Christian Love Versus a Volcano

BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN CAMEROON

A GIANT exploded in fury last year in the West African country of Cameroon. Mount Cameroon is a volcano towering 13,353 feet [4,070 m] above sea level. This eruption—the mountain’s fifth during the 20th century—was reportedly its most violent and serious to date.

The disaster first struck on Saturday afternoon, March 27, 1999. Eyewitnesses in the town of Buea, located at the foot of the mountain, reported that walls, houses, and even trees shook violently. The following evening, about half past eight, the strongest, most violent tremor shook the region. It was felt 40 miles [70 km] away in Douala. The headline of Le Messager of Tuesday, March 30, 1999, declared: “Eruption of Mount Cameroon—250,000 Persons Face Fire.” It continued: “The earth trembled 50 times in two days; already 4 craters have appeared; hundreds of houses destroyed; the presidential palace in Buea in fragments.”

Some 80 of Jehovah’s Witnesses live in Buea. Many homes were damaged beyond repair, including one used as a Kingdom Hall. However, no lives were lost.

Christian Love in Action

Christian love quickly went into action to offset the devastation caused by this furious giant. A relief committee was appointed, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses arranged to provide some much-needed funds, and hundreds of Witnesses readily made loving sacrifices of their time, energy, and money.

Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses sent food supplies. One Witness donated 1,000 cement blocks. Another arranged for the purchase of aluminum roofing at a low cost. Yet another walked ten miles [16 km] to obtain lumber. A young man who had saved money to pay the bride-price to his prospective in-laws postponed his wedding and used the money to repair his chain saw. Off he went into the forest, where in three weeks he cut enough logs for an entire house! Strong young Christian brothers carried the timber on their heads to a place three miles [five km] away, where a truck collected it.

The reconstruction got under way on April 24 when 60 volunteers converged on the disaster site.  During the following weekends, that number swelled to a peak of 200. Three Witnesses with full-time jobs came at the end of their regular workday and built until well past midnight. A Witness from Douala worked at his secular job all morning; then he rode his motorcycle 40 miles [70 km] and worked until midnight before returning home. Six houses were completed in less than two months. Meanwhile, the Buea Congregation continued to hold meetings in a private home, although meeting attendance was about double the number of congregation members.

During this same period, the relief committee distributed more than 40,000 tablets to purify contaminated water and provided hospital care for about ten persons suffering from respiratory ailments caused by toxic gas and volcanic ash. What was the reaction of those who witnessed this Christian love?

Christian Love Wins Out

After observing one of the houses built by the brothers, a man from the Provincial Delegation of Agriculture said: “The house is a great witness in itself . . . , an indication of love.” A teacher commented: “I have never seen such a thing in my life. . . . This is indeed a sign of true Christianity.”

Those who benefited personally were equally eloquent. Timothy, aged 65 and sickly, wrote: “Each time we look at our new house, tears of joy fill our eyes. We keep thanking Jehovah for what he has done for us.” A widow who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was left destitute along with her four children when their home collapsed. Then, those hired to help her stole her roofing material. The Witness volunteers came to her aid. She said: “I do not know how I can say thanks. My heart is full of joy.” Elizabeth, the wife of a Christian elder, observed: “I am happy that there is love in Jehovah’s organization. It shows that we are serving the living God.”

The volcano’s blast was a mighty one, but it could not extinguish the Christian love of this brotherhood. As the apostle Paul was inspired to write, “love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:8.

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Rivers of molten lava caused much devastation

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Volunteers worked hard to restore damaged homes

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Mount Cameroon