The end of the world as we know it...
Niagara Falls, featured in the lower left of the plate, was the last highlight stop of our family vacation around America the summer I was 9 years old. Leaving Philadelphia we went south along the Blue Ridge Parkway to my maternal grandparents in Tennessee. Returning to our RV from playing arcade games at Atlanta International Airport we interrupted men with a knife approaching our RV in which my Dad slept. I believe God used His Timing and my desire to play games to protect us that night for otherwise we’d have all been inside the RV when the knife was used to pry open the door[i]. We celebrated July 4 in Jackson MS after exploring the civil war battlefield of Vicksburg. We went to the Texas School Book Depository from which Oswald shot JFK, White Sands & Carlsbad Caverns in NM, saw a Gila Monster and the Grand Canyon in AZ, fed chipmunks at a beach in Southern California and rode a Trolley Car in San Franciso crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and saw my first tide pools in Brookings, the Sea Lion Caves and a wildlife place on Highway 101 on Sabbath before spending Saturday night with friends on a beachside cabin in Gig Harbor. Rode a ferry to Seattle, saw the Space Needle and ate at Old Spaghetti Factory; crossed into Idaho—the state I’d written my report on, soaked in hot spring fed pool in American Falls and then stopped by Mt. Rushmore but didn’t see it due to fog and wound up at Niagara Falls where we rode the Maid of the Mist boat tour and were awed by the massive falls. My paternal grandparents gave me a book, Blondin: Hero of Niagara about a French aerialist who crossed the Niagara River on a tightrope right near the falls. Many Christians have used this to illustrate the difference between belief and faith. People believed he could but no one wanted to get in the wheelbarrow. Finally, his manager got on his back and illustrated faith by riding across on his back.
The New York City skyline is featured on the lower right of the plate and features prominently in my own faith story. In August 2001, en route to be best man in Nick’s wedding, I flew past the World Trade Center on a sunny day and it gleamed in all its glory. My return flight booked to return on the Newark to San Francisco flight. On September 11, 2001 as we watched reruns of the planes flying into buildings and the buildings collapsing, I read where Ellen G. White, who died in 1915, had written, “On one occasion, when in New York city, I was in the night season called upon to behold buildings rising story after story toward heaven. These buildings were warranted to be fireproof, and they were erected to glorify their owners and builders. Higher[ii] and still higher these buildings rose, and in them the most costly material was used. Those to whom these buildings belonged were not asking themselves: ‘How can we best glorify God?’ The Lord was not in their thoughts…As these lofty buildings went up, the owners rejoiced with ambitious pride that they had money to use in gratifying self and provoking the envy of their neighbors. Much of the money that they thus invested had been obtained through exaction, through grinding down the poor. They forgot that in heaven an account of every business transaction is kept; every unjust deal, every fraudulent act, is there recorded…The scene that next passed before me was an alarm of fire. Men looked at the lofty and supposedly fire-proof buildings and said: ‘They are perfectly safe.’ But these buildings were consumed as if made of pitch. The fire engines could do nothing to stay the destruction. The firemen were unable to operate the engines.” Testimonies for the Church Vol. 9 p. 12-13 Pacific Press (1948). As my fiancée and I walked that evening, I quoted a line from an REM song, ‘this is the end of the world as we know it…” and resolved to trade out pop music for listening to the Bible. The title of the chapter, “The Last Great Crisis” and the fact to me that God had revealed something to her that I saw with my own eyes led me to prioritize Christ in a way I’d never done before. Having been raised by Christian parents, I’d always believed to the point of ending a relationship over Sabbath with my Lutheran girlfriend, but I wasn’t on fire for Christ before 9/11. Four planes crashed on September 11, including Flight 93 which was originally scheduled to fly Newark to San Francisco.
The Bible tells of the Tower of Babel built in disregard of God’s instruction to, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’ Genesis 9:1 (NIV) (emphasis added)
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:1-9 (NIV) (emphasis added)
Today in New York City more than 400 languages are spoken, the top eleven being: English, Spanish (14.71%), Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin) (3.18%); Russian (1.22%), Yiddish, Pennsylvania Dutch or other West Germanic languages; Haitian, Italian, Bengali, French (including Cajun), Arabic, Korean.[iii]"This is the city with the highest linguistic density in the world and that is mostly because the city draws large numbers of immigrants in almost equal parts from all over the globe - that is unique to New York," says Daniel Kaufman, who helped found Endangered Language Alliance, an urban initiative for endangered language research and conservation.[iv]
[i] The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalms 34:7 (NIV) [ii] In 1778 the state of New York adopted a coat of arms incorporating the motto “Excelsior,” Latin for “Higher.” [iii][iii] https://acutrans.com/top-10-languages-of-new-york/ [iv][iv] Turin, Dr. Mark, New York a Graveyard for Languages, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20716344