At 5:00 pm October 17, 1989 plans were being made by the pastors gathered for a retreat in Oxnard, California to set up a room for watching the World Series being played in San Francisco. I am reminded of this because the Giants are playing in the World Series again. Eric, my roommate and I, had just gotten back to our room to prepare for the evening when at 5:04 the room shook.
An earthquake to our north had reached all the way south to shake the ground. The cameras were already rolling preparing for game three of the Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. It was the first Bay Area World Series, the first time a major earthquake was broadcast life. The Loma Prieta Earthquake as it was later called led to the collapse of the Nimitz Bridge. Buildings and other structures around the Bay Area were damaged as well. According to reports there were 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries. Some have considered the timing of the game as lifesaving. Instead of being in rush hour traffic people were at the game or somewhere watching the game when the earthquake struck. At our gathering in Oxnard there were prayers. We didn’t know all that was going on, but we prayed.
The Giants had a pitcher who had a memorable moment before they reached the series that year. It was in a game against Montreal. Giant’s pitcher Dave Dravecky, a left-hander who had returned after a bout with cancer and surgery on his arm, was on the mound. Dravecky pitched three no-hit innings, but in the fifth inning, he felt a tingling sensation in his arm. In the sixth inning, he started off shaky. Then, on his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped; the sound of it breaking could be heard throughout the stadium. Dravecky collapsed on the mound. He'd suffered a clean break midway between his shoulder and elbow. He would later have his arm and shoulder amputated as the cancer had returned and spread. He told his story in the book Comeback. It was his book and the number of people moved by it that led to my small part in this giant moment. (For Dave’s story http://www.cbn.com/tv/1429132315001)
Dave Dravecky was a Christian baseball player, but not a pastor or counselor. The popularity of his story and the number of people contacting him were overwhelming. So, Insight for Living, the radio ministry of Charles Swindoll, has pastors on staff who are counselors as well and I was one of them. We were asked to assist Dravecky. He came by met us, shared some, and we got a feel for how to proceed. He went on to be a motivational speaker, launch his own ministry and write other books. As a pastoral counselor dealing with the concerns, questions, stories of people dealing with serious situations and health issues it was a blessing to be part of the team. I had the opportunity to wrestle with deep human needs, respond to theological questions, pray for people I didn’t know.
The earthquake damage was extensive. How to deal with the collapse of the double-decker Nimitz Freeway was a huge concern to California’s transportation system. Cars were crushed in it, the Freeway was needed, it was a mess. Initial attempts to remove the piles of heavy twisted metal and broken concrete slabs failed. Roger Stull was contacted.
He had a company that specialized in problem solving. He came up with the solution and removed the damaged sections of freeway quicker than expected. He was contacted first when the earthquake hit LA a few years later. Roger served at the church in Fullerton we were part of at that time. He had a heart for the things of the Lord and found ways to use his gifts to benefit God’s kingdom. He was a good businessman, creative, innovative, determined, and reliant on the Lord. At times around the table in conversations I was amazed at his humility and quiet strength.
It seems only the stars shine. You know the MVPs, the CEOs, the head of this or the top of that. And it is only right to give credit to those who have worked hard and seen their efforts come to fruition. But it may be that there are other giant moments as well.
Remember Elijah? He is one man doing something many people consider of little use. He is one man in a country filled with others more powerful, more numerous, more influential. He is one man who talked to God and God changed the weather. That is a giant thing.
Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:17-18 (NLT)
Elijah is an example of someone who is involved in giant moments but not seen in his world as anything much. He is to be a model for us however.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)
Your prayer could be that important element that releases great power and produces wonderful results.
October 17, 1989 a group of pastors prayed. (I am sure others were praying as well, but I can account for these things.) The earthquake changed and challenged the lives of millions in a moment. God’s power was turned loose. Angels were on site. The unseen was producing wonderful results. Dravecky wrote his story of coming back from cancer and being part of the Giants team that went to the Series and suffered in the earthquake it touched people who needed the message…who needed to know God. Roger, a humble servant of God with a way to deal with the earthquake damaged freeway, was placed in the role to help.
Scripture doesn’t credit the king or his counselors or big business or bankers or the entertainers of Elijah’s day with great power and wonderful results. Have you been part of the giant moments of people’s lives by your prayers? Have you joined with God in earnest prayer and watched God, the Living God, act in power and produce wonderful results in the giant arenas of our day? If not, would you like to?
Pray. Learn to pray better. Look to God more as you pray. Take time to pray. Trust God as you pray.
If you haven’t seen His great power and wonderful results, then ask Him to remove the scales from your eyes and allow you to see the work He is doing all around
Pastor, Grace Bible Church Pryor, Oklahoma