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This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By Eddy Ruble
When I think of bold faithfulness, images of pastors in national disasters come to mind. During my past 15 years of working with disaster response in Asia as a CBF field personnel, I have witnessed or heard the following from pastors:
- After the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I witnessed a pastor wearing a Geiger counter around his neck. He drove us from site to site with the constant dit…dit…dit..dit..dit.dit.dit….dit…dit clicking of the Geiger counter rising and falling in intensity. This pastor and his family demonstrated bold faithfulness in their decision to stay in Koriyama and minister to their congregation and surrounding community.
- A bi-vocational pastor and his family in Ormoc hunkered down in their house with a tin roof flapping incessantly as Typhoon Haiyan, a Category Five typhoon with the strongest sustained winds on record, barreled across the Philippine islands. He said the noise and intensity were indescribable, lasting throughout the night. With bold faithfulness, he began organizing his church community to respond to the destruction around them.
- After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Baptist pastors there said, “We are the affected assisting the affected.” Their own homes were damaged in the earthquake and they were living in tents like thousands of others in Kathmandu. Their bold faithfulness propelled them to the convention office to coordinate relief and recovery efforts.
- A single female pastor of a church in Sendai, Japan, whose schedule was already filled with the routine duties of running a church, vastly expanded her ministerial role after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in order to meet the needs of the survivors. She collaborated and helped initiate ecumenical and interfaith working groups to address the physical and spiritual needs of the living while praying over and cremating the unidentified dead. It takes bold faithfulness to answer a call to meet needs when you have no prior experience or training in disaster response.
I recall a devotion from the TearFund UK country director in Nepal who stated that humanitarian workers who were working in Haiti prior to the 2010 earthquake, later self-assessed saying, “We were probably 60% less efficient in our post-disaster work because of the stress and trauma we experienced from living through the earthquake ourselves.” As Christians and compassionate members of the human race, we are called to walk along beside those who suffer.
Extreme loss of life, property and livelihoods in times of disasters only accentuates the needs for the global community to come together, to collaborate and to support survivors upended by the extreme forces of nature or human-induced conflicts and war.
CBF as a Fellowship of Christ-followers, churches, field personnel and partners collaborates with Baptists globally to walk alongside and assist national Baptists as they respond to suffering communities after a disaster. Major disasters overwhelm a local community’s capacity to respond, not to mention the trauma and pain they experience themselves. This is amplified even further in developing nations who have fewer resources and government services available to help them.
In my own life, I discovered a calling and skill set for disaster relief work when I made my way to Aceh in 2005, just five days after the great 9.2 earthquake and tsunami in which 250,000 people lost their lives in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, with 168,000 dying in the northern province of Sumatra. I had no training or experience in disaster relief work; but I had faith that the life experience and skills God had given me would be sufficient to make myself useful.
Having grown up in Indonesia, I knew the language and I knew how to get things done in a non-linear fashion in the developing world. At the time, my family and I were serving as field personnel in West Sumatra, working in educational development. We were 600 miles away and did not feel the earthquake, yet I felt compelled to go and help. Experience was an excellent teacher. I found gifts that I didn’t know I had as I responded to the needs of survivors. Along with later formal training and further experience, I have continued to work in disaster response and now coordinate CBF’s international disaster response work.
Romans 8:28 reminds us of the power of people of faith collaborating and working together for the common good in Christ’s name, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Together, we as a Fellowship demonstrate bold faithfulness as pastors, lay leaders, field personnel, and volunteers bring our skills, gifts and resources to bear as we collaborate to restore communities devastated by disasters.
Eddy Ruble serves as CBF field personnel alongside his wife, Cindy, in Southeast Asia. To learn more about and support their work, visit www.cbf.net/ruble. To demonstrate bold faith alongside Eddy, take CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.