Posts tagged #safety

Jackie's Journey: Earthquakes!

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. 

Jackie's Journey: Courageous....I Am Not!

Once upon a time a family embarked on their first vacation that was not directly connected to ministry.  This is significant because they found themselves in the middle of a huge lake on a 75’ houseboat with six bedrooms; three bathrooms and a massive open kitchen/dining/living room, a Jacuzzi, and water slide on the second story!   The amenities are mentioned here because this family was flabbergasted at the comfort and convenience.  They could have moved in permanently!  

We are that family and this houseboat was perfect for all of us!

We had arrived the evening before and boarded just in time to load our things and find a place to fall asleep.   Some slept on the upstairs deck watching shooting stars, while others found comfy bedrooms.  Early the next morning, we headed out onto the lake.  

Ralph, my husband, Philip, my son-in-law, and I took the houseboat and everyone else loaded into the Ski boat to find a place to moor both boats for the week.  We got a late start and headed in the direction of a specific cove that had been pointed out to us on a map because we were so large and it would give us the best protection from the elements (wind, storms) that we were warned popped up unexpectedly.

We passed the entry to our cove and circled around…we missed it again…and again…  It all looked the same to us.  The sun was beginning to slip behind the mountains.  Darkness was now pressing in on us.  Somehow we had gotten separated from the Ski boat.  We needed to find our destination.  Adding apprehension to my new set of unknowns was the need to find that Ski boat!  The wind was kicking up and dusk was riding on it.  We needed both boats anchored on a sandbar and there was only one that would meet the need we had for our floating ark!  

I would like to think that I am a brave and courageous person.  After all, I had taken our two year old and delivered our second child in a foreign country as a young missionary.  I left the familiar and comfortable to live among an unreached tribe in the middle of a remote jungle.  When there was no one to suture a machete wound, give T. B. injections or deliver babies, I, with fear and trembling, stepped up to the plate!  So I must be courageous…right?


Courage is the strength from God that enables us to endure any circumstance, trial or danger with gratefulness, understanding His sovereign will.  It is demonstrating the confidence that harmonizing with God’s will brings ultimate victory regardless of present circumstance or opposition. 

“Deut. 31:6“Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord your God goes with you; He will not fail you, nor forsake you.” 

God miraculously guided us into the exact place on the map that was the only “secure” spot for our houseboat!  The boys jumped off and took the iron stakes, crossed them and anchored them deep in the sandbar.  Hastily my grandson, Christopher, ignited the BBQ and soon we were settled in and looking forward to a Bible Study with Grandpa Ralph before we headed to bed.

Morning came early and everyone, except Ralph and I, loaded onto the speedboat to water ski, wake board, etc.  The day was perfect.  The lake was smooth as glass and our vacation was now in full swing.  We watched the fast boat disappear.  For hours Ralph and I enjoyed the silence and beauty of the lake.  Another boat had pulled onto our ridge sometime in the night and we were looking for an opportunity to meet them.

Out of nowhere, our solitude was interrupted by a swift and strong wind that came over the waters.  The waves were rapidly peaking at 5’!  Our boat began to sway and the moorings pulled loose from the sandbar! 

As the boat rocked… my first thought was,  “Where are the kids?!” and then…as we slipped backwards into the unknown lake, “Could we replace this massive beast if it crashed into the jagged cliffs surrounding it and sunk!?” 

Ralph was on his feet and immediately took off like a bullet!

On a dead run, he looked back and in an effort to calm my fears, yells over his shoulder, “Don’t panic, Jackie…safety is in the Lord”.   He jumps the ten feet or more from the boat to the shoreline and grabs the rope that has slipped into the lake.  All the moorings were now laying flat on the sandbar!

 “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”  Proverbs 3: 25-26

As I am drifting alone out into the lake, panicked and screaming for Ralph, the neighbors whom we had not yet seen came running toward our landing.  The man leapt into the lake and then jumped on board with me! He grabbed the wheel, started the engine and pulled us back toward shore. He told me to keep the engine running and keep it pointed toward the sandbar.  I instantly obeyed, as he disappeared to help Ralph with the ropes and re-pounding the stakes.

 His wife began yelling at me from shore to hit the sandbar as hard and fast as I could!  That was the easiest command I have obeyed in a long time…I full-throttled that ark up onto the sandbar, not realizing the job was so well done that it took eight people to get us loose the day we left!

The storm was raging and the boat was once again secured, but our children and grandchildren were still out on the open water!  Had they found refuge in a cove or were they trying to get back to us?  My comfort came again from a biblical promise:

 “Those who respect the Lord will have security, and their children will be protected”!  Pro. 14:26

 “Jesus Christ is no security AGAINST storms, but He is perfect IN storms.  He has never promised us an easy passage, only a safe landing.”   L. B. Cowma

Ralph and I watched across the lake… praying.   Within an hour we heard the motor and saw them coming in the distance.  They had fought the waves and strong current and God had brought them to us safely.  The stories they excitedly shared were a Grandma’s nightmare!

