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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Come Hell or High Water,
We Are in God's Hands [Psalm 139:7-10]

A couple weeks back, I mentioned that I was entering the busiest days of our school year and would not be writing for a while.  I’ve been posting pictures of my granddaughter, etc., but this feels more like Facebooking than "writing" in that I’m just sharing news about my family—or in this case, some real news affecting my family.

Between all the headlines about the BP’s attempts to secure its oil spill in the gulf, Arizona’s attempt to secure its border with Mexico, and Israel’s attempt to secure its borders on the Mediterranean, one could get the feeling that the world is feeling pretty insecure right now, and it is.

One thing each of those stories has in common is that they are more or less caused by man. That is not the case with the event that has been on our minds since last Thursday. We first heard about it in a text message from our daughter Kimberly who simple told us she was safe and not to worry. We had not yet heard anything on TV or the Radio. In fact, nearly all of the information below, I had to research on my own. There has not been much main-stream news coverage about it. First some background:

Our daughter attends college in Chicago where met a fine young man from Indiana. He has lived in Guatemala for nearly ten years with his missionary parents.
(I nabbed these two recent pictures from Kim's Facebook page BEFORE the event happened. Other photos are from the linked articles. Double-click to enlarge.) 

His name is Nate; they've been dating for over a year. We have enjoyed his company in our home on a number of occasions (since we live just 2.5 hours from Chicago). The last time he was with us, he asked permission to take Kim to Guatemala to meet his parents at the close of the school year. We understand the importance of such meetings at this time in their life and gladly agreed to the trip. Kim had her passport from last summer’s  work in Croatia, so it was simply a matter of getting an airplane ticket, which was surprisingly reasonable.

So two weekends ago, Kim and Nate flew down to Guatemala and were having a nice time visiting and working alongside Nate’s parents (whose ministry to the people of that region is worthy of much more than this brief mention). There days also included some recreational trips to the mountains and jungles and other points of interest, like the Pakaya Volcano a few miles from Nate's home.

Nate and his brother (and thousands of tourists annually) have climbed that volcano in recent years, but Kim and Nate merely looked at it in the distance. [That is not them in the picture.] Based on the years Julie and I visited each others "stomping grounds" when we were dating, we know it is  important to add the dimension of “past” to present relationships. We are very happy Kim has been able to see the places Nate knew during those formative teen years. We feel we have gotten to know Nate's family much better through the emails, text messages, phone calls, and Facebook updates since Kim has been there. This has been especially true during the past five days.

You see, Kim and Nate were supposed to be back in Michigan last Sunday night, but God saw fit to let them share a different adventure for an additional week.

Thursday night, they felt the earth shaking and soon afterwards it began “snowing” black ash. Pakaya "has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala.... After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965..." and has been considered active ever since, but Thursday's eruption was the most devastating display Pakaya has shown in the nearly ten years that Nate's family has lived there. No Kim and Nate were not hiking the mountain when it happened. (One reporter and some curious people who were present were killed.)

When all was said and done, there were three inches of ash on everything including the commercial jets at the airport Kim would have departed from the next day. Instead, all flights were cancelled. Kim called to inform us that it would be a day or two before the airport was open for business. But wait; it gets worse.

As we all know from the Oil Spill Story in the gulf, we are also now officially in that region’s hurricane season. Guatemala also has a hurricane season and two days after the volcano erupted, as they were trying to dig out from the ash, tropical storm Agatha hit the same area. This was a torrential downpour that led to flooding. People unfamiliar with volcanic ash might think that the rain would help the clean-up process. But what happens when a downpour  sends millions of tons of volcanic ash into one of the worst sewer systems in the semi-modern world? The system clogs with mortar-like mud. Once the drainage system breaks down all that flowing water rushes through an enormous underground cavern system that is honeycombed under much of Guatemala’s populated areas.

This sink hole from this past weekend is not an optical illusion. They have happened before in Guatemala. It is a clean “bottomless pit” that dropped like an elevator shaft 30 stories down into the earth. Can you imagine the epic feelings of ancient and eternal fears that overwhelmed the first person who discovered that hole after it opened up at that intersection? There’s really no way of knowing if anyone discovered it by falling in because far down at the bottom of it are the raging waters that carved out the caverns in the first place. It gives me the creeps just looking at the picture. I don't suppose there is any way to fill such a sink hole. In a wealthy nation, I suppose there would be a way to build a bridge over it and make it a tourist attraction. But as you can see from the footage below, Guatemala is not a wealthy nation. Days later, they have still not even put barricades around the site.

Over 150 have died in the aftermath of the volcano and storm and 100 others are missing. Kim is safe with Nate’s family and we are getting daily updates. I am confident that whatever their relationship may be in the future (which is not for me to guess or discuss here) that this extended visit will play a major part in there understanding of each other.

This experience may also add an important distinction to the well-meaning adage: “Do your best and God will do the rest.” By that I mean: a possible misuse of that adage is that we are called to do our best in our own strength and then leave the rest to God. Serving the Lord is not a tag-team proposition. We don't work alone and then tap the Almighty for the heavy lifting. Choosing to serve God is a joint venture each day. We truly "do our best" only when we allow him to work through us.

The images of volcanoes, mudslides, floods, and sinkholes give new meaning to that old phrase “Come hell or high water.” Even so, there is security in knowing we are in God’s hand. This is true not only when we choose to hold it, not only when we tap it for help, but when we fully understand that we are in the center of his palm—come what may.
Nate and Kim drove to the closed airport yesterday and were able to get tickets on the first plane scheduled to depart for the states on Thursday. So if all goes well, we will be getting a first-hand report on the situation in Guatemala when Kim gets here from Chicago on Friday afternoon. Please pray for safety as she and Nate fly back. We have not worried about them through this ordeal, but we do grieve for the hardship of Nate's parents and the people they serve in the weeks and months ahead.



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