people in distress toworry much about the end of time, Goncalves said.
The same is true ofthe church in the Mexico City suburb of Toluca, said RobertoZepeda, a former elder.
“I believe that thebrothers are thinking that God is working (through the disasters) to call morepeople to his church,” Zepeda said. Members of the Toluca church “are more concerned with how tohelp than (the notion that) the world is ending.”
The church sent aidto the victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Stan, and was gathering reliefsupplies for victims of Hurricane Wilma in late October.
The church also hascontinued to reach out to its community, and reported 22 baptisms in recentmonths.
“I believe that thisyear will be remembered as a year of pain, but also as a year of much benefitfor the church,” Zepeda said. “(People) are seeking God because they know thatGod is giving us a second chance.”
The discovery of birdflu in the central European country of Croatia earlier this year unnervedmany people, said missionary Ruth Tesic.
She and her husband,Ivan, minister to a church in the city of Zapresicand have heard a few comments about the end of the world.
But Croatian churchmembers “try not to dwell on it,” Ruth Tesic said. Instead they teach “that theworld always has problems and we need to be prepared … because we don’treally know when the end will come.”
The fragile nature ofhuman life, illustrated by the events of the year, gives church members “anopportunity to emphasize the urgency of sharing the gospel,” she said, “sincepeople are experiencing how little we can count on worldly things.”
Children who live onthe streets of Nairobi, Kenya, are used to a life withoutpossessions, said missionary Charles Coulston. He and his wife, Darlene,oversee the Made in the Streets program, which provides orphaned and abandonedchildren with a home, food and education.
“We have talked aboutthe disasters with our students and prayed during chapel times — especially forPakistan,”Charles Coulston said.
The missionaryrecently asked the children to talk to each other about the disasters aroundthe globe.
Instead of fear, thestudents expressed joy that the world will come to an end someday. MosesNdungu, a youth who recently entered the program, said he would “run and hugJesus.”
“Our kids are used topain and loss,” Charles Coulston said. “They look forward to the end of theworld, which will be a new beginning for us all.”
On the island of Nias,Indonesia,churches from around the globe have contributed relief supplies, money andmanpower since the Dec. 26 tsunami and an earthquake that followed in March.
In an e-mail from Medan, Indonesia,James Karl reported 334 baptisms this year in south Nias. Karl, a member of theLake Jackson, Texas, church, oversees Tsunami EarthquakeAmerican Relief Services. The ministry and many other church-sponsored groupshave provided millions of dollars in relief supplies for victims.
That compassion hascaught the attention of many Indonesians, giving local evangelists theopportunity to tell them about Jesus, Karl said.
“If the end of theworld comes, we would like to be found serving, physically and spiritually,” hesaid.