On April 16 at almost 7pm local time here in Ecuador, I was getting ready for Mass with the local parish priest who had arrived. We set up the altar, prepared the vessels and books, got the microphone set up, and rang the churchbell with one and then two dings. No one else had arrived yet and we were standing in the doorway to the church getting ready to ring the bells for the third and last time.
As we were talking, I noticed inside the church that the roof was making a sound, as if a strong wind were gusting against it. I turned and looked in, confused, because although the roof was making a sound as if there were a strong wind, I looked outside again and was sure that there was no strong wind.
Then, I noticed the lights flickering a bit. My first thought was, earthquake, and I noticed my feet moving under me. “That’s an earthquake,” we were both aware. The Fr Marcelo and I calmly walked out of the doorway of the church to a place just outside, so that there was nothing above our heads. Bit by bit we noticed people screaming in the village coming out of their homes, and, in stages, the lights went out in the whole village.
As the temblor kept going, we could hear the roofs of the church and the parish house vibrating and yawning, as the quake continued wagging for a long minute under our feet.
After it was done, I walked over to where a number of neighbors were gathered together. No one was hurt, and there was no damage to the houses. Meanwhile people began to light candles to deal with the loss of power. We hung out for about 15 minutes talking, and finally some of us went to the church, where the priest had lit a number of candles. But just at that moment, the power came back on, and Mass was celebrated. All the people in the village were nervous.
After the Mass, I went to a neighbor’s restaurant to eat. My cell phone catches the wifi signal there, and I got a Google alert: there was a major earthquake centered between Esmaraldas and Manta that registered 7.4, and Google wanted me to check in to say that I was safe. I mentioned it to others, and we started watching the news, and when we turned on the TV, we all realized that there was a disaster going on. The fear escalated. What do we do? Where can we go? Was God mad? For people already reeling from poverty and a severe downturn in the economy, the stress level rose. One by one, local friends on facebook started registering in that they were safe.
Later on, I finally got back to my room in the parish house. Finally, there was a sort of quiet and tranquility. In that time, some things started to come to me. It was then, bit by bit, that I decided on the course that I would go. I would look to find a way to go to the affected area to be with the people and help in any way I could. I would try to find a way to bring the local people together with whatever other efforts were happening, and I would ask people back home if they wanted to contribute. And that’s what has unfolded. But the seed was planted when I was finally away from the stress and anxiety. In the silence alone with God.
Elijah the prophet had an experience with God once. God said, I’m going to show myself to you. First came the wind, then the earthquake, and then the fire. But he couldn’t really find God or hear His voice until the silence arrived. Then, with the silence, God gave him his mission because Israel was in trouble, and Elijah was sent to go and round up the people who were going to get Israel out of it.
In the middle of tumult and anxiety, it’s really hard to find God, it’s really hard to hear his voice. To hear what God is saying and to know what next steps to take in life, we need to be away from worries and anxieties and the hubbub of conversation, and be alone with God. Then we can receive what he wants to give us.
Our mission for lifting people up.
And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. … And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” (1 Kings 19:11-13,15)
This little blog reached eight years old last month, and this post is the 400th meditation I’ve shared!
In the context of so many things going in many people’s lives, a blog like this may not seem like much, but sharing these reflections with each of you along the way has been a treasured source of joy and peace for me. I’m thankful for the gift God has given me to “give birth” to these meditations and the gift of your readership, friendship, and accompaniment. When I started, I never had any idea it would continue like this – I’ll continue for as long as I feel inspired! My hope always is that these reflections inspire you to find, follow, and share your own inspirations of grace in life. It’s been a great 8 years, and I look forward to more!