And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Relationships & Hope
It’s no secret that we live in a fallen world.
Though everything God created, in the beginning, was good, mankind has continued to mess up. This holds true especially in relationships, both at the personal and national level. I’m talking about the way people treat each other. Just watch the news and read the paper. It’s heartbreaking to us, and I’m sure even more to God.
Fortunately, things can change. People can choose to help others, especially in difficult situations. In fact, I’ve noticed that when we try to support people who are experiencing hard times, God has a way of multiplying the good that we do. Let me illustrate.
A few years ago, I was assigned as the pastor of Hannam Village Chapel in Seoul, South Korea. Hannam was the largest U.S. government-owned housing area in Korea, containing approximately 5,000 military and family members.
To contain that many people in a relatively small geographical space, the government had built large buildings, several of which were 15 stories high. In addition to housing, the government had built other facilities to support a population of that size — not luxurious by any stretch, but certainly adequate. All in all, life in Hannam was pretty good. Understandably, though, relationships in that crowded community were often strained.
One evening a fire broke out in a housing unit on the 15th floor of a high-rise building. I don’t recall what caused the fire, but the flames grew quickly and threatened to destroy the top floor, and even the entire building. The occupants of the unit were not home when the blaze started.
It looked like a crisis scene from a movie. Fortunately, neighbors responded quickly and initiated emergency procedures. The occupants evacuated the building rapidly while the fire department rushed to the scene. Two fire trucks raised giant ladders to the top of the building. Firemen quickly hosed down the apartment inside and out and managed to contain the fire to the one unit. However, that apartment had been devastated. The family could not salvage any of their personal belongings, much less any of their furniture. They suffered a total loss of their possessions but counted themselves fortunate to have escaped with their lives.
People who have lost everything in fire suffer much more than most of us realize. Practically, the family must start from scratch. Things like furniture and clothes can be replaced. Other belongings like pictures, letters and special keepsakes cannot. The sense of loss is off the charts.
But God triumphed in store for this situation. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is able to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It doesn’t say everything that happens is good, nor that things automatically work out for good. Some intentionality is required.
The Hannam Village community became intentional quickly. Neighbors rallied to find the family a place to stay and get a few essentials. As the chaplain, I worked with the community mayor and other leaders in an effort to research available resources within the local community and from formal helping agencies within the military. We took great care to communicate with the family to ensure the support being offered was both needed and desired.
Government housing authorities located another permanent place for the family to live at Hannam. Volunteers stepped up to locate furniture and all kinds of household articles and furnishings to turn the apartment into a home. Members from our chapel provided the major impetus for the overwhelming response to the family, a fact that surprised family members since they were not chapel attendees.
The list of actions needed to reestablish a home from the ground up is staggering and far too numerous to mention here. It is sufficient to say that for every need the family had, a volunteer cheerfully provided the necessary assistance.
The Blessing of Community
While nothing could erase the pain of the family’s loss, God brought His comfort through people. In both word and deed, the community showed love, compassion, and emotional support to each member of the family. The family responded beautifully, displaying amazing resilience in the face of adversity. Within two weeks, they had made great progress toward normal living.
Still, this situation needed a sense of formal closure, both for the family and the community. Leaders worked together to plan an event that could make this a reality. Unanimously, we voted to host a celebration for the entire village. We had much for which to give thanks and celebrate.
The occasion went off without a hitch. From the youngest to the oldest, we were surprised at the joy present that day. Food, games, prizes, music, speeches, and prayers were just a few of the activities. We closed by collecting a special offering for the family. People gave with glad hearts.
Now years later, I vividly remember God’s goodness in that potentially deadly situation, not only to the family but to all of us. A genuine team effort put a family back together after a disaster.
But the change the Lord brought to the people of Hannam Village proved to be transformational. People were friendlier and more helpful to each other. Interest in community activities picked up dramatically, and the overall mood across Hannam Village noticeably improved. Even people from other military housing areas viewed the people of our community with new respect. Local Military commanders expressed repeated thanks for accomplishing something no Military order could have produced.
And one more thing. God was glorified.
Week after week visitors piled into Hannam Chapel to find out what made chapel folks so loving and giving. Many stayed and became active members of our congregation. Americans and Koreans worshiped God together, praising Him, growing in faith, and spreading the Word that God can truly work all things together for good.
Facing a tough situation or even a crisis? Let God work all things together for good.