Disaster hit our province on April 16, 2016, with an earthquake of almost 8 on the Richter scale. On that devastating Sabbath evening, God miraculously preserved Pra del Tor. While destruction ripped through the rest of our province, we lost nothing more than a flower vase.
Many Ecuadoreans who survived the quake died in the aftermath for lack of food, water, shelter and medical help. There never was a complete, accurate count of the casualties, but the number obviously topped one thousand. We knew the Lord hadn’t bestowed such great blessings on us so that we could be idle in this time of crisis. Soon after the earthquake, the young people training at Pra del Tor set out for the worst sites of devastation. My son invented a portable shower to allow people to bathe, and we took a generator to provide a charging station for cellphones. We brought drinking water by the gallons (along with a filtration system to purify more), canned goods, beans, rice and hundreds of stocks of plantains and bananas from our farm to share with the victims and their families. We thank all who responded to our call for aid. Your generous donations provided food, basic necessities, tools, clothes and medical aid for many Ecuadoreans. May the Lord bless every person who helped!
Our province of Manabí is one of the poorest in Ecuador, and also one of the most irreligious. The Manabítan people don’t feel their need for God and seem very indifferent to any message that requires a change or sacrifice. As conformists, they adapt to their surroundings easily. The majority don’t aspire to be anything great or shoot for any high mark. Ironically, some of these negative traits made it easier for them to rise out of the rubble after the earthquake. They simply set up housekeeping in makeshift tents on top of their ruined homes—with no running water or electricity—and with a smile, went on with their lives.
While many homes did collapse, the province infrastructure received the most damage: roads, bridges, water systems, schools, businesses, etc. Of course, the demise of these structures impacted everyone. Due to ongoing need, we set up a network of trustworthy contacts in the most devastated areas, especially the rural towns and villages. Through them, we could provide relief items to the truly destitute, while we ourselves would be freed up to minister not only to the physical needs, but also to the spiritual. We found many people asking why: “Why did my whole family die and I alone remain? Why did I lose everything? Why did good, honorable people die while thieves and villains survived? Why did God take my only daughter if He really is a God of love?” These questions gave us golden opportunities to share!
The Pra del Tor youth who participated in our mission aid runs to the disaster zones each gained valuable lessons from their experiences. Here are a few of their testimonies:
Caleb Orellana: “The people that we helped showed so much gratitude, especially when we shared items that they had been longing for. I told them that God gave me a rule to follow and it says to do to others what we would want them to do to us. I tried to put myself in their shoes. I had such a feeling of satisfaction when we headed home because I felt that the Lord had used me to touch the lives of others and that feels really good!”
Bryan Iniguez: “One experience that I won’t forget was approaching an old woman who was washing clothes in a basin under a makeshift shelter. When I gave her a bag of washing detergent, bar soap, bleach and some other things, she grinned and said, ‘Young man, what a miracle that you are bringing one of the things that I need the most right now, soap. How did you know?’ Wow, I felt so blessed to be able to provide for her immediate need.”
Obed Santana: “As I carried a stock of plantains into one of the shelters, a lady came out to meet me with a big smile. She patted my shoulder and began thanking God for this special favor, telling me that we had arrived just in time, as she had very little to make for lunch for her family. At another house I was touched by the joy on the whole family’s faces as they repeated over and over, ‘Thank you, thank you for your kindness.’ It made me feel great.”
Misael Santana: “At one place two little girls ran out waving. I handed them a bag of soap and a pack of toilet paper. I couldn’t believe their excitement—they received these basic necessities as if they were some special toy. Hugging their packages, they danced in circles and then ran off, waving goodbye. People would hug us and pat our backs as we distributed toilet paper, bags of soap and other toiletries, thanking us for bringing these items that no one else had thought to bring. I really enjoyed myself.”
Yarden Gómez: “As I saw families that had lost everything they owned, I realized that I am not as grateful as I should be for the many blessings I have. Families banded together to survive those days after the disaster. They shared the same shelters, mattresses and makeshift tables and divided the meager food that was available. Little children played on the sidewalks amidst the rubble. Many people were praying and asking God for mercy. It saddened me to think that it took a terrible disaster to turn their thoughts towards Him. How often do I take God for granted and scarcely turn my thoughts to Him? We must live every minute for God.”
On May 18, our family was at the supermarket in the capital city of our province when another large quake hit. The lights went off and the floor rolled like waves. Everything was falling off the shelves, with glass and tile breaking all around. The noise thundered like an airplane landing above us. Everyone panicked and ran screaming from the building, while we stayed put beside a large column with five other people who couldn’t get out in time. We felt safer there than in the mob who could have trampled us on the way out. The quake lasted about 45 seconds. It was a horrible feeling that we hope to never have to repeat. Praise the Lord for His angel that camped around us and brought us safely through the chaos.
Please keep us in your prayers. Time is coming to an end and there is so much still to do. Maranatha!
By Laurie Orellana of Pra del Tor Ministry in Manabí, Ecuador. firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions to this ministry may be made through Mission Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058, or online at www.missionspro.org, marked “Ecuador.”