Friday, December 31, 2004

Crawling out from under the covers

A confession: I have not been firing on all cylinders, lately. After the high of the Christmas-time, coming back to Chicago, to the noise and the reality of life, the universe and everything just seemed like a big order for me. So there have been several nights in a row lately when I felt very much like I had nothing worthwhile to say - and I know myself fractionally well enough to know this truth: "Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak, and erase all doubt." So I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere. (I got a gentle "where've you been?" nudge from Rick, and I have to admit, it's nice to be missed...)

To be honest, I've been overwhelmed - or numbed, I don't know which - by the horror in Asia. Tonight, in checking out the blogs of my virtual sisters and brothers, I found Chris's posting on the topic, and it seemed like he had been reading my mail...or my mind. In a few brief, powerful words, he expressed what I've been struggling with all week. Thank you, brother, for giving voice to what I was unwilling (or unable) to speak.

At the seminary I am connected with, a number of the PhD students are from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma...but somehow the immensity of the tragedy didn't hit me until Monday night, when I got off work and went to school to check my mail. People were gathered around several of the PhD students, asking if they'd heard from their families...and it finally connected: this hits right here, too. It turns out that all of the students' families were fine, but we found out that Tamara Mendis, wife of Rev. Eardley Mendis, and a long-time part of the LSTC community and the Metro Chicago synod, died in the tidal wave that struck Sri Lanka. Tamara and their daughter Eranthie were traveling on a train by the coast when the tidal wave struck. Eranthie was rescued but they were unable to save Tamara.

I tried to imagine the devastation. I was in Kansas in 1993-94 when all of the area rivers (the Missouri, Kaw, and Mississippi) flooded areas from Des Moines through to St. Louis and beyond. I saw sections of roadway washed away, I saw farmers' land covered with sand and silt, I saw homes washed away, and I was stunned. But the loss of life was minimal, and there was just no comparison.

How can I pray "Thy will be done" in this situation?
How can I mourn 120,000 people?
How can I even conceive of what five MILLION homeless people would be like?

God knows, I have tried. I actually hunted down the 2000 Census information for Overland Park (one of my former hometowns), the Kansas City area, and for the Chicago area. It turns out that there's only roughly 150,000 people in Overland Park; I just can't imagine the possibility of nearly every person in that city, dying in a flash like that. I found out that the Kansas City metro area (11 counties)is only about 1.8 million people, and the city of Chicago, by itself, is only 2.8 million people - it takes all of Cook County to come in about 5.3 million. (If you know the area, that's from roughly Evanston, to Schaumberg, to Oak Park, to Palos and Calumet.) From O'Hare to Midway, to the Skyway, and then some.

That's how many people are homeless, without basic services.

It blew me away. I am still blown away.

I remember back in the early 80's seeing the movie The Day After (a movie about the aftermath of nuclear war), and wondering whether I'd really have the will to live and go on, or whether I'd just lay down and let whatever death (radiation, exposure, marauders) take me. I have to admit to the same feelings as I read about the horrors in Asia. I don't know if I'd be able to find the faith or the strength to carry on in the face of that devastation. Part of me wants to pray for restoration - and part of me wants to pray that those who suffer die quickly and go to peace. Some spiritual Goliath, eh?

It reminds me of a line from And The Band Played On, the HBO movie about the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic. Ian McKellan, playing gay activitist Bill Kraus, is dying in a San Francisco hospital and talking with Dr. Don Francis (played by Matthew Modine). McKellen's character says, "I used to be afraid of dying...I'm not anymore. I'm just afraid for the ones who will live..."

I understand that.

God, I come to you a overwhelmed soul, this day. Help me hear from you, that I might know what to pray...what to feel...and what I can do. Because right now, I just don't know. Amen.


New Life said...

I remember the morning of 9/11 and thought about how removed we often are by the suffering in the world. In ways I cannot begin to comprehend not just the devastation of property and life, but the devastation of heart and soul. The sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. I made a monetary donation the other day and thought to myself, "B.F.D" (Big F***ing Deal) regardless of what I give it is not enough. This is too big for me to make go away even in my own mind and heart. Perhaps, in some distroted way that is a lesson I can take away from this tradgedy. I can't "fix" the suffering, somehow I have to enter into the suffering and in some way... in some manner suffer with my brothers and sisters. I don't know... words are not enough... I wouldn't even know where to begin.

peace my friend,

Im A Foto Nut said...


Just remember, you don't have to be overwhelmed by this, God in His Almighty Power, has everything under control. In this too, His plan is at work. We don't know the what or the why, and the how seems uncontionable (spelling?) put it is still his plan, and for him to carry out.

Dear Lord,

Please be with Steve. Comfort him in his time of uncertianty. Help him to feel your awesome power and streangth, and the peace of your all knowing and seeing hands guiding all our lives.

In your strong name I pray.


Ed said...

The devastation is pretty hard to fathom... that's a definite. I never really put the amount of people displaced into something we can relate to (all of Cook county? ...amazing). But what strikes me just about as hard as the pictures of entire villages swept away, the numbers of peopled killed and displaced, etc., is the fact that most of these people never new Jesus Christ as their savior.

In a way, this is where much more of the tragedy lies than the simple loss of life, displacement of people, and economic impact. Of course, thousands of people in this part of the world die each year from natural causes without knowing Jesus, let alone those in our own backyard.

One thing I can take heart in, is that not only am I saved by the blood of Jesus, but that this may one more sign that precedes the second coming of Christ. As a favorite hymm of mine goes...
"When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus we'll sing and shout the victory!"Speaking somewhat selfishly, with all the stress in my life right now, it'd really be nice to just shove it all aside right now for all of eternity :^).

AutobodyCAD said...

A mind-boggling catastrophe for sure. One thing that came to mind after this tsunami aftermath I haven't seen any comments on. The sheer destruction and re-ordering of the landscape reminds one of the global flood in Noah's day and the millions that died then. See the post at my site: