Thursday, December 3, 2009

'Goodness' Displayed During Natural Disasters...

After a hurricane swept through my backyard...

ok this example was meant to be a joke...there was no hurricane. =) But I wanted to include it because a few weeks back we had a bizarre windstorm that left the queen palm in the backyard in this pitifull condition. And a person my mom works with (who happened to have the right equipment to cut the tree down) came over and spent all afternoon working on this. Also my brother-in-law, and 2 very kind brothers in my congregation spent the day helping with some other heavy-duty jobs in the yard, which demonstrates that it doesn't take an 'actual disaster' to show 'goodness' to others, by lending a helping hand.
...But now, onto a REAL natural disaster story which demonstrates brotherly love and goodness in action...
(the following experience is on pgs 248-253 of the 1982 Yearbook)

Brothers In Times Of Need
Since Italy lies along one of the world’s earthquake belts, it is hardly surprising that the greater part of the natural disasters hitting the country are of seismic origin. In May 1976 one of these quakes ravaged most of the region of Friuli up near the Austro-Yugoslavian border, causing the death of almost 1,000 persons and the destruction of thousands of homes. Although many Witnesses lost their homes, none of them were killed or seriously injured. Immediately after the disaster brothers in nearby areas set to work to care for the most urgent needs of those in the earthquake zone.

The earthquake that hit a wide area of southern Italy at 7:34 p.m. on Sunday, November 23, 1980, was of even more disastrous proportions. Tremors were felt throughout the whole country. Reports from the regions of Campania and Basilicata spoke of thousands of dead and injured while whole towns had been knocked flat. There were 130 congregations in the area, and branch records indicated that there were about 8,500 publishers and 4,500 interested persons, a total of 13,000 individuals.

At first there was considerable anxiety about what might have happened to them. By the morning after the disaster the branch office already had precise information. None of Jehovah’s Witnesses or the interested persons were among the dead or injured! In spite of our sadness over the number of deaths and the sufferings of many survivors, it was a great relief to hear that our brothers were alive.

The publishers in the stricken area showed their trust in Jehovah right through those critical moments when the ground and the buildings around them shook, and they continued to do so afterward as they faced the rigors of winter under difficult circumstances. Some congregations were having meetings when the earthquake struck. An elder of the congregation of Eboli (Salerno) relates:
“We had just started the Watchtower study when suddenly we felt the floor of the Kingdom Hall shake violently while the walls and the ceiling above our heads creaked ominously as they moved from side to side. For a few seconds we were all petrified, and before we could realize what was happening there was another more violent shock. We thought the four stories of the building were going to collapse on top of us. Those terrible moments were the longest we shall ever remember!

“As study conductor I realized I must make an immediate decision to protect those present. But what were we to do? We could either stay together where we were in the hall or go outside. I prayed intensely to Jehovah for guidance to make the right decision. Then I remembered a similar situation regarding the brothers of Gemona in Friuli a few years earlier. I invited the brothers to stay in the Hall while I said a prayer. None of the 130 present ran outside or showed signs of panic. Then, trusting in Jehovah, we continued the Watchtower study, while outside the whole town was in turmoil.

“We concluded the meeting with a heartfelt prayer of thanks, and many of those present shed tears of gratitude because we had received such evident protection. How thankful we were to have been obedient to the apostle Paul’s exhortation at Hebrews 10:24, 25! Obedience to this command had saved our lives! We immediately got in touch with our brothers in a nearby town, where 50 of them had been at the meeting. They also were safe and sound, while all around buildings were seriously damaged; and the two largest churches in town were partly destroyed.”
An overseer of the congregation at Bellizzi (Salerno) recalls: “Five minutes after the meeting finished we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a nightmare. The Kingdom Hall seemed to have gone crazy. Someone cried out, ‘Jehovah, save us!’ I shouted to the brothers, ‘Keep calm, don’t go down the stairs!’ We were all safe.”

Brothers in the earthquake area were ready to help one another, and Witnesses throughout the country and in other European nations did not hold back from contributing money, clothing and other articles. An emergency relief center was set up to direct help to where it was most needed. The first of the Society’s trucks loaded with food, tents, blankets and clothing arrived in the area the evening after the earthquake.
“The brothers were amazed how quickly the necessary help arrived,” said a traveling overseer assigned to the area. He also relates: “We immediately set up our own kitchen from which food cooked by sisters was distributed to the brothers every day. The other inhabitants of the town had yet to receive assistance and were doing the best they could by themselves. Of course, the brothers were not selfish, and food was shared with many non-Witnesses. When we took provisions to the village of Montella, families living near the brothers were given pasta, rice, oil, sugar, bread and milk while their children were given biscuits.”

In the month of the disaster a new national peak of 86,192 publishers was reached, and this means that the brothers in the earthquake zone contributed to this increase by maintaining their excellent zeal for the Lord’s work. We are grateful for the love shown to these brothers by fellow worshipers in various nations who, besides sending material help, did not forget their brothers in their prayers. Our thanks go to Jehovah because he is the One coming to our aid in times of trouble.—Psalm 54:4.

*on a side note* ...the fact that these brothers & sisters all survived the earthquakes in Italy in 1976 and 1980, just like all the other JW's survived the recent earthquake there this past April, gives strong evidence of why it's so important to 'heed counsel' and 'follow direction' that are given by the faithful and discreet slave, and passed along to the congregation, because it really does save lives.