When I see the photo of the Philippine flag tattered but still flying, I can’t help but bite my lip and try not to succumb to weeping. Our tattered flag symbolizes a country and a people broken and battered by the continuous onslaught of evil: corruption, war in Mindanao, insurrection, floods, earthquake, and just recently, super typhoon that took lives and property, and maybe, even hope to some. With these sentiments and tears, I begin my post today.
There were news that, after Typhoon Haiyan devastated our country, a big and famous church refused to receive townsfolk seeking refuge to their sturdy building in the heart of Tacloban, Leyte, the hardest hit province, while the typhoon raged. Those people were desperate and ran to that church’s edifice, hoping that they would be received and find safety there. But they were cruelly turned away because they were not members of that church.
This is a homegrown and second largest church in the Philippines next to the Roman Catholic Church. They are called Iglesia ni Cristo (translated: Church of Christ), but most people call them by the name of the founder, Iglesia ni Manalo, which is just as well since it appears that they don’t have the right to carry the name of the Savior. Would the Lord Jesus Christ turn away anyone? They may boast of their sturdy edifices, their churches’ buildings high spires proudly reaching to the clouds, but if the Lord doesn’t dwell there, what good does it do? Absolutely nothing!
In 2006 when our family traveled to nearby provinces to attend crusades of our Church, I had observed this one thing: most, if not all, of our Church’s outreach stations’ buildings are not made of a sturdy foundation. I was barely three years old in the Lord and still had that worldly thinking in me. I was ashamed to feel dismayed seeing the unattractive and seemingly weak structures that composed the outreaches’ buildings. I was still in the worldly mode thinking that a church building should look magnificent. Our main church regularly holds worship service in a stadium which is not at all unusual for huge congregations.
But our Church’s outreach stations’ buildings symbolize the poverty and humility of Christ when He walked on earth. Not that they would rather keep it that way, but, in the provinces where life is hard, the Gospel is brought to the poor and the needy. They may be poor materially (some outreach stations have curtains for walls), but they are rich in faith. And I might have forgotten where the Lord delivered His sermons: on a hill, on the mount, on a boat, at the seaside, in someone’s house. Our outreaches’ buildings may be weak but our Church’s foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ.
News reached us that in one outreach station that was directly along the path of the super typhoon, when the outreach building was wiped out, the beloved brethren in Christ tried to flee but couldn’t stand up to the force of the howling winds and lashing rain, so they just lay flat on the ground in a vacant lot, their faces kissing the wet earth. They yielded their bodies to the mercy and protection of the Lord God Almighty.
Where do you go when there is nowhere to hide? Where do you run to? For even the designated evacuation centers were swallowed up by the storm surge and the people who sought refuge there perished. Where do you go when there is no safe place to be? For even the mansion-like houses of Tacloban were not spared by the fierceness of wind and water.
This was what our family talked about after our nightly devotion around our table. I said, “The safest place to be is in the Lord Jesus Christ.” When buildings fail to harbor us, there is a cleft in the Rock where we are always safe. We are safe in the hand of the Savior.
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)
Psalm 91 was given to us so we will know who holds, covers, and protects us.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you… (Ps. 91: 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, emphasis added)
And yes, He is able to deliver from any and all harm. Even from super typhoons. Our brethren in Visayas are all safe. Hallelujah!
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