17 May 2011

A Matter of Time

I just couldn’t figure it out. Why there was someone on the roof, that is. Or why that person was making such a racket stomping around up there.

It was a sticky Friday afternoon after a long week that included a retirement party for our mentors, a flashflood of sorts, a trip to the newly converted Walmart, and our first test in grammar class, just to hit the highlights. 

It has rained quite a bit here, but this was our first torrential rain that turned the streets into rivers for several hours.  It even flooded through the roof of one of the families homes. Thankfully all houses here have tile floors!

I was instant messaging with friends back home and letting my brain relax. My Tico family had company over for the afternoon coffee break and they were chatting nonstop at the other end of the house. When I first heard the slight rattling I was just confused, trying to place the origin of the sound. I paused and stood up, deciding if I should go see what was going on. Suddenly the rattling turned into shaking, swaying, and rumbling, and that’s when it hit me (pun intended)… earthquake!  I’m a little embarrassed it took me so long to identify what was happening, but you have to remember, I’ve never lived anywhere with tremors, so that’s not the first thing my brain jumps to when attempting to explain strange phenomena. When it finally dawned on me, to be honest my first thought was, “Cool!” eventually followed by, “I guess I should go stand in a doorframe like they always tell you.” I stood in my bedroom door, watching the mirror in the hall swing wildly and listening to Josefa, Brittany’s Tica mom, shrieking next door in the carport.

Gradually the trembling subsided, and I stood for a minute listening for my Tico family in an attempt to gauge my response by theirs. Maricela, my Tica mom was calming down her 11-month-old grandson, Matias, who had been fine during the earthquake until Josefa’s hysteric screams terrified him. The others remarked that it was a pretty strong “terremoto,” and then promptly returned to what they were doing. I’ve felt weak tremors before, once in Japan and once in Haiti, but this was by far the most significant shake I’ve experienced, and I’ll admit it got my adrenaline pumping. It was apparently pretty strong, about a 6.0 according to the USGS (get the stats here), but thankfully it was deep in the earth so the damages were minimal across the country. Allen, one of our local supervisors, called to check on me a few minutes after. When I answered the phone he said in his steady Texas drawl, “Well I ordered up a good shaking for ya, just wanted to see how ya liked it.”

In sum, it was an exciting Friday the 13th, and although I didn’t find it all that frightening, it did bring up some sobering realities. First of all, the earth is crazy. In the midst of an earthquake you can’t know if it’s just going to stop with a little shake, or turn into a cataclysmic disaster. And unlike the hurricanes I grew up with, there’s not any real warning or way to prepare for the ravages of an earthquake. Having been in Haiti a couple of months after their devastating quake, I’ve seen firsthand the destruction of structures and lives. I’ve talked with people who were miraculously saved and with others who lost loved ones, seen the mass graves and the buildings that collapsed into tombs, and tried to understand the psychological toll that the trauma and fear continues to exact on the people who survived. God has used the disaster to His glory and the country has seen tremendous revival, but many more continue to live in fear, and in that one day thousands perished without a saving knowledge of Christ. It was the same in Japan and it would be the same in Costa Rica, or California for that matter. It’s only a matter of time. And that “matter” is that time is running out.

"Christ is the answer. Exodus 14:14"
Our little quake was a good reminder to me that time is short and the work is urgent. Even without massive natural disasters, everyone we encounter is getting closer to eternity every minute, and we cannot know how much time they, or we, have left. People need Jesus, and they need Him now. Sometimes the disasters we face are physical, sometimes they are personal but just as devastating. The ground may split open or you may feel like your life is crumbling, but Jesus will still stand as a firm foundation. Listen to the promise from Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” 

And in Psalm 46:1-3 we are told, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” 

I’m ashamed to think about how many times I’ve let timidity or simple unconcern keep me from sharing that truth with people who desperately needed it. I pray that I will better keep the exigency of the task in mind on a daily basis, and that when I forget, that God might shake me out of my complacency yet again.

Heat lightning over the mountains. This is looking south from our language school. I'm pretty sure those are the lights of Desamparados.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you referenced Isaiah 54:10, but you forgot the best part of that verse! It concludes with, "...says the Lord, who has compassion on you." Praise God for his compassion towards us, because we are so undeserving. That's what I think of when I think of the people in Haiti; the Lord's compassion.

    I'm going back there next month! I'll keep the things you've shared here in mind. It's not easy to be bold, but it's crucial. You're in my prayers, sweet friend. Think of me while I'm gone (June 9th-17th).

    Lovin you!!