This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 380 October 9, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Hurricanes and Peace

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My Japanese friend Aki emailed me the other day.  Hes been feeling the wrath of this years storms both in the US and in the Pacific.  He found himself driving a car in the direction of hurricane Ivan, though thankfully he missed the worst of it, then returned to Japan in time to be hit be Typhoon 21 The Japanese like to number their storms rather than personalise them with names.  

Sunday night I somewhat agreed with the Japanese, why give a name to a storm that is trying to destroy your life and your belongings.  At the time I was in a caravan, a storm was howling outside and I was trying to plan escape routes should the van be picked up and tossed into the next field.  The fact that I am here talking to you today demonstrates that the worst didnt happen, but neither Luisa or I got much sleep that night.  

Strange really, as wed headed west for two or three days of peace and quiet.  We needed some time.  Luisa had just been through the sadness of burying her father.  We felt under pressure and a visit to some of our favourite haunts of the past seemed the ideal way to do it.  Gale force winds in a rocking caravan were not part of the plan.  

Luisa and I both love nature, and were both keen walkers so our plan was to relax along some costal footpaths.  While that did happen in the glorious sunshine of Monday and Tuesday, it did not happen in the rain and gales that Sunday.  I did walk the dog, dressed up in full waterproofs, then we went off in the car, eventually ending up at a favourite old church of ours, St. Just-in-Roseland, dating back to the 12th century, and based on a religious community that had been there for hundreds of years before that.  

Its a church that attracts many tourists, set as it is in beautiful gardens sloping down to an inlet of the River Fal.  The flowering hydrangeas were at their best, blues, pinks and whites in various hues somehow brought out by the rain. However, it was something inside the church that made the greatest impression on me.  

There is a sign inside the door that welcomes visitors and, while most come as tourists, invites them to spend a moment in meditation.  That wasnt hard for us, as with the bad weather outside we had the church to ourselves.  What struck me most was an invitation directing us to the front of the church where a prayer book was set by a small altar.  Visitors were invited to records their prayers in the book, and to spend a few moments in prayer for themselves, and for the others whose prayers were already recorded there.  

I leafed back through the pages.  Some prayers were quite poetic, almost works of art.  Others, simple requests for healing, or hope, or peace.  Many were also acts of thankfulness.  There were a variety of languages, and contributions from all ages.  As I read, I found myself strangely moved.  It was a real and continuing act of worship.  I added my own prayer to the book and prayed for those who had gone before.  And even now as I think of it, there may be somebody, a stranger, visiting that church right now, and his silent prayer includes me in it.  The thought is very reassuring.  This church, as old as history, traditional in many ways, tracing its roots back to Celtic times, has found a ministry meaningful to the passing tourist.  

There are, of course, those who question the value of such traditions.  Does prayer really work?  What is the point of my praying for a total stranger?  And while we could enter into a theological debate at this stage, Id rather speak from the heart and simply say that it did something for me.  

A something I think the apostle Paul would have understood.  He may have been a great theologian, but he also wrote some things that were simple and straightforward.  This is one of my favourites.  

Philip. 4:4-7 (NIV)  The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

In times of bereavement, hardship or suffering, as well as those times when the sun is shining and all seems right with the world, its a promise Ive come to trust and maybe even one that you and I, here on the radio, can share together, as we give thanks and pray for each other.

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