Preparedness (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

5. Medicine
Get a first-aid kit to disinfect and bandage up cuts, burns, and basic off-the-counter medicine to relieve pains, colds, flues, diarrhea, allergies etc. For prescription drugs, both government and private health insurance plans only provide for a 3-months supply. If you want longer you have to pay for it yourself.

6. Sanitation
You still need to use the bathroom even when you are in the dark and there is no heat. So get enough toilet paper and soap to maintain hygiene.

7. Communication
For outbound to call for help, cordless phones may not work when there is no power. The old land lines still do because they have their own backup generators. Keep extra power cells for your mobile phone. For inbound to receive news, a hand-crank short-wave radio is a good investment.

8. Safety
Our US neighbors would likely associate this with carrying firearms to protect against riots and looters. For Canadians not into carrying guns, this may mean retreating to rural areas until the dust settles, which in turn translates into having a means to evacuate. Since you can’t store large quantities of gasoline in the city, at least top up your fuel tank when it’s half empty. Gas stations, in addition to supermarkets, go empty very quickly when trouble starts.

9. Money
In these days of cashless society, few people have more than a couple of days of currency on them. But what if banks and ATMs are closed and you can’t use debit or credit cards for anything? Cash becomes king until normality is restored, or when bartering kicks in. Have enough cash on hand for essential goods and services to tie you over the crunch.

Others would add mental and physical preparation, travel documents, survival skills etc., but the above would be basic to get you and your family through the storm.

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Preparedness (1 of 2)

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Q. You wrote on spiritual preparedness. How about the physical? What preparations would you recommend for tough times ahead?

A. Well, if you’re thinking about the end of the world, then you can hardly prepare enough to last through the Great Tribulation! Some people have actually built for themselves bunkers stocked with food and water, with a generator so they can survive for months or even years! But that would be beyond the reach of ordinary folks like us. How many people you know have a rural cottage where they can hunker down? Few, I suppose. Having said that, all of us should be prepared for shorter-term emergencies such as natural disasters e.g. snow/ice storm, hurricane, flood, or man-made ones like riots, terrorism, financial collapse etc.

What you need to prepare depends on many factors such as the type of disaster, its duration (days, weeks or months), your location (urban vs. rural), the season (summer vs. winter), how many members to your family (their age and health), your finances etc. But most people would focus on the following areas:

1. Water
On average, each person drinks 2 liters of water per day, plus use another 2 liters for cooking and cleaning. A large bottle of distilled water in grocery stores holds 18 ltr. or about 5 gal. Calculate the number of bottles you need based on how many people and how many days you want to prepare for.

2. Food
You need 2,000 calories per person per day, in a balanced diet of all 5 food groups:
• Carbohydrates – grain, pasta
• Vegetables – canned
• Fruits – dried
• Protein – beans
• Dairy – powdered
The problem is shelf-life, only 2-3 years for sun-dried or canned foods, which means rotation to replenish older stock. You can’t depend on the refrigerator either, as frozen food starts going bad when power goes out for more than half a day. Some buy MRE (meals ready-to-eat) packaged food, which have a shelf-life of up to 20-25 years if stored in a cool dry place. These are vacuum-packed, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods which you only need to add hot water.

3. Light
Conventional flash lights using batteries do not last very long. More energy efficient, longer lasting are LED nights. Better still if they have solar panel for recharging. You also need to store candles and matches.

4. Heat
The trouble with gas or oil furnaces is that the blower fan stops working when there is power outage. For that you need a generator hooked to essential appliances such as furnace, fridge, and some lighting. However, If you have a gas fireplace, they keep going even when power is out.

The other usage is for cooking. For short-term emergencies, get a camp stove or hot-pot stove that use propane or butane in containers. Make sure you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by cooking or boiling water in a well-ventilated place.

(To be continued)

Accepting Refugees (1 of 2)

Q. Our new prime minister wants to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees before year-end, and more later. Wouldn’t that jeopardize our national security in light of the terrorism in Paris? Shouldn’t the safety of the citizens be the primary concern?

A. This is a hot topic debated in political, social and religious circles. On the one hand, some see the plight of the refugees on national news and want to accept as many as possible on humanitarian grounds. On the other hand, some want to sound the alarm for fear of bringing in terrorists under the guise of refugees. What should the Christian stand be? While our feelings and government policy are important considerations, I believe the deciding criteria is what does the Bible say.

Although those who use the KJV claim that you don’t find the word “refugees” in the Bible, actually you do when you use newer versions like the NASB (5 times) or the NIV (2 times). Furthermore, you need to look up synonyms like “aliens” or “strangers”, which together present a more comprehensive picture.

Some, however, swing to the other extreme by including all aliens and strangers as “refugees”. Not every displaced person is a refugee, a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Those who emigrate voluntarily in search of a better life are not refugees. And while most refugees are poor and helpless, not all poor and helpless are refugees. Now, what does the Bible say about how we should treat them?

There are at least four principles. The first three summarize how God deals with refugees, and the fourth what we should do on our part:
1. God loves refugees. He provides for them and protects them:
Deut 10:18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.
• Ps 146:9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, …

2. God blesses those who care for refugees:
Deut 24:19-21 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

3. He will judge and curse those who wrong refugees:
Deut 27:19 Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ …
• Mal 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.

(To be continued)

Is Panama Safe?

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Sometimes people ask if it’s safe to go to Panama for mission trips. They’ve heard stories of high crime rates and gun violence, and worry about their security. It’s a legitimate concern. Yes there are anecdotal incidents. We even heard some on this trip.

One involved the Y-junction near the church. During the day it is extremely busy with traffic jams, but at night the intersection is quiet with little traffic. Recently a car was waiting at the lights when another car bumped into it. The driver got out to assess the damage, but two people came out of the other car, pointed a gun at him, took his wallet, and drove off with his car.

A second incident happened in the hair salon on the ground floor of our apartment building. Usually there is a watchman on duty, but one night near closing time while the guard was briefly away a robber came in, grabbed the money, and also took the keys to the building. That’s getting close to home.

A third concerned a Chinese man running a convenience store behind a steel cage, handing out merchandize and receiving payment through a small window like old style banks. He kept late hours hoping to do more business, despite the fact that the later it gets, the more dangerous it becomes. One night a man came up asking for a can of pop but had no money to pay. The store owner refused, so the man pulled out a gun and shot him dead.

The last serious case involved a lady we visited in old Chinatown. She and her husband ran a convenience store. One night she received a phone call from Spanish-speaking thugs who claimed that they had kidnapped her husband. She demanded proof that he was safe, and her husband was allowed to speak to her in Chinese. He told her to give them the money so they would release him. She complied, but two months after she paid the ransom there was still no sign of him.

All the Chinese merchants we knew had been robbed at some point. It is not a matter of if they had been robbed, but how many times. It is true that parts of Panama City (e.g. Chorrillo) and Colon has a high crime rate. But if you look up the statistics there are far more violent cities in Latin America, such as Caracas (Venezuela), Rio (Brazil), Acapulco (Mexico) and Guatemala City.

So is it safe? I believe for a Christian, his safety is in God’s hands. He could be safe in dangerous Honduras, or in danger in “safe” Toronto. Nothing will happen to him without the Lord’s permission. I am not saying that God will always protect and preserve His workers, as there are plenty of missionary stories to show that God does allow bad things to happen to His servants. But what I am saying is that for a Christian worker on kingdom mission, God will keep him safe until he has accomplished His purpose. That could be a short or long time, but in the final analysis, that’s the only thing that matters, not our comfort or happiness. I hope we can all learn to trust in the Lord for everything, including our safety and security. That’s basic discipleship.