As quickly as the storm hit, the wind subsided and calmness was restored.  The next few days were a tranquil dream… and a memory that will last a lifetime.

“We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.”  Francis de Sales

Lest I fail to put real courage in perspective, listen to the testimony of John Huss:

“When John Huss was about to be burned to death, they asked him to give up his teachings. Huss answered, “What I have taught with my lips, I now seal with my blood.’”

That is Real courage!

Whatever the New Year holds for us…let’s face it courageously…trusting our Sovereign God who is in control and calms the storms in life.

~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. 

Jackie's Journey: Inexplicable Agony! Part 1

Ralph raking the leaves in front of our jungle home.

Ralph raking the leaves in front of our jungle home.

The word that Americans were living on the Pucuro River among an isolated tribe located near the headwaters was big news to the people in a tiny Choco settlement about a day’s journey away by piraqua.  A young couple from this village had come to Pucuro for medicine for their little boy.  Ralph, my husband, and our partner, Jay Gunsteens, were eager to take some of our new believing Kunas on their first missionary trip to this community.

Young visiting Choco family.

Young visiting Choco family.

I remember the day they took off in the dugout and wondered how these remote people would receive the message God was bringing to them.  It was rainy season and the mud was deep as they arrived on the riverbank.  This secluded group of Indians had a few horses and cows and the ground was thoroughly contaminated.  Ralph, who had purchased combat boots for just this sort of occasion, was in his flip-flops! 

Darkness was closing in and the boys were invited to eat and spend the night.  The next day they were given an opportunity to open the Word and share God’s plan for their lives.  Ralph and Jay were well received and some of the townspeople even returned a visit to Pucuro in the weeks that followed. 


Choco village

Choco village

About two weeks after returning to our village, Ralph began to suffer with excruciating abdominal pain.  We committed him to our healing God.  The limited medical resources available to us interior had been exhausted.  Since we were soon due to renew our visas, we decided to take the three-day journey early and leave for Panama City to see if the doctors in the Canal Zone could help us.  The medical doctors realized he had picked up something unusual and, unable to find the source after a battery of tests, they sent us to Gorgas Laboratory, the Center for Disease Control for the military in Central America. 

Ralph was becoming increasingly restless and powerless to cope with the intense pain.  The Lab was our last hope.  We made an immediate appointment and to our surprise, they took us right in. 

Ralph had not slept in days.   The Lord had opened up a home on the military base for us to use the few days we planned to be in the city and we were so grateful for His provision.  


Military housing in the Canal Zone.

Military housing in the Canal Zone.

Ralph would walk the floor day and night.  The only thing that gave him a few moments of relief was when he would drink a Coca Cola!  I knew I had been called to this ministry, and I knew God was allowing this trial for our good and the benefit of others, yet this was touching one of God’s most faithful servants and I was stymied! 

Have you ever wondered why it is so much more difficult to watch the pain of someone else than your own?

Finally, one night, Ralph stopped pacing and laid down sometime after midnight.  I breathed a sigh of relief. 

About two hours later we were jolted by someone at the back door, literally, breaking into the house!  They had broken the window and were reaching their hands inside through the shattered glass to unlock the latch! 

Ralph was instantly on his feet yelling at the intruder!  As he left our room, he turned and said,  “Safety is in the Lord, Jackie!”  As he slammed the door shut, he told me to call the military police and stay with the girls!

Panicked and processing, I did as I was told and listened to the scuffle in the hall.  There were loud voices and then silence!  In a few minutes Ralph had subdued the man and tapped on our door to tell us we were going to be all right.  The intruder was a cocaine addict and knew someone that lived in this borrowed house.  He needed money and was desperate to get in! 

Have you ever had an intruder violently invade your place of safety?

Needless to say, we did not go back to bed, and as dawn shed light into the house, I was busily packing and “oh, so ready” to keep that Gorgas Lab appointment and head back to our home in the jungles of the Darien. 

Who would have thought that an ordinary family would sense more safety in a jungle house with no lock, a bark frame and surrounded by indigenous people, than in a thriving metropolis with all the amenities known to man?!

I learned a lesson that night: This experience drove home the truth that the promise “Safety is in the Lord” is an absolute reality given to those who walk with Him.

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in SAFETY by Him; the Lord will cover him all day long.”  Duet. 33:12

The world is too small a place to afford safety to a man that disobeys God.

Where do you find safety?