The earth shook and rippled with a frightening force. High-rise buildings swayed and people trembled. October 17, the day the earthquake struck San Francisco, is a time all who were here will long remember.
When the earthquake struck at 5:04, I was at Candlestick Park with other Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers handing out the broadside we had written just for that World Series game. In seconds, the whole mood of the crowd changed. Gone was the air of fun and frivolity as 60,000 fans who had come to enjoy a baseball game realized the harsh reality of what had just happened. Instead of winning or losing, destruction and aftershocks became the focus of our attention.
Before the game I had been joking with people, trying hard to make our gospel tract relevant to the occasion. Fifteen seconds of tragedy changed everything. I began to speak to people about the urgency of turning to God, and to some of the fans this now made sense.
The next day a team of staff workers and I were in downtown San Francisco handing out some of our special broadsides, The Earthquake Factor.” I handed one to a young man with long hair. He was sauntering down the street with a carefree look. For him the events of the past day were far removed, as if nothing had happened.
I handed him a broadside and told him that now would be a good time for him to put his life on the Rock that could not be shaken. His name was Adam. He told me that he had no problem with the earthquake. In fact he said that during the earthquake he and a friend had been dancing and enjoying the rocking and rolling of the ground. I told him that while he had been laughing, others had been dying, and it was only God’s goodness that had spared him.
That thought had a sobering effect upon the young man. He looked at me with a pained expression as if to say, “Maybe I do need to be closer to God.” As I explained the gospel to Adam, I told him that through the first Adam sin had come into the world, but now, through Jesus, he could be forgiven of sin and have new life.
There on a debris-ridden street in downtown San Francisco, Adam prayed to receive Jesus into his life. In the midst of a day of tragedy, Adam found new life.
I know that there are other people in this city and the rest of the Bay Area who have started on a path toward committing their lives to Jesus as a result of that sobering fifteen seconds on October 17, 1989.