To help my children deal with the emotional effects of going through a major earthquake, we are doing an earthquake unit study. Part of that includes them being able to tell their story. Here is Ben's experience:
On April 15, 2015, at 11:55 am, I experienced one of the most frightening events imaginable. As I sat in church listening to Dad preach, I was feeling a little tired from staying up late the night before. My eyes were getting heavier, and my mind started to wander off into subconciousness. Then, BAM! Dad said something rather important and it shook me awake again. I was fighting drowsiness, and losing. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would not only be free of this curse to feel sleepy for the remainder of the day, but I would be fighting to sleep for the rest of the week.
Dad was preaching on the judgment of God on the earth during the life of Noah. His message was powerful, and chilling. Why would God destroy humanity like that? That was the main thought going through my mind, and the answer hit me like a bullet from a gun: man was wicked and depraved, and nobody ever had a single Godly thought. Ever. I imagined Noah, old and weary, shouting all over the country that God was going to destroy them, and the only safety would come from the ark that was in construction. I imagined all those people who scorned and scoffed at the idea that water would cover the earth, and all men would die, save Noah and his family. That’s when it hit me: the ground was moving.
I looked at Levi, our Nepalese assistant, and the look of horror on his face told me that it wasn’t just me. Dad ran and sat down under a main support pillar in the building. I jumped up and crawled under the communion table. As the building swayed, I remembered reading about different people over in the past that were in similar situations. They were almost all Christians, and all of them carried their Bible through it all. Then I remembered my Bible. It was only a couple of feet away since I sat on the front row. I quickly grabbed it and held on tight. As my whole world seemed to shake apart, I stole a quick glance at the interior of the building. I opened my eyes and was perplexed at what I saw. It looked as though the church was made of Jell-O. Not somewhere I would want to be, but yet I wasn’t scared. There is no way to describe how I felt at that moment, but the words, “confident that Christ would protect me through it all,” sound close enough. After the longest twenty seconds of my life, the shaking stopped, temporarily.
When the building stopped shaking, we bolted outside. As we exited through the front door, what we saw outside was almost as terrifying as what we saw inside. It was eerie. Dust from collapsed buildings had covered the area like a thick fog on a rainy winter morning. I couldn’t see more than fifteen yards ahead of me, and it was difficult to breath. When the dust settled, we could see people crying and screaming not far from where we were. Dad and I ran to see what was wrong. They spoke in a frantic, rapid-fire Nepali, but we understood this much: …buried under our home…needs help…too heavy for just us.... It sounded like someone had been buried under a pile of rubble. As it turned out, it was actually only a cow. When we found out that it was livestock, we left in search of people who genuinely needed help. Seriously, I thought, People are probably buried under houses that collapsed, maybe even dead, and you’re worried about a dumb cow? This was the dilemma of the situation, that most people were too selfish and too lazy to help their own people. It wasn’t their family that was hurt, so why bother? It was discouraging to see so many grown, able-bodied men standing around doing nothing, while others suffered. The rest of the day, we dug people out, and reassured others that God knew what was going on. That night, we slept in the car. There wasn’t much for supper, but at least we had a good movie and a laptop computer we could use.
I didn’t get much sleep that night. Imagine trying to stuff a licorice whip into a Hotwheel and you have my predicament. At six-foot six-inches, I’m not exactly the prime contestant in a limbo competition. It isn’t easy to fit into a car and sleep when you’re this tall.
Over the next week, we would wait outside all day, playing with Lego’s, reading books, and enduring the occasional aftershock or earthquake. Sigh. It got pretty boring (not to mention lonely since phones and internet were down) that first day. Then, I had an idea. Our neighbors were erecting tents made of tarps and sheets in the nearby soccer field and basketball court. Why couldn’t we? I started planning a small shade-giving canopy over our mattress outside. It was perfect aside from being too close to a building that had flower pots on the top of the roof, and those might fall in an aftershock (one fell into our garden, ten feet away). We decided that wasn’t a good locale for our tent and took it down. Just then, Dad returned in the car from our church area. The car! It had a luggage rack on its roof that we could use to tie things to. The idea eventually got bigger and bigger until we had a mosquito-netted eating area, a patio-swing-turned-couch, a rain-proof sleeping couch, and Dad’s recliner all under a plastic roof. Not only that, but we also had an earthquake-resistant movie theater- the car. Like all cars, it has shock absorbers on the wheels, and those took away most of the shaking. When our family gets bored, LOOK OUT! We don’t stay that way long!
On day three, we decided that we wanted some competition. There wasn’t a restaurant open, nor were there any soccer games to go see, and hide-and-seek might result in your never being found again amidst a pile of rubble thanks to an even bigger earthquake. Our alternative: Lego earthquake-proof houses. The goal was, when the next big quake came (which never did), whoever’s house stood firm through it won. We built some wacky houses. Fortunately, the next day we slept inside, that Friday, I celebrated my sixteenth birthday that might not have existed.