AREarthquake of the CenturyAmidst the devastation and loss suffered in the largest earthquake to hit Taiwan, members of God's household witness the mercy and grace of God.In the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Taiwan experienced its largest earthquake of the century. In this disaster many buildings collapsed, families were lost, and children were severely injured. Though the earthquake was devastating, God's mercy and grace was evident throughout the church members in addition to awakening the faith of others.
In the early morning
hours of Tuesday, September 21, 1999, I was awakened three times by the
creaking of the walls and doors of my bedroom and the swaying and
undulation of my bed. Although I knew that this shaking was caused by
earthquakes, I did not yet realize that what I had experienced that night
was one of Taiwan’s biggest earthquakes of the century.
twenty hours after the earthquake, I was unable to receive any news
because there was a power outage throughout most of Taiwan. So I had no
idea of the extent of the damage or the death toll from the earthquake.
when I was able to switch on my television, I saw scenes that I will never
forget. The news showed building after building that was collapsed or
heavily damages, as well as bodies buried under the rubble.
workers risked their lives going in and out of the buildings, trying to
save as many people as possible. Some survivors dug through the debris,
looking for signs of loved ones, hoping that they were still alive. Others
risked their lives just to salvage some of their personal belongings.
Children looked for their parents in the chaos. People gave accounts of
how roofs and walls came tumbling down, crushing family members, and how
they could do nothing to help them.
scenes were heartbreaking. Every night, as I watched the television
updates, I ended up with tears in my eyes. So many children became orphans
when their parents were killed in the earthquake. Some children faced
amputation because their legs were trapped under concrete walls or
pillars. Too young to understand that they had lost their parents, they
called for Mommy and Daddy to comfort them in their great pain.
were also the elderly who lost all their children and grandchildren in one
night, becoming the sole survivors of their families. When they realized
that they had no home to go back to, no food to eat, and no children or
grandchildren to love, they lost their will to live.
I had seen similar scenes of other earthquakes (such as the one in Turkey
that had occurred just one month earlier), I had never felt such horror,
pain, and sympathy toward the victims as I did this time. Since I had
experienced this earthquake myself, my feelings were much stronger. I felt
very happy every time someone was rescued, and I felt sad when the rescue
workers carried out another dead body. I cried whenever I saw someone
weeping because his or her loved ones were dead. I cried when a teenager
read her poem for her dead parents, expressing her love for them, her
loss, and how she would remain strong for her grandfather and younger
many of us have wished that our parents would stop nagging us, that they
were less strict, or that we could live separately from them so that we
could do whatever we liked? This earthquake made me realize how blessed I
am to still have my parents who love me, and whom I can love. I still have
a mother who, when I am sick, will make long distance calls to make sure
that I take care of myself and eat well. I still have my parents who were
so worried about my safety during the earthquake that they wanted me to
return home immediately. But those orphaned kids will no longer have this
God's Mercy and Grace
the destruction, I also heard evidence of God’s mercy and grace among
our fellow believers. For instance, during the earthquake, one couple was
trapped inside their house because it was shaking so violently that they
could not make it out the door. They then decided to hold on to each other
tightly, thinking that if they were going to die, they wanted to die
together. Miraculously, an unknown force brought them out of their house
and into the open space. When they discovered that they were outside, they
knew immediately that it was by the grace of God.
another instance, a preacher and his family were unable to leave their
house. The earthquake had damaged the door and they were unable to open
it. Not knowing what else to do, the whole family knelt down to pray.
While they were praying there was an aftershock, and the damaged door
suddenly returned to its original shape! They quickly opened the door and
ran to safety. The Lord had answered their prayers.
Tuesday evening, service was held as usual at the church. There were more
attendees than usual that night, because the earthquake had awakened some
members and brought them back to the Lord.
the service, the electrical power went off just as a brother was giving
his testimony of how the Lord had chastised him. Although he then had to
give his testimony in the dark, everybody sat quietly, listening. Even the
children sat through the service without making as much noise as usual.
Although nothing extraordinary happened, somehow I felt that this was a
great service. It was a feeling I could not explain, but I felt as though
I had just experienced a miracle.
that week, during the Sabbath service, the preacher gave an account of
what he saw when he rushed to Tai Chung after the earthquake. He had
difficulty getting there, because the highway was jammed with anxious
people rushing to search for their family members. Finally, he got a
motorcyclist to take him to his destination. They had to travel carefully
because it was very dark and they could not see the road conditions. The
familiar road that used to be flat had now become uneven. In the middle of
a long stretch of flat highway, there was a one-meter-high bump caused by
the shifting plates of the earthquake.
the road conditions, the preacher managed to reach his destination and
find the students and church members he was looking for. They were all
safe and well, resting in temporary tents because their homes had either
collapsed or were too damaged to stay in. Yet he also saw something more:
behind the tents were rows of bodies covered with yellow or white cloth.
All of the mortuaries had either been destroyed by the earthquake or were
already too full. There were simply too many bodies.
Faith in the Face of Adversity
the Sabbath service, as I was watching news updates on the rescue work, I
saw a report on a group of tribal people still trapped in the mountains.
They were worshiping under a temporary tent made of a plastic sheet tied
to four wooden poles. As I watched them singing hymns and praying in
tongues, I realized that they were True Jesus Church members! Despite
their plight, they had not forgotten to keep the Sabbath.
watching this scene, I felt so ashamed. My Sabbath service that day had
been held in a well-lit, air-conditioned building with proper benches. Yet
even in this comfort, I had in a few instances fallen asleep. I thought of
how I had considered skipping the Sabbath service because I was so tired.
Yet these tribal members kept the Sabbath despite the earthquake, which
had killed some of their loved ones and devastated their lives.
September 1999 earthquake in Taiwan shows how small and powerless we
humans are when faced with the work of God and the wrath of nature. Humans can fly to the
moon, explore the depths of the ocean, and predict
when a typhoon will occur. But today, we still cannot predict when
and where an earthquake will strike.
16:18 states "...and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and
great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth." If
the earthquake in Taiwan caused such great devastation, we can only wonder
what this last "great earthquake" will be like.
whatever disaster may befall us, let us remember and take comfort in David’s
The Lord is my
rock and my fortress
and my deliverer;
The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation,
My stronghold and my refuge;
My Savior... (2 Sam 22:2-3)