Thursday, April 24, 2014

Earthquake Disaster

It seems everyone loves those moments when missionaries are totally transparent. Even other missionaries love unfettered honesty. Those "Uh oh. I'm human" blog posts get more view counts than any others. I guess it encourages us to know we aren't alone in our imperfection. There are others who struggle with not having all the answers or making wrong decisions.

And, alas... today's post is such a moment. I will declare it up front: Uh oh. I am human.

Now, with that out of the way, let me explain. When we were preparing to move to our new country in Southern Asia, we tried our best to prepare the children for some things before we moved here. We talked to them about cultural differences. We taught them about how to stay healthy by avoiding the water. We taught them about the language barrier and how we, as a family, would deal with it.

For some things we had to wait to teach them until we actually arrived. We taught them how to dress for the weather. We taught them how to safely be a passenger on a motorcycle or scooter. We taught them how to shop and how to interact with the people.

One of the things we had been putting off even after our arrival was teaching them about earthquake preparedness. We had moved from our sweet, safe little town in Western North Carolina to a country sitting right on top of a fault line. We have never had to deal with the thought of earthquakes before, so this was all new. A friend sent me an earthquake preparedness manual, and I thought now was as good a time as any to cover the topic. I remembered doing fire drills in school as I was growing up, so I thought I would deal with this danger with the same blunt matter-of-factness. Boy, was I mistaken.

We were sitting down at the dinner table as a family. Everyone was relaxed, so I thought it would be a great time to bring up the discussion.

I told them we were sitting on a fault line, so earthquakes are a real possibility. (After all, we had a 5.4 earthquake several months ago.) Then we began talking about what they would need to do if an earthquake started. Their eyes got very big. Talking about earthquakes was fun until they realized how real the possibility was. As I saw the look on their faces, I began being more selective about my words... The "triangle of life" was relabeled "the triangle of safety," for example. My relabeling, however, came too late.

My 14 year old son, who is almost 6 foot 5 inches tall, said, "Mom, you're scaring me. Are you serious?" Oh dear... what have I done?! At the same time, we cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend the possibility isn't there, though it sure was easier to ignore it!

So, lesson 1 on earthquakes was off to a very shaky start to say the least.

Daddy picked up on their fear. God put a wonderful devotion on his heart for that evening's family devotions.

Philippians 4:6-7 "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

He talked about Job and how Job glorified God even though disasters came in his life. He told them about how God protected the three Hebrew young men in the furnace. They seemed to all really connect with it. I know it really helped me!

There was no further discussion about earthquakes... until bedtime. I went in Ben's room and found him stuffing all his prized possessions in a little nook between his bed and his desk. He even had a flashlight and book there. (Great. I have scarred them for life.)

Then after everyone got in bed, the younger boy (7 yo) came into our room telling us he couldn't sleep because he kept thinking about the earthquake. When we told him there was nothing to fear, he replied, "That's because you are adults. You don't get scared. You aren't little like me." (Oh, if only that were true.)

We sent him back to bed, and told him it would help if he prayed... a really, really long prayer... with his eyes closed. Sure enough, we heard him in there praying for several minutes until he drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I got up and did my usual routine. I decided to stop in the children's rooms to see how they did on cleaning them. I found Ben's stash of earthquake-safe items still in the same location. Then I went to Gabe's room. I found all his stuffed animals lined up on the edge of his bed. I called him to his room.

"Gabe, these stuffed animals need to be put away where they belong."

"Mom, I was practicing with them. I put them on the edge of the bed to see how long it would take me to get them in the triangle with me." Apparently, he practiced timing himself several times that morning. Sigh.

A friend came to visit our daughter that day. The friend barely came through the door when Gabe began telling her, "Have you heard about the earthquake? There's a big 9.0 earthquake coming most likely today or tomorrow!" WHAT?!!! Oh dear...

I quickly ended that conversation before the paranoia spread to another child.

We went to church on Easter (Resurrection) Sunday. The preacher read, "And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven..." (Matt. 28:2) I felt Gabe nudge me. His eyes were wide open.

Jason passed by Gabe's room a couple of days ago and heard Gabe telling his stuffed animals, "It's been three days and the earthquake still hasn't come yet. I don't know why."

I was very encouraged to find Ben's "bunker" was cleaned out. His fear apparently has subsided. Little by little, the talk of earthquakes is becoming less and less. Dare I introduce the next part of earthquake preparedness?

All this fear reminds me of the beginning of the book of Joshua. Over and over again, God kept telling Joshua to be strong and of a good courage... not to be afraid. Why did He keep telling Joshua that? Because, just like children, when we are faced with a big, dangerous task, we are tempted to let the possibilities grip us with fear. We begin dwelling on the dangers, and before we know it, those thoughts consume us.

I remember when we were preparing to move here, there was a time when I was gripped with fear about the safety of my children as well as the fear of the heartbreaking goodbyes we would soon face. It plagued my thoughts and my heart.

Just like I had to keep reminding my children that there was nothing to fear and that God was with us, God comforted and prepared Joshua. And just like He comforted and prepared Joshua, God comforted and prepared me about moving here.

What fears threaten to grip you? Fear of persecution? Fear of something harming your children? Fear of failure? Fear of not having enough money to meet needs? Fear of thinking outside the box and trying something new? Fear of...

Joshua 1:9 "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Need to overcome your fears? Quit dwelling on the possibilities and dwell on the facts.

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things."

by Charity, Southern Asia


Lou Ann Keiser said...

Powerful, Charity! Very good application, and I loved your story and pictures, especially the "attractive" teeth one. :o)

Donna said...

Good post! We've all been there at one time or another.

Aleassa said...

"So, lesson 1 on earthquakes was off to a very shaky start to say the least." HAHA!

Loved this post, I can relate. I often find myself dwelling on fears for my children's safety and having to give them back to the Lord. Thank you for sharing!

Amy Meyers said...

Josh 1:9 was my favorite verse as a child, and my mom kindly suggested I pick it again as my favorite when I became a missionary. The "whithersoever thou goest" part is wonderfully reassuring.