When the Earth Moves

(From our ministry blog about our first earthquake yesterday.)

Yesterday began like a normal day. We got up at 6, everyone got showered and/or dressed for the day, we ate breakfast, the kids and I fixed their lunches, and we made sure all the previous day's homework had made it successfully back into the bags for the short trek to school. Just moments before we left the house, Troy huddled us all together and read the Psalm for the day (Psalm 5), then Cody led the family in prayer.

Here is Psalm 5 in its entirety:

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

In the morning you hear my voice... Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them... For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

These are verses that were especially poignant to us later in the morning.

School begins at 7:30. After the first hour, we take a short break and move on to our second class. For me, that means staying in the same room for both hours (both hours make up my grammar class). My room is on the second floor of the building. With the windows open and the ceiling fan on, there is the most delicious breeze up there. Troy's two morning classes are downstairs (I believe his last 2 hours of the day make up his grammar class, but I'm not positive. As it always took me at least a month into a new semester during his seminary days to know his schedule, so it is here. I'm happy enough just to know my own!)

Just after we'd begun the second part of my grammar session, my desk started shaking. At first, I thought the man behind me had his feet on it and was really nervous about something. It was that soft. Then, the shaking became more intense and I realized with a jolt that he was not shaking my chair: we were experiencing our first earthquake! The first bit of it lasted just a few seconds, then it briefly stopped. We all looked at each other and at the teacher. He was perfectly calm, and looked as if he believed it was over. But it wasn't. When the room began very intensely shaking (I was actually getting quite nauseous at this point from the motion), my teacher marshaled us out the door. He remained calm throughout, but the sharpness in his tone relayed the urgency of the situation. As calmly as individuals who have never experienced an earthquake can be, we quickly walked down the stairs and congregated on the sidewalk in front of the building. I was immediately panicked for the children. Were they okay? Were they hurt? Were they as scared as I was? I felt a check in my soul about immediately rushing to them, and I believe that was a good thing. Troy is much calmer in emergency situations than I am, and as his class evacuated, instead of heading to the parking lot (which was what the rest of us were told to do), he immediately went to check on the kids. Because of his attitude upon discovering them ("Hey, guys wasn't that cool?"), the kids had a better initial outlook upon the situation than they would've if Mama had come flying down the stairs, gathering them all up in her arms and weeping over them.

Once the adults had gathered in the upper parking lot (our designated meeting place for emergencies) and the kids had gathered in the lower playground (their designated meeting place for emergencies), the adults met in the chapel to pray and to catch our breaths. Most of the Spanish teachers are women, many mothers concerned about their own children. It was at that point that someone looked up the information. That the epicenter was in a town on the NW Pacific coast (about 88 miles from San Jose), that it was a 7.6 on the Richter scale, and that due to its location, a tsunami warning had been issued up and down the Pacific coast from Mexico to Peru. Thankfully, it was cancelled shortly afterward without any tsunamis reported. We rejoiced that, aside from some books that fell off the shelves in the library and a few clocks that fell off the wall, there was no damage to the campus. There were no injuries, and everyone was okay. What a miracle!

I couldn't help but remember the Psalm Troy had read just a few hours before. God had indeed been our refuge and our shield during the earthquake. He protected us from harm. He protected the campus from harm. In all of Costa Rica, there was only 1 death reported, and that was a heart-attack due to fright! Praise the Lord! Yes, there was some damage closer to the epicenter, and so we need to keep those families and communities in our prayers as they work to clean up and rebuild.

Our own home didn't come out of it completely unscathed either. During the earthquake, our hot-water pipes (we have a regular, full-sized water heater, something that is extremely rare in Costa Rica) burst and flooded our first floor. If it weren't for the large gap underneath the front door and the fact that our front terrace slopes down to the street, we would've come home to a real mess! As it was, water filled the utility room, the downstairs bathroom, the kitchen, the front bedroom, and then the living room before pouring out underneath the front door. As God would have it, our next door neighbors do most of their language study through tutoring, and so they were all at home during the quake and noticed water first trickling in the street in front of our house and then gushing. We still have not gotten a cell phone, so they called the school and someone at the school found Troy and brought him to the house so he could let them in. Someone else called our landlord, who came right over. Our neighbors and several other families as well all came over to help in the cleanup. By the time school let out early and the kids and I came home about an hour or so later, the 2-3 inches of water in our house was gone (yay for tile floors and squeegees! I don't even want to think how badly it would've been if we'd been in the States with carpet or wooden floors!), the landlord's furniture was upended so that it could dry, and several fans were placed throughout the first floor to help speed the drying process. Of everything that could have been ruined (mostly electronics), only the power cord for our computer was ruined! Everything is back to normal in the house, with only a couple fans left running to dispel the moisture from the hard-to-reach places. I am so thankful for our ILE family who rushed into action to help us in our time of need. We truly are blessed to be here among such amazing brothers and sisters in Christ.

While the furniture dried, we decided to do something fun, and so hopped in a couple taxis and went to eat lunch at the mall food court (Wendy's burgers and Frostys taste exactly like those back home! Yay!). After lunch, we walked through one of the department stores and saw that they had not been as fortunate during the earthquake. In their home section, there were glasses, vases, and picture frames broken. There was glass on the floor where they hadn't yet had a chance to clean. Some of the glasses in displays had tipped over into other glasses and shattered. It was a mess.

At home, we let the kids eat the sandwiches they'd prepared for lunch and then Mama made a double batch of the Ghirardelli brownies (a store called Price Smart sells a huge box of brownie mix. You get 6- 8x8 pan-sized packets, or 3- 9x13 pan-sized packets in each box, depending upon how big a batch you want to make) that are soooo good. If we always do ice cream after painful medical procedures, I figured something warm and sweet was in order after a major disaster.

For the most part, while we didn't enjoy the fright of the experience, most of us realized that it was not something that would be repeated. We might feel aftershocks, but we knew they wouldn't be as severe as the original quake. We also weren't expecting a quake with each loud sound (earthquakes are quite loud!). But as the day progressed, it became clear that some of the kids--Tori in particular--was actually quite terrified of a repeat performance. Every little sound spooked her. To top it all off, we had quite a thunderstorm last night--something else that just freaks her out. Between the storm and her terror over the earthquake and that another one would come, or that something would fall on her head, it was quite a long time before she was able to get to sleep. I even appealed to many of you and our other supporters and friends on Facebook, asking for prayer for her and for the other kids. At about 11 PM, she came into my room literally shaking in fear. I had her snuggled under the covers with me and spent about 15 minutes holding her tightly and praying over her silently. I rebuked the fear and Satan's attempt to paralyze her with that fear. I prayed God's peace over her, especially that God would fill her with a soothing peace and calmness to help her immediately be able to rest. She went back to her bed and I did not see her the rest of the night. She told me this morning that as soon as she laid down, she went right to sleep. Praise God for answered prayer! Thank you for praying for Tori especially. God answered our prayers for her last night!

This morning, it became clear to me that she was not the only one who'd been struggling with fear during the night. One of the boys said to me when I came downstairs, "Mama! We're still alive!" I pray that as each day passes, the fear that we will have another earthquake, or that things will fall on them in their sleep lessens and passes. I pray that my children--all of us--remember our verses in Psalms.

Yesterday, when the earth moved, God was our very real refuge and shield. Praise God! Let us remember that any time our world seems to move--whether literally or because of situations or circumstances beyond our control.

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