The day started like any other day. The stark silence of the night was broken by clamoring voices on the path outside our bedroom window that led into the dense jungle floor. Moms with babies were arriving at our front door to trade eggs for sugar and oil. The happy and animated chatter of two little girls jumping up and down, hungry for those fresh eggs, motivated me to move into high gear!
It was only daybreak but life was already on a steady fast track. As moms, we long for stability and a safe place for our children to grow up. Sometimes we look for it in the comfortable and familiar…our best laid plans. Dressing was next and it was easy…I owned two Kuna dresses and wore flip-flops…no closet required! Hot coffee, fresh eggs with rice and beans were on the breakfast menu and then off to the river to wash clothes.
Humming and comfortable that the day was programmed from start to finish and clipping along as planned…I proceeded back up the bank to hang the clean clothes, get started on homeschool, then some language study before lunch. I love it when a good plan comes together….
The house was full of Kunas when we returned from the river. My husband, Ralph, was seated…Bible open. The hammock was stretched across the center of the room welcoming us… but no time! It was almost 11:00 a.m. It really was a day just like every other day… until the unthinkable happened…
“Suddenly, in an instant, the Lord Almighty came with thunder and earthquake and great noise…” Isa.29: 6
The ground began to shake; an abrupt jerk, a rumbling sound and then a LONG roll. Our lantern, hanging from the 10’ ceiling, began to swing 2’ in each direction. The floorboards began to buckle and the entire house began to sway! I looked down and Kim’s high chair was rocking from side to side. I grabbed her and reached for Christina who was already moving toward me. She wrapped her arms around my leg. Stumbling toward Ralph, I was having difficulty standing; I was bobbing like a boat in a storm!
When everything is moving, what does one grab for safety? Ralph, immediately on his feet, saw my dilemma and reached for us across the room. With one hand he grasped Kim and me and set us securely in the swinging hammock in the middle of the room. With his other hand he lifted Christina up into his arms and tucked her in against us.
Turning to look outside, we all watched the ground heave and fall in surges. The dogs were struggling to stay on their feet. Every house in the village was moving. The bark walls and thatch roofs were unstable and the tremors were continual. We lived on a riverbank and the river was turbulent and threatening. I am a California girl and I have experienced my share of earthquakes, but this one was in a class all its own! It was longer, stronger and more forceful than any I had ever known.
This, definitely, was NOT a day like any other day!
In the jungle interruptions are expected. The Darien is full of them…creepy crawlers…poisonous spiders, frogs, snakes, ants and caterpillars… Drug runners or sick or injured Indians from other villages from Colombia passing through… These were predictable and probable challenges, but an 8.3 epicenter earthquake? NO…NOT!!
I was reminded that God honors us most when He puts us where we will trust Him most.
Safety was NOT in our house in the Darien jungle!
I was excited when weeks later someone offered us a third story apartment in Panama City for a few days to renew our visas. Secretly, my hope was that half a country away in the city the tremors would not be felt! Our arrival was after dark so we settled in and headed for bed. As my head hit the pillow, to my utter astonishment, the earth began to shake and the entire three-story building began to sway! Again, I was reminded that our true character is what we are in the dark!
Safety was NOT in Panama City!
In those first few moments in the Darien with everything rattling around us, the Kunas in our house stood up totteringly and began to sing and pray! We had found our safety in those first few moments…found only in a Sovereign and Almighty God who gives direction to the elements on earth. For the weeks that followed the initial earthquake we had tremors of varying degrees every hour on the hour!
Safety isn’t in a place or our best laid plans…
Safety IS in the Lord!
“…Then you will go on your way in safety and your foot will not stumble.” Proverbs 3:23
~Jackie Johnson - I am a former tribal missionary to the Kuna Indians on the Colombian border in Central America. Fluent in several languages, my husband and I currently pastor a Spanish-speaking church in Southern California. My passion is discipling and equipping dedicated young women for life, marriage, motherhood, and beyond. I am the mother of two daughters and the grandmother of three Princesses and four young Knights.