Darkness fell over rush hour in Guatemala City on Thursday, October first. Across Guatemala, schools had celebrated “Child's Day”, and in thousands of homes the activities of the day were recounted with great gusto.
On the southeast edge of the city is an area called Santa Catarina Pinula. This picturesque area is home to a variety of people – and houses. Some homes are simple wood and sheet metal constructions; other are substantial two-story concrete dwellings.
As traffic thinned that evening, only God knew what was in store for those that lived in Santa Catarina Pinula. Frequent rains had destabilized the rugged area. Without warning, a massive chunk of mountainside broke loose and plunged into the ravine, smashing, smothering, and suffocating. 125 homes were destroyed or buried, some under dozens of meters of earth. According to a survivor, “en un segundo pasó todo” – it all happened in a second.
Different stories emerged. Some survived because they were inside, while a family member perished while running an errand. Other families were waiting for Dad to return from work and Dad was the only survivor. Total families were lost.
A rescue effort was immediately begun. Hundreds of people dug and listened and searched and prayed. At first they heard shouts and shrieks of people buried alive. Text messages were received from people trapped beneath the mud and rubble. When rescue workers heard a voice, everyone would silently drop and press their ears to the ground, trying to locate the exact area to dig. One father, arriving at the area of his house, borrowed a shovel and started to dig. He continued all night and most of the next day, but there were still more than five meters of earth burying his house.
Heavy machinery was brought in and massive excavation started. At the time of this writing, 253 whole bodies have been recovered and 374 are still missing.
Tragic. Incredible grief for many; life-altering losses for survivors; hundreds of souls swept into eternity. Forever. Some call it Guatemala's worst natural disaster since hurricane Mitch.
But it isn't Guatemala's worst disaster.
Homes are destroyed every day. Marriage fidelity is buried in the steamy cesspool of immorality. Children are orphaned, wives abandoned, and communities destroyed; yet few search for survivors or declare it a national disaster. Youth sacrifice their virginity and dignity looking for meaning and satisfaction, yet no newspaper bothers to give time and space to these problems; they don't sell newspapers.
The Santa Catarina community was warned twice that it was a high-risk area. Once in 2008, once in Dec. 2014. Not even CONRED, the arm of government that gave the warning, could have imagined the enormity of what happened. CONRED quickly pointed out that they had evaluated the area, declared it high-risk, and warned the community. Social pressure is mounting to pursue legal action against those responsible for building houses in that area, and against those who did not transmit the warning clearly.
If you are a Christian, you are the spiritual CONRED for the people around you. You know we live in a high-risk zone, and YOU are responsible to warn them of the coming destruction. And so we must open our mouths. Living right is paramount, but if I do not open my mouth as well, I am not living right! Jesus said, “Go... and preach the gospel.” Is it enough to quietly live out my Christian faith? It's impossible! If I do not preach, I cannot claim to follow Jesus or do His will.
Not a gifted speaker? That's normal. Neither were Peter and John. But they were full of the Holy Ghost and opened their mouths at Jesus' command. What would the New Testament look like had the apostles “lived out” the gospel without being “too vocal” about Jesus? The book of Acts simply recounts what happened when the believers boldly spoke about Jesus; would it even exist otherwise? If you pulled the preaching out of Acts, would you have 3,000 converts on Pentecost? Would Stephen have been stoned? Would Peter and Paul bounced in and out of jail? What about the whippings, stonings, beatings, and beheadings? No.
Neither would the church be planted in Africa, nor spread through Asia Minor, nor crossed into Europe. No sermon on Mars Hill, no flaming revival in Ephesus, no earth-shaking prison experience that starts a church in Philippi.
Persecution for preaching is normal; we have experienced a few hundred years of abnormal living in North America. Peace, prosperity, and freedom have given us huge advantages and opportunities, but they have affected us in negative ways. When my fervor for Christ wanes, the silence grows ominous. The landslide could happen anytime. Homes are collapsing – swept away in the powerful current of changing morals. The force of decay and the pressure to be quiet and tolerant can only be stopped by preaching about the Rock of Ages. And that Rock is Jesus Christ – our LORD and coming King!
Let us not simply pass our neighbour by on the other side with a courteous smile. Let's tell him about the impending doom! If you love him, do what is best for him, not what is most comfortable for you both. The folks in Santa Catarina Pinula were warned, but were never ordered out of their houses. Because they only heard a general warning, no one abandoned their home and moved out to save their lives and families. Let's share the truth lovingly, yet earnestly and repeatedly! They need to know the seriousness of the situation! Are we going to be true friends?
Not everyone is an eloquent Apollos. But if you can ask for potatoes at supper table, you can share Christ. Paul shared his testimony unashamedly – before murderous crowds and before kings. Why? To warn people of the wrath to come. To elevate Jesus. To bring the hearers to Jesus like every real friend will do.
The danger is imminent and the time is short. Preaching brings pain, but not preaching brings a whole lot more.
--Anonymous author; first published in the MAM Newsletter. Reprinted with permission.