We survive a cyclone in India
5.48pm. A fierce tropical storm is blowing. We are in our room, the rain lashing down and the wind threatening to rip off one of the windows, which we had open earlier on to let the air in: Freda has now tried to secure it with string. I do not know whether we shall be able to get to the seminar this evening, or whether it will be held. I had a sore throat all yesterday, Freda too, and we both now have streaming colds. Freda stayed behind to rest and finish a letter to David & Philippa Chapman, and Joseph Yelchuri called for me at 9am. It was raining and the potholes filling with water, but everyone — lovely pigs and water buffalo included — seemed to be going about their usual business.
The service had already begun. Joseph went back to his house to collect his wife, who was also unwell. I sat one the front row feeling utterly miserable and totally without inspiration, and my throat painful. The church was filling, the music deafening. Eventually Joseph returned and preached a powerful message by way of introduction to me, then I climbed the steps to the platform, made a few apologetic and excusatorial remarks, opened my Bible at 1 Corinthians 2 and preached for the next 90 minutes or more on the Spirit of Revelation (Ephesians 1:17), New Birth (John 3:3), This is that (Acts 2:16) etc. The 200+ ministers and preachers seemed really to understand and applauded most warmly as I finished.
Joseph brought me straight back here. I was sweating and exhausted and had eaten nothing for 14 hours. I had a shower (no warm water), then we went down to the Gula restaurant where we had delicious tomato soup accompanied by spicy crisps, followed by a double pot of tea. I switched the TV Movies on, and we watched Porridge in English with Telegu subtitles. I missed the end as I was asleep.
President Clinton won the USA election comfortably, Benazir Bhutto was dismissed as Pakistan prime minister yesterday, and President Yeltsin recovered consciousness after his triple bypass heart operation and immediately resumed power.
The emergency generator came on about 5pm when the power failed, as it has done several times each day since we arrived [in India]. We posted a letter to David Shrisunder this morning — the fax we tried to send him yesterday.
Devastation and delirium
8.56pm. The storm struck with great severity; a scene of devastation this morning: roads flooded, homes underwater, trees down, 10 killed when their church fell on them (though not here). I was awake, delirious with a fever, almost all night. David has phoned from Solapur tonight to see that we are all right. George Nainan sent his greetings as last year. I am in bed with a streaming cold.
The ministers’ seminar closed today. I taught them about the Eucharist and ministered the sacrament to the 180–200. Quite a number had left early, anxious about their families. They were from all over Andhra Pradesh and from as far afield as Orissa State. They will take the blessing back to their churches. Joseph is [ ? ] and has invited us to breakfast at 10 tomorrow.
We start a new crusade tomorrow night D.V. We had lunch as yesterday, but I was too weak, hardly able to sit up at the table. I have been in bed all afternoon and evening. Freda has been writing letters to Ann Price, Frank & Irene Booth, and Janet Knox. The power has been off since yesterday, unlikely to be restored until next week.
Our responsibility for the earth
11.25pm. The Hindu is pushed under our door every morning. Today’s issue carries graphic accounts of the disaster: over 300 dead, nearly 200 from Kakinada. Tonight’s meeting was at Ambathar Bhavan, only 200–300 there because people are mourning their dead, cleaning up, or staying in their homes for fear of looting. I preached on John 5. Joseph told me people had seen me on TV preaching and read about us in the Hindu paper.
I wrote to Graham Witts today but without finishing the letter. Freda phoned Joseph in the morning to say I might not be able to speak this evening. I improved by the hour, Freda too. We had a little fruit for our breakfast; tomato soup and (Freda) chapattis for lunch; a pot of tea and (Freda) toasted cheese sandwiches after we got back from the meeting.
We saw much destruction and still flooding tonight. The sun shone again today but it will be a long time before life returns to normal. There is still no power except for emergency generators, which then fail or have to be shut down. We had no power at all this afternoon.
In the meeting we kept silence for the dead and hurting. I began by reminding the people of my message throughout the Crusade. What if the cyclone had lasted not 12 hours but 12 days, weeks, years? and of our responsibility for our earth. On our way home with his family Joseph (who came this afternoon) told me they will not eat meat any more.
The worst disaster in a century
12.27am Sunday. The mains power came on this afternoon. From BBC World we learned that this is the worst disaster in Andhra Pradesh for 100 years. 1,000 are dead, 1,000,000 homes destroyed.
We finished the meetings tonight: not more than 500 in the church. I spoke on “Jesus missing yet not missed” (Luke 2:41–52). With my very last statement a young man leapt out the front row screaming, ran onto the stage and was violent. I was the object of his anger, or rather the Word was. I prayed for the people then went backstage to help him, but could not communicate with him, though I could see what the trouble was. Joseph spoke to him and he became meek. I realised afterwards that he is the man who plays the keyboard so beautifully.