Our friends, you yourselves know that our visit to you was not a failure. (1 Thessalonians 2:1 GNB)
Living on an island far from anywhere had advantages and disadvantages. One advantage was a lack of visitors. One disadvantage was a lack of visitors. Family, friends, pastors, and tourists, with the exception of the Japanese tourists, seldom considered flying to a small island they could barely locate in a National Geographic world atlas.
In December of 1990 Beth’s parents decided it was time to see just what we were doing out in the Pacific. Their grandchildren were growing up and they wanted to experience island life in the tropics. Plans were made, tickets purchased, accommodations in a local hotel reserved and bags packed. We were ready as well. Our home was in order; the children were excited that Grandma and Grandpa would be with us for Christmas. Things just couldn’t look better.
Then four days before Christmas, on December 21st, typhoon Russ made its dramatic visit to Guam. The island power went out. Water became scarce. Severe damage was inflicted on the mission transmitter site. We scrambled to work during daylight hours to repair antennas and transmitters and restore the Gospel programming quickly. Things weren’t looking so good.
Programs prepared for Christmas broadcasts lay unused in the control room. All the able bodied staff worked with us in the mud and heat to gather the pieces of equipment spread across the property and into the neighboring countryside.
Two days after the typhoon Beth, the children and I were at the airport to pick up Grandma and Grandpa. It was Sunday. They arrived on an island struggling to restore basic services. As a staff, we interrupted our repair work to worship the Lord and celebrate his provision through the storm. With all the damage across the island not a single life was lost.
Beth’s parents were introduced to the realities of island and post storm life. They sought the quiet of the hotel in the evenings. It was sure quiet. No power to the hotel. Situated on the beach they listened to the quiet lapping of waves each evening.
The first few days of their stay I worked at the transmitter site to help restore the broadcasts. Not only were the antennas and transmitters damaged but our emergency generator also failed and needed repair. I, along with my colleagues, was called upon to do things we never did before. All of this was to get the Gospel message back on the air.
In the months following the storm we received numerous letters from listeners praying for us because they knew something was wrong to prevent the airing of the programs. Programming resumed the 26th of December.
As I worked Beth and the children enjoyed fun times with her parents. The generator at our home kept the fans providing a cool breeze and the food preserved in the fridge. When things were desperate we’d visit Denny’s. They had electricity and air conditioning!
Air conditioning is important after a typhoon. When the storm completes its damage to the island and departs it takes all the associated weather, and clouds with it. So, after supersaturating the island for several days the sky became clear, the sun came out and we lived in a tropical sauna. No breezes to counteract the heat and humidity except what was created by the generator powered ceiling fans. No fresh water to cool off since the electricity was out stopping the water pumps from filling the pipes with fresh water for our homes.
Beth took her parents on a drive around the island. Everywhere they turned the evidence of the storm’s destruction was visible. Many homes lost their roofs and their Christmas trees were now part of their yard decorations. Some lost everything and others only suffered minor damage. Beth and her parents were heartbroken as they witnessed people picking up pieces of their homes to start over.
While the lack of electricity and water was annoying, Beth’s parents experienced it in full each evening. The pair was experiencing reduced sight in their old age. They couldn’t see things in their room or read by the insignificant candle light. The day before their departure from Guam the power was restored. However, by then they were accustomed to the evening darkness.
Two visitors came at Christmas, one we wanted to come, the other uninvited. With Beth’s parents we enjoyed the visit in spite of the weather and living conditions. Our family fellowship was delightful and the children were thrilled to have their grandparents about for the holidays. Russ, on the other hand, wasn’t invited but crashed the party anyway. Despite his attempts to hinder the ministry it was only stalled for a few days and then the word of God continued to reach into the Far East.
One visitor without the other would never have created the memories and excitement we experienced that December. In fact, one visitor, Beth’s parents, enhanced the unexpected arrival of the other, typhoon Russ. Their visit provided an encouragement in the midst of extra work, under uncomfortable conditions. God’s timing was perfect.
Sometimes, when I think things are just not going right, God surprises me with little gifts of encouragement. Our Lord encouraged us in the midst of what many might consider a catastrophe. When we stop and listen to what the Lord is saying, when we look at what the Lord has provided we find He can bring success to what we cannot. We, as His servants, need to listen, watch and learn.