Thursday, January 12, 2012

This is MY story {Haiti Earthquake Revisited}

It's funny how some moments in your life you remember SO clearly.
How you felt.
What you were doing.
What the sounds around you were.
What people said or did.
The way time seemed to slow down.
Two years ago today was a day like that for me.

I had just fallen into that deep sleep when the phone rang, which wasn't really that strange to me, having lived the pastoral life for most of my existence. Groaning, Arno trudged out of bed to answer the incessant ringing of his phone after we missed the call on my phone. I knew something was off if someone had tried my phone first at 1 am. As the campus pastor, Arno's phone was accessible to people 24/7 but my number was not out there like his was. So I stumbled out of bed after him. As I hit the hallway of our tiny South African apartment, I think my heart bottomed out to the floor when I saw his ashen face.

"What is it? Just tell me," I said with that monotone calm that often surrounds my body when steeling myself for impending doom.

"That was Ben. There has just been an earthquake in Haiti,
and your sister cannot reach your parents."

Being an "oldest," my "I'll-solve-the-problem" drive kicked into gear. I pulled out my address book, grabbed my phone & computer and planted myself on the corner of the couch with the built-in ottoman, planning to reach my parents within minutes, to confirm how this whole thing was just "blown out of proportion" and then to go back to sleep to rest for the busy day ahead.

Little did I know that I would sit for hours in that exact spot, with little desire to rest or to eat or to drink or even to go to the bathroom. It's like time stood still for hours upon hours. My sister and I held a vigil over Skype that would last throughout my night {7 hours ahead} and hers. {Have I said, "Thank you!" yet this year for the amazing wonder that is technology?}

My emotions ran the gamut -- trust, fear, sorrow, worry, stress, faith, anxiety, hope, concern, belief. In those agonizing hours, I was so thankful for our upbringing of faith through the fire because my sister and I never spoke one word of negativity to each other nor did we listen to anyone who tried to give us fatalistic false reports.

We called and chatted and facebooked and Skyped and tweeted anyone who knew any shred of news, checking on our multitude of childhood friends and their families, hearing they were safe, or not, and then always, "No, we haven't heard from Mom & Dad yet. Would you ask your parents? Do they know what is happening on Delmas?"

Over and over and over again.
The same conversations.
The same results.
"We haven't heard from your parents"
"Parts of Delmas are impassible"

The presidential palace - picture from

"Thank you. Glad you are okay," typed out on the screen seemed not enough.
How do you capture such a magnitude of dread and relief in just a few words?
You cannot....and really no one cared or expected it. We were all surviving in this kind of living statis, needing very little, wanting to just hear one line, "It's all a dream."

Yet, it would not be so. As the hours dragged on, the realization that this nightmare was now my reality became more and more apparent. So I steeled my mind towards dawn, dawn in Haiti. I rationalized, "The earthquake happened at 5 o'clock so Dad couldn't leave Mom and Carole to get to a phone because it would be dangerous in the dark, so as soon as he can in the morning, he will go out and find a way to get in touch with us."

So we waited. Me with this secret belief, "There will be an answer at dawn because it is always 'darkest' before the dawn, right? Right?" My personal thoughts rang hollow in my own ears and yet I held on to my conviction, able to snatch an hour or two of sleep, resting my faith in this dogged determination of mine.

And as the hour struck 6, and then 7, and then 8, my mind rationalized the realities, plotted street routes, worked out reasons why and where and what until finally I found my heart about to burst into the hysterical and my thoughts plagued with the worst conclusion, "What if they are dead? What if I never see them again?"

I heard myself say to my sister, "I have to get off of here. I am not thinking right any more," barely hearing her give me an answer.

Off to my room I went, and I began to weep from the depths of my soul, "You promised me. You promised me, Lord. You promised me that my parents would see their children's children. You promised me. It cannot end like this. I cannot lose them this way. I JUST saw them a few days ago. We had Christmas together. We picked out a tree. We celebrated. We laughed. Oh God, what if I never hear them laugh again? Please God, oh please, God. Please don't take them from me. Please do not let them be gone."

