The Creeslough tragedy

For a village of some 400 inhabitants, the sudden death, in a gas explosion at a shop and filling station, of ten of its villagers with ages ranging from five to fifty nine, is an unspeakable catastrophe.

We can only stand at a distance and grieve for those whose families have suffered such a loss. It seems so empty to give expression to sorrow but as one who has witnessed devastation on a similar scale on many occasions in my lifetime we can but offer sympathy and, above all, remember the sorrowing in prayer.

 (top row, left to right) Leona Harper, 14, Robert Garwe, 50, Shauna Flanagan Garwe, five, Jessica Gallagher, 24, and James O’Flaherty, 48, and (bottom row, left to right) Martina Martin, 49, Hugh Kelly, 59, Catherine O’Donnell, 39, her 13-year-old son James Monaghan, and Martin McGill, 49, the ten victims of explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal on Friday, 7th October.

There is One, only One, Who can comfort in such circumstances and He is the One spoken of in our old hymn:

Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus

He’s the only one who cares and understands.

Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him

and you’ll know Him by the nail prints in his hand

Some may point the finger at the Lord and blame Him for such a tragedy but to do so is wrong, very wrong! The ancient patriarch Job sets the standard and the pattern we must adopt in such circumstances. What sorrow came on that man in a moment!

We can read the story of his unparalleled grief in Job 1:13-22.

His reaction to the news of the loss of all he had, particularly the loss of his whole family, is legendary!

“While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

It is equally wrong to think that those who died in what is being declared an accident, as deserving of such a fate. Again we turn to the Bible for guidance. This time to the New Testament and the words of the Lord Jesus.

“ There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke 13:1-5.

Surely in these words the Saviour points out to us that such is the general state of mankind in the eyes of God, guilty of sin and defiance of Him and His Law, that we ALL deserve to be cut off.

Jeremiah, in the horrific wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of its citizens by the Babylonians back in AD 586, put the matter succinctly. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not,” Lamentations 3:22.

Escaping such a tragedy does not make us better than those who perished and being victims of such a catastrophe does not make those who died, worse!

Let us seek to obey Paul’s command to the saints of God at Rome: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep,” Romans 12:15.


Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster