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In the twinkling of an eye

It only seems like yesterday.

When I heard of Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines last Friday morning, my heart sank within me. Packing winds of 200-mph-plus, the super-storm hit Tacloban City on the eastern side of the island of Leyte with her full fury, resulting in massive destruction and the deaths of thousands of Filipinos as they braced for her arrival in the pre-dawn darkness.

As I looked at the photographs, viewed the videos and read the firsthand accounts of the storm, my mind raced back to another typhoon — named Uring — which also hit Leyte on Nov. 5, 1991. Even though Tacloban suffered extensive damage in that typhoon, it couldn’t compare to the destruction and deaths in Ormoc City on the island’s western shore.

My family and I had lived in Ormoc since April of that year and happened to be out-of-town when Uring, packing 175-plus mph winds, hit the city of 175,000 residents. Thankfully, unlike Haiyan, this typhoon hit between noon and 1 p.m. Even so, within 30 minutes of her arrival, all of the downtown streets were flooded with 10 to 20 feet of water. And, two hours later after the storm passed some 8,000 people had perished.

My wife and family arrived late the following afternoon and couldn’t believe their eyes. Bridges were destroyed. Buildings and houses had been washed out to sea. Bodies were lying everywhere. And, there was no electricity or running water.

For 48 hours I didn’t know the whereabouts of my family or if they were safe or not. But, thankfully word reached me that they were okay and three days after the storm another missionary and I were able to reach the city and begin relief work among the Filipinos.

A few days later two other missionaries joined us, helping us to distribute small bags of Ramen noodles, soap, packets of shampoo, etc. And, with each one we included a little homemade tract with verses from Psalm 46, which reminded them that God was “their Refuge and Strength — a very present Help in trouble, even when the earth was removed and the mountains were carried into the midst of the sea” (vv.1-3).

So, as I looked at the pictures and videos of the devastation in Tacloban City and other cities in the Philippines, I could only pray that others were reminding these suffering people that God has not forsaken them. Only a few weeks ago the island of Bohol was rocked by a massive earthquake, causing great damage and killing hundreds of people.

The Filipinos are a resilient people. Earthquakes and typhoons are just a part of life, as are an occasional volcanic eruption like that of Mt. Pinatubo when it exploded in June 1991. Yet, they seem to take it all in stride and I know they will again, although their hearts are broken over such destruction and deaths of loved ones and friends.

Even though it’s been 22 years since the Ormoc typhoon and 14 years since we left the Philippines, my heart still aches to see them suffering so. I can only pray “the God of all comfort will continue to comfort them and remind them that Jesus is their Partner in suffering” (II Corinthians 1:3-7).

I also pray that we will continue to uplift them in prayer and assist them financially if we’re able. Their needs are great and so are our opportunities. So, here’s hoping you’ll do what you can to help them if you can.

Here’s also praying that we’ll remember life here on earth is short and death is sure. As the Bible says, “In the moment, in the twinkling of an eye” we, too, could be whisked away from this earth. The question, then, is “Are you ready?”

I hope your answer is “Yes.” If not, tarry no longer for none of us know when the Death Angel may come knocking at our heart’s door. Place your trust in the One Who conquered death and the grave — the Lord Jesus — and know that He’ll always be there when you need Him.

To contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at pressingon@hotmail.com.

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