Then, right there, in the quietest and most persistent of ways, He flooded me with His peace, His love, His assurance, His understanding, a reminder that He IS who He says He is. And He tore back the fabric of time for just a moment and I could see them playing and wrestling with their grandchildren. They were strong and agile, not feeble or decrepit. They were most definitely ALIVE!

With peace in my heart now overpowering the relentless anxiety in my chest, I rose up from that place with renewed vigor and purpose.

However, the wait was not yet over.

One last hurdle of faith had to be jumped -- the moment my sister and I had to put our parents on the search & rescue list. It was like being in a Hollywood movie, watching actors play out parts in a drama that had now become my reality. I do not know how adequate words can ever truly thank Yvonne Trimble, Troy & Tara Livesay, The Labadys, and Keith Flanagan for understanding our compelling desperation, stranded miles away unable to forge ahead on our own to see the two we loved more than any other save our husbands, and setting out to give us answers....whatever that might be.

And finally and possibly the greatest moment filled with unspeakable emotion, when those 2 little words, "We're here," popped up on my screen from my mom's Facebook account.

Throughout the nearly-18 hours of waiting, words of love and prayers were feeding through on my mom's page, and while the encouragement was like a healing balm, the words of the enemy would say, "What if she never reads these words? What if this page becomes a memorial to them?" So the moment her chat window popped live, tears fell unabashedly down my face as simultaneously my sister and I typed, "Thank God!"


The journey from that moment until now has been long and hard not just for my family, but for the hundreds of thousands affected by this horrible disaster, and yet, as I type these words, I stand in awe at the faithfulness of a God who SEES what we cannot see, who understands us better than we do ourselves, who knows the beginning from the end.

This is my story.
This is my song.
Praising my Savior,
all the day long.
This is my story.
This is my song.
Praising my Savior,
all the say long.
~Blessed Assurance


Ytrimble said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for mentioning us in your blog. I was so honored and felt so responsible to get to them for you. When I could get down Delmas the devastation became worse the closer we got to your house. I was terrified of what I would find. As we made the left onto your street every house was down on both side of the street. Then I saw their gate standing, their building standing. God is sooo kind, gracious and good. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see your parents. God bless them with many days and many grandchildren to hold, and love and teach of the faithful God we serve.

Meredith said... Best Blogger Tips

God is faithful.
How beautiful how He quieted your heart for a bit in the middle of the darkest hours.

I am SO rejoicing that you were all reunited!!

Meredith said... Best Blogger Tips

Just so you know - I never got this post from feedburner.  You might want to check and make sure everything is okay with your feed.

Lisa said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow. I can't imagine how hard that whole experience must have been for all of you but your writing gives a very close glimpse into it. I love to read your blog. You have an amazing gift of writing. And I believe that the day will come soon when your parents are given God's gift of enjoying the many blessings of their own grandchildren. God bless you all.

Elisebraun said... Best Blogger Tips

wow incredible, thank you fro sharing!  I am friends with Kasi from ORU.

Jminton said... Best Blogger Tips

I can still remembering praying for them, and tears of joy when the news came they where safe. Thanks for sharing

Meredith said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh... It FINALLY came to my inbox this morning. Weird. So. Panic time over. :/  Lol

kd sullivan said... Best Blogger Tips

This had me on the edge of my seat!  So glad for His faithfulness.

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

It was a horrible and yet truly REAL time knowing God's presence.

On the feedburner thing...I think it only goes through like after midnight of the next day...I suppose I need to change the setting on it somewhere...haven't messed with that at all.

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, Lisa! Your words bless me, encourage me, challenge me. Thank you for taking time to stop by and read.

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh...Elise! Thank you for coming over here and sharing in this memory with us.

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for your prayers...We ALL needed it!

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, thank you...what a 24 hours it was!!

lindseyfoj said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh...your part in my story...there are no words.

Thank you for your words, your kindness, your heart.

LoveFeast said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for sharing your story. I felt the roller coaster of faith of knowing who He is and yet in human-ness the reality of your flesh wanting to give over to fear...then the beauty of Him meeting you and giving you His peace that passes all understanding. Beautiful. I'm going to share your blog with a young lady who went on her first missions trip to Haiti last year. It rocked her world and God is sending her out again. I know she will be blessed by your story. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails