We all got a good laugh about the few people who actually believed the rapture was coming on 5.21.11; but there are far more than just a few people who believed the rapture was coming.
“The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and websites by Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction. According to Camping, the destruction was likely to have begun its worldwide march as it became 6 p.m. in the various time zones, although some believers said Saturday the exact timing was never written in stone.
In New York’s Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, said he was surprised when 6 p.m. came and went. He had spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world.
“I can’t tell you what I feel right now,” he said, surrounded by tourists. “I don’t understand it. I don’t know. I don’t understand what happened.
“Obviously, I haven’t understood it correctly because we’re still here,” he said.
Many followers said though the sun rose Saturday without the foretold earthquakes, plagues, and other calamities, the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.
“It’s still May 21 and God’s going to bring it,” said Family Radio’s special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, who spent Saturday morning praying and drinking two last cups of coffee with his wife at home in Alameda. “When you say something and it doesn’t happen, your pride is what’s hurt. But who needs pride? God said he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”
Camping’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a modest building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business. Family Radio International’s message has been broadcast in 61 languages. He has said that his earlier apocalyptic prediction in 1994 didn’t come true because of a mathematical error.
“I’m not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature,” he told The Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, “there is…no possibility that it will not happen.”
Camping has preached that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in a series of scourges visiting Earth until the globe is consumed by a fireball on Oct. 21.
Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy. One local church was concerned that Camping’s followers could slip into a deep depression come Sunday.
Pastor Jacob Denys of Milpitas-based Calvary Bible Church planned to wait outside the nonprofit’s headquarters on Saturday afternoon, hoping to counsel believers who may be disillusioned if the Rapture does not occur.
“The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher,” he said. “We’re not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope.”
As the day drew nearer, followers reported that donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the doomsday message. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.
Marie Exley, who helped put up apocalypse-themed billboards in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, said the money allowed the nonprofit to reach as many souls as possible.
She said she and her husband, mother and brother read the Bible and stayed close to the television news on Friday night awaiting word of an earthquake in the southern hemisphere. When that did not happen, she said fellow believers began reaching out to reassure one another of their faith.
“Some people were saying it was going to be an earthquake at that specific time in New Zealand and be a rolling judgment, but God is keeping us in our place and saying you may know the day but you don’t know the hour,” she said Saturday, speaking from Bozeman, Mont. “The day is not over, it’s just the morning, and we have to endure until the end.”
Camping, who lives few miles from his radio station, was not home late morning Saturday.
But Sheila Doan, 65, Camping’s next-door-neighbor of 40 years, was outside gardening. She said the worldwide spotlight on his May 21 forecast has attracted far more attention than Camping’s 1994 prediction.
Doan said she is a Christian and while she respects her neighbor, she doesn’t share his views.
“I wouldn’t consider Mr. Camping a close friend and wouldn’t have him over for dinner or anything, but if he needs anything, we are there for him,” Doan said.
- Source: The Associated Press
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