The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Nowhere to run

“Shaken, not stirred.” That famous James Bond line came to mind as I sought to describe the magnitude 6.7 earthquake we felt on the Big Island of Hawaii on Sunday, Oct. 15. Truth be told, I was both physically shaken and emotionally stirred.

I had gone to church early to catch up after having been away. And at 7:07 a.m. it happened.

My words won’t do it justice. The incredible rocking of the earth, the sound of moaning buildings and falling/breaking glass, the overwhelming sense of both immense power and unpredictability—it was an incredibly raw moment in our otherwise processed world.

One couldn’t stand or walk—only “surf” toward the open door. There was nowhere to run from the quaking ground. Above the loud carnage of noise came the unmistakable sound of the unattended church bell. It rang defiantly throughout the entire quake. Then as quickly as the quake began, an eerie and uneasy silence enveloped us.

I called my 13-year-old daughter, Katrina, on my cell phone. I could barely understand her as she sobbed hysterically. I drove the three miles to our home on roads littered with boulders and lava rocks. My hands and soul were still shaking uncontrollably.

Our home faced the direction of the epicenter and had taken a sizable hit. Glass and debris were scattered throughout the house. Our roof buckled, our decking was detached and every room had cracks in the walls.

But we were safe. Physically shaken and emotionally stirred. But safe.

I returned to the church. More than 40 people came to 9 a.m. worship. We sang, prayed and read from Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

That psalm will never be the same for me again.

If there was any silver lining, it is these:

• More residents heard from people they hadn’t heard from in some time.

• Neighbors talked to neighbors they hadn’t talked with before.

• We were sensitized to those who have experienced far worse quakes recently: people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

• We were reminded of the immense power of nature—and how very small we really are.

I have a new conditioned behavior that would make scientist Ivan Pavlov proud. Every time we ring the church bell to begin worship, I tense up a bit as my mind goes back to that one particular Sunday, when the bell rang itself.

This week's front page features:

Campus ministry makes inroads at Morgan State: African American students relate ‘Lutheran’ with ‘service.’ (Photo at right.)

Project connect: