“You know this is not right, Pau!” Manny’s passion was strong.
“What would you have me do?” Pau asked.
“We should stay in the city and celebrate the birth of the Christ,” Manny replied.
This point aroused passion amongst church members. When they were told that the city fathers would not allow Christmas to be celebrated in a manner that honored the Christ-child there was a significant range of emotions.
Some were frightened while others were bold and angry. Some looked for peace while others thought they must stand against such tyranny.
“Listen to me!” Pau’s voice commanded respect and silence. “Tomorrow is a day sacred to those who profess Christ as lone savior of mankind. We have been told that we can not celebrate.”
Voices rose to acknowledge the harsh command of the local government.
“I believe we can celebrate and we will,” Pau said with finality. The crowd seemed conflicted in their response.
“We will leave the city early in the morning and we will celebrate on Mt. Banu. The city father’s have said that we may not celebrate in the city, so we will not. I will not allow the will of our government to make us villains nor will I miss celebrating Christmas when there is a way. Those who wish to join me may come.”
On the morning of December 25th, 2004 nearly 400 Christians walked out of the city and navigated mountainous terrain. They were called names and laughed at as they left, but Pau just ignored the comments and walked resolutely toward the peak.
The day was beautiful on the little Asian island. The Christians celebrated, singing songs about a baby that had come to save the world. It was nearly dark before Pau thought to return to the city, however, it was too dark to safely climb back down. Pau wisely suggested the congregation spend the night under the stars. Hadn’t Jesus Himself done so?
A brilliant blue sky greeted the little band of Christians the next morning. They were happy to have had the opportunity to worship on this mountain. Pau was talking with one of the elder members of the group when Manny began shouting, “Pau, you must come and see!”
Pau stepped close to Manny and looked down as wave upon wave crashed into the city. Buildings were demolished in an instant. It wasn’t long before they saw their city reduced to a fraction of its original size. Old men and children wept at the devastation of the tsunami.
The Christians prayed as they made their way back down the mountain. They were stunned to muted silence as they walked on mud and debris packed streets where homes and shops had once been. Now there was nothing. Most of their own homes were gone.
A city of thousands had been reduced to hundreds. Whole families had disappeared in the waves. Those who lived through the disaster had family members missing. The stench of death was beginning to make its presence known.
Pau hugged and prayed with those who survived, they did not resist.
One of the survivors was a local government official who came to Pau and asked, “How can it be that 400 Christians, in a city that has expressed such hatred, were able to survive without the loss of one person?”
“Our God protected us. What you meant for evil, God meant for good. I am sorry for your loss, but God protected us and now we are here to help however we can.” Pau made a slight bow to honor this broken man.
Time passed and humanitarian aid arrived. Some buildings were rebuilt, others were hauled away bit by bit. If you chance to visit on any given weekend you will find the church of 400 has grown some. If you look carefully you might just see a man in the crowd who was bent on the persecution of Christians. Some might say he had a Damascus Road experience, Pau just knew he needed the Lord and was willing to point the way.
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance" (I Corinthians 13: 4-7 - NLT).
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