In the past few days, we’ve had at least five significant earthquakes, two of which were greater than a 6 on the Richter scale (as denoted by stars in this screen shot). People are freaked out. Schools were closed today, and after the second one (6.6 centered near Granada), the government ordered all businesses to shut down as well. (I don’t understand that because the businesses — in most cases — are built way better than the average person’s home, but what do I know.) In any case, all of the rumors and fear and worry reminded me of our last serious quake, which happened during one of our camps at Campo Alegria. I wrote the following post after that quake, and I think it’s appropriate to repost it now:
Today we finished up our second camp, this time with a team from Brandywine Valley Baptist Church in Delaware. The teens in this group are very quick to engage the campers, even though they spoke different languages. Watching a group of 16- and 17-year old gringos dance with the younger Nicaraguan kids just filled me with joy. Their relationship was anything but conventional, and yet it just worked.
Just before lunch on the second day, the ground started to shake. Literally. A 6.6 earthquake hit, about 100 miles to the west in the Pacific Ocean. Half of the kids didn’t even feel it because they were swimming at the time. Wyeth and I were moving a table and didn’t recognize what was happening until someone told us there was a temblor.
So we stopped moving, or at least we thought we did. The ground kept rolling beneath us.
Some of the team members were bummed they had missed it, either because they were swimming or hanging in hammocks. For the most part, everyone joked about it and then went on with the activities.
And then one of the translators came to get me, saying we had a problem.
Apparently several of the campers’ parents had been calling the teachers (who had come as chaperones) since the earthquake. They were scared and wanted their kids brought home immediately.
I was confused. The earthquake already happened, so why did they want the kids to come home?
Because this could be a precursor to “the big one.”
Because there could be a tsunami.
Because if there’s another earthquake the kids could drown.
What do each of those answers have in common? Well, they are all pretty far-fetched for a variety of reasons. But second, they are all seeded in fear.
Later, I explained the compromise we came up with to the team. We agreed to forgo any more swimming times, to keep the kids away from the water for the remainder of their time with us. And, we agreed to drive them home first thing in the morning on Day 3, instead of after lunch. Both of these concessions were made to help the parents know that we heard their concerns and wanted them to know their children’s safety was our top concern.
But we also wanted them to understand that we do not share their fear.
The team asked why there was so much fear among the Nicaraguans. I told them the truth: I don’t think there is any more fear among Nicaraguans than North Americans. Rather, the difference is between Christ-followers and those who have not yet trusted their lives to Jesus. We all have fears, but the later group can live with such fear, that it becomes crippling.
Sure, education is a tool used to fight fear, but it doesn’t totally wipe it out. No, the only thing that can defeat the enemy of fear is total trust in the One who knows no fear. Because if God is who He says He is, and we are His children, then what do we have to fear?
We may not realize it, but unless we depend fully on Christ, fear threatens to swallow us whole.
Fear of failure intimidates us in parenting, classrooms, and in the workplace.
Fear of rejection prevents us from fully engaging in relationships.
Fear of condemnation bullies us from speaking out against evil.
Fear of loss and discomfort browbeats us into submission, away from obedience.
Fear of the unknown almost kept us from moving to Nicaragua, and plenty of other fears have threatened to keep us from staying.
For most of us, there isn’t a simple on/off switch for this type of fear. Therefore, removing fear from our lives is an ongoing process of trust and obedience.
Philippians 4:13 tells us we can do everything because Christ strengthens us. Everything. Not just the stuff that comes easy, or the tasks that don’t invite fear, but all things.
I shared with the team that this might be a perfect opportunity to speak the truth into the campers, in the hopes that it will permeate their families and their communities. None of us can predict the next big earthquake, any more than we know when Christ will return. But we know there will most certainly be trouble, right? So let’s tell these kids about the Guy who can carry them through that trouble, so they never need to truly fear again.
One of the girls on the team suggested we write that verse on all of the baseballs they had brought. I thought that was a phenomenal idea, so a bunch of the teens spent an hour writing this reminder of the great fear disolver on each and every baseball to be handed out: Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece. (shown in the photo above)