Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taming a Super-Typhoon

Super-Typhoon Yolanda really made the headline news last year as the Category 5 storm that came barreling into the Philippines with wind speeds of up to 195 mph on November 10, 2013. Very few structures were able to stand up to such severe wind and many people lost their lives, making it one of the most deadly typhoons ever to hit the Philippines. In Tacloban City (a city in Eastern Philippines) alone, more than 90% of the city was destroyed. More than one year later, the areas that were hardest hit by the typhoon are still trying to recover.

Typhoon Yolanda made its landfall on the morning of the day that all our student’s evangelistic meetings were scheduled to start. Many of the sites were affected and a number of them were not able to start their seminar that night. Some had serious challenges to face in finding ways to get electricity and other items needed to start. And yet, through it all, God’s amazing grace was seen! None of our students lost their lives and all were able to start their seminars within a few days of the typhoon’s landfall! Though some of them had a rough start, God still blessed and gave them amazing stories and experiences of His love and power! When those students returned from their seminars for graduation, what stories they had to tell of what God had done in their areas!

June through November is the season of typhoons here in the Philippines, so as the fall session of PAFCOE 2014 approached, we wondered whether again another super-typhoon would try to interrupt the work of God as our PAFCOE students would go out for their On the Job Training – one month evangelistic seminars. But all went well as the starting date arrived and no storm was on the horizon. Praise God! No typhoons!

Week after week went by until the fourth and final week of the seminar arrived. The target date of the baptism and final meeting was December 6. On December 2, news began to circulate that another large typhoon was headed towards the Philippines with possibilities of reaching a super-typhoon size.  Sure enough, within two days (by December 4), Typhoon Hagupit (locally known as Ruby) had developed into a super-typhoon status with winds up to 180 mph. Major evacuations that involved thousands of people were done in low-lying areas to avoid the high death rate of the previous year.

During this session of PAFCOE, most of our student’s sites were located in the central Philippines – the very regions hard-hit by Typhoon Yolanda last year. Super typhoon Hagupit was scheduled to hit the very same areas as the previous year – places still trying to recover and rebuild from the vast devastation.

Typhoon Hagupit was on target to hit the Philippines on Friday, December 5, the beginning of the final weekend of our student’s seminars. So all of us (students, staff and others who were involved) began to earnestly pray that God would do something to send away the typhoon or at least, divert it. What followed that day and the next was astonishing!

Mysteriously, Super-Typhoon Hagupit suddenly started greatly losing its speed and wind power. All day Friday passed and still it had not arrived. The students were able to still have their meeting Friday night. By early morning of Sabbath, it was no longer the super typhoon category 5 storm, but just category 3. Still prayers ascended to heaven that it would be delayed long enough for the baptisms and final meetings to take place that Sabbath. God heard those prayers and Typhoon Hagupit advanced even more slowly!

One of the site with their newly baptized
Sabbath night after the baptisms and final meetings were finished, it made landfall. But by now it was not so strong or fierce as expected. All the seminars were able to complete their topics before the storm hit and when it did, it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. Typhoon Hagupit advanced through the Philippines more and more slowly, until when it passed south of Manila, it was just a tropical storm – not the category 5 storm it was supposed to be.

It was as if God placed His hand upon that enormous storm and “tamed” it! He took the speed and fury right out of it and said, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further…” Job 38:11. The storm was not allowed to interfere with His work of spreading the gospel to the people who needed to hear it!

Truly God hears the prayers of those who cry to Him! “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” Psalms 34:17.