It was just a week ago when Ecuador, a country that is near and dear to my heart, suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The toll has been devastating—654 dead thus far; around 16,600 injured; 58 still missing; 7000 buildings destroyed; more than 25,000 people living in shelters. During this last week there have been more than 700 aftershocks and several strong tremors, one measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale. Experts say the tremors will continue for weeks, possibly months, to come.
My daughter’s family lives in Ecuador where they are missionaries. The earthquake occurred on the coast, about three hours from where the Naranjos live in the Andean mountain city of Cuenca. They felt it, and continue to feel many of the aftershocks, but Cuenca was spared the destruction that the coastal region suffered. Although other parts of the city were shaken more strongly, for the most part, the Naranjos’ home—and their nerves—have only been rattled. Many from their city, including the Naranjos, are donating supplies and some of their friends who have special skills or equipment are going to the stricken areas to help.
One story, however, struck particularly close to home for the Naranjos. One of the men in their church is a Gideon. Ivan is often gone on Sundays because he is in other churches sharing the ministry of Gideons, which focuses on Bible distribution. Last weekend he was supposed to go to a three day meeting of the Gideons on the coast and present some reports. He called Fernando a few days before and told him he would not be in their church on Sunday. Normally that is fine and they appreciate and understand Ivan’s work in the Gideons, but this time Fernando asked him if there was any way at all he could get out of going. They were having a very special service on Sunday and Fernando really wanted Ivan to be there. Ivan called one of the other Gideons and told him he would not be at the meeting because he felt he needed to be at his own church. A couple hours later the man called him back and said they had decided to postpone the whole weekend because they really needed Ivan to be there to give his reports. It turned out that the house where the meeting was to be held was flattened like a pancake during the earthquake at the exact time the Gideons would have been meeting. Most likely, all those meeting in that house would have been killed. As it turned out, six of those men who lived on the coast did lose their homes, but praise the Lord for His protection of these Gideons who faithfully try to spread His Word!
As the week wore on, Laurie came to the point where she could not even watch the reports anymore. They were too heartbreaking and she could not get past the thought, what if that had been our family in the midst of all that devastation? How would we provide for our children? What would we do? As Christians, of course, we know that God is in control and that we can, we must trust in Him, but we have all wondered how we would deal with the day to day hardships in such a tragic situation.
Thousands on the coast of Ecuador are struggling with the reality of those questions as their lives have crumbled around them. Life for most of them, who were already in poverty, has become a thousand times more difficult. The new normal for many weeks, months and perhaps even years to come will be trying to cope with the death, destruction, devastation and despair the earthquake left behind. We can only pray that from it many will turn to the Lord for strength and comfort and that eventually, as they rebuild, the result will be better than what they had before.
It only takes an instant for our world to change, perhaps even to crumble. When it happens – not if it happens, for one way or another we will be touched by change – will we crumble along with it? Are our foundations strong enough, our roots deep enough, to withstand the earthquakes of life? We sometimes go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop and fearful of that day when life will no longer be normal and we will be faced with the unexpected, the unthinkable, the unknown. Are we prepared?
A big part of the problem in Ecuador was the poor construction of the buildings and infrastructure in the earthquake-stricken areas. If our lives have weak foundations we will be hard-pressed to withstand the major trials and changes of life. Jesus said that He is the foundation upon whom we ought to build our lives. Luke 6: 47-48 says, “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could **-not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” When we have given our lives to Him, and truly trust Him to do what is best for us, we can live our lives without fear now and face with peace and hope whatever comes in the future.
If I ever have to face such a terrible calamity as this, I pray my faith would remain strong. Whether it wavers or not, though, I know this one thing, He is faithful and will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5b) Who knows what a day will bring forth? God knows. We can choose to look forward to the future with expectancy and hope, as my husband likes to say, or we can live fearfully, afraid of whatever will rock our world. I like life at “normal,” but when it goes off-balance or crumbles altogether, may my foundation hold. “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)