The holiday hustle and noise of Davao City’s trendiest mall couldn’t drown out the voices of Pastor Grant (Reuben’s former college discipler) and his wife, Gen, who shared with us their testimony of what they experienced and felt when they conducted a search-and-rescue operation for their immediate family in their hometown of New Bataan, Compostela Valley.
Pastor Grant and Gen Mangaliwan
(Former USEP-CCC Student Leaders now overseeing a growing local church plant in Davao City.)
Their town was the worst hit area by super-typhoon Pablo. Family members who survived are still grappling with loss and trauma. One of Grant’s brothers was found dead and buried in the mud, with only his hand sticking out making it fairly easy to discover and dig up his body. The rest of this dead brother’s family, his wife and baby along with other relatives, remain missing, perhaps already buried deep under the hardening mud.
The day after this tragedy struck, Pastor Grant and Gen immediately went to the town on a 4-wheel drive multicab which was light enough to trudge through the ruined roads. They found their surviving parents and another brother with his family, and started evacuating them. As afternoon approached, the sky ominously darkened and rain began to pour. Other survivors panicked and begged the couple for a ride. The multicab was already too full and so they pleaded that the couple would take their children.
A New Bataan Scene of Devastation
(googled from http://www.theatlantic.com)
In the midst of the chaos before them, Gen looked up to the dark clouds and declared the goodness of the Lord. She prayed, “Lord, You are perfect. You are good and sovereign.” She thanked God for His peace and for preparing her and Pastor Grant spiritually, emotionally and financially to assist their family in their direst need.
Contrast this response to a fellow believer who lost his old vehicle to flash floods wrought by the typhoon. With a bitter heart, he declared, “Today God is not good.” His response was humanly understandable. But the assertion of God not being good on even one single day brings to mind the question: Was God evil then on the day He allowed the typhoon to sweep through Mindanao? Did He turn a blind eye when He saw the plight and desperate cries for help from the masses?
These questions and feelings of betrayal may hound the hearts of victims. But not once did I sense or see a hint of bitterness in the attitude of Pastor Grant and Gen. “Are they super-spiritual?” one may ask. No. They are every bit as human as we are. But they have placed their hope in an eternal reunion with lost family members, and they have grounded their faith on the goodness and sovereignty of God. It was in this couple’s response that I saw the reality of James 5:11 lived out:
“As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
God and evidences of His goodness abound: in the stories of people who miraculously escaped the sweeping flash flood, in the immediate responses of government and non-government agencies all over the world who reflected the mercies and compassion of the Lord, and in the eventual healing of the land and its survivors. The ultimate good that will come out of this tragedy is to see people yielding to the One True God who offers them eternal life in Jesus Christ. No tragedy nor trial can snatch away this eternal life for them as they hold fast to the faith. No suffering can snuff out the lasting hope they can receive from the Lord Jesus.
I have personally experienced tragedies and loss, and so have countless other believers who have persevered, like Pastor Grant and Gen. Praise God for in and through all these, He is always, ALWAYS good!
Note: Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ through Davao Ministry, in partnership with Pastor Grant’s church and other groups, conducted a relief operation last December 22-23, ministering to 150 families in New Bataan by giving packed goods, trauma and spiritual counselling.