Written By Joey Choo, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese
Recently, the news has been abuzz with reports of earthquakes. Just this morning, I stumbled on news about two earthquakes—one striking New Zealand and the other Japan. Already, my heart was gripped by news of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand one week ago.
Although Malaysia (where I’m from) is a disaster-free country, I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) of experiencing several strong earthquakes during my time in other countries. Hence, hearing earthquake-related news always evokes many memories.
The first time I experienced an earthquake was when I was attending university in Taiwan in 1999. I had just arrived for a week when 921 Earthquake—as it was locally known—struck. The tragedy in Nantou County resulted in 2,415 deaths, more than 11,000 people injured, and 29 others missing. More than 50,000 houses collapsed and another 53,000 were damaged. Although I was situated in Taipei, far from the epicenter, I had a taste of the destructive nature of the earthquake. I was in my school dormitory at the time when the power supply was suddenly cut off. All the doors, windows and chairs started rattling and I almost got thrown off my seat.
When I watched the news the next day, I saw images of the devastation: buildings had collapsed and bodies had been buried under the rumble. As a result of the quake, many people lost their homes and loved ones. How helpless and small we human beings are when faced with the force of nature! It made me realize how fragile life is, regardless of who we are and what we’ve achieved. All that we have accumulated can be easily wiped out in one swift disaster. The Bible is spot on when it says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Indeed, it’s not worth exchanging our precious lives with the temporal things of this world.
That was just one episode. During my five years in Taiwan, disasters happened almost every year. In addition to earthquakes, there were also typhoons and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (also known as SARS) epidemic. One of my most harrowing experiences was when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Hualien on 31 March, 2002. The effects of the quake were even felt at one of its most iconic landmarks in Taipei—where the skyscraper Taipei 101 is situated.
Then, the skyscraper was still under construction and the strong tremors sent a large crane on the 56th floor crashing down to ground level, crushing many cars and killing people in the process. Standing a few hundred meters away, I saw the surrounding buildings swaying and witnessed that horrific episode with my own eyes; it was a scene I would never forget.
Years later, I had another close shave with an earthquake. It was 4 September 2010 and I was on a working holiday in New Zealand’s South Island. Then, I was living in a small town close to Christchurch and planned to move downtown to look for a job. A friend of mine from Nelson (more than 400km north of Christchurch) came to visit me out of the blue and invited me to look for a job in the north where she lived. I was clueless as to what to do. As I prayed, God impressed on me to leave Christchurch and follow my friend. That’s how I got away unscathed once again—this time from a devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch two weeks later.
It was truly God’s miraculous protection and guidance that saved me each time and I can say confidently that our God is true and trustworthy. Just as Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” These close brushes have deeply impressed on me the need to trust and depend on God, because He alone is the true creator and holds our lives in His hands.
Whenever earthquakes or natural disasters occur, I am also reminded that the end times are near. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:8). As such, I need to be watchful, pray, and to preach the gospel because the Lord’s return is near. I pray that every child of God will learn to worship Him reverently, and give all glory and honor to the Lord Almighty.