|Photo from PBS NewsHour - November 11, 2013|
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Taken out of context this is just a photo of a girl reading a book, but in truth she is reading while sitting on a pile of rubble in the city of Tacloban in the Philippines, three days after Typhoon Haiyan flattened her city. Angus Walker, an ITV correspondent reporting for PBS NewHour, was narrating this story while his cameraman panned across scenes of death and destruction – that’s when the picture of the young girl came onto the television screen. Mr. Walker made a passing mention of how even in the midst of tragedy people hang onto their faith.
With my remote in hand, I rewound the report and paused on the frame of the girl. I walked closer to the television until I could read the title of the book: Be Patient, God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet! Everyday Wisdom to Help You Become the Person God Intended You to Be. I took a picture of the frame with the camera on my phone.
So many feelings welled up in me as I pondered this image. I was astounded at the calm focus she seemed to have, seemingly oblivious to the horrors surrounding her. But, of course, I knew that couldn’t be true. After all, she had survived Typhoon Haiyan with its 200 mph winds and the massive waves that washed large ships into the heart of her neighborhood while stripping people of their lives and livelihoods. She had seen dead people lying in the streets, houses reduced to splintered wood and had smelled the unfamiliar but undeniable stench of death. Yet, there she sat reading a book about God’s plan for her life.
I purchased the book, written and compiled by Vicki Kuyper, and finished reading it this afternoon. While there were chapters I found helpful for my personal life, I couldn't imagine that any of the examples would speak to the girl's immediate circumstances - circumstances that would test even the deepest faith. But then the power of faith is a mysterious thing.
When everything you own is gone, when you’ve lost loved ones, when even the basic necessities of life are unavailable, then faith in a higher being may be the only thing that allows hope to stir and fear to abate.
In truth, I can’t quit thinking about her. I wish I could have a conversation with her and find out about her family. Did they survive? Where did she find the book? What meaning did she derive from it? What will she do now? What does she ask for when she prays?
I will never get my questions answered but I will keep thinking about her and be thankful that I witnessed this small moment of grace in the midst of unthinkable tragedy.
We are joined by our humanity. It is the empathy we feel that transfers into practical help, giving the people of the Philippines a small glimmer of hope that they might survive. May God bless that young girl and her family and all the people in the Philippines and may their faith give them strength to go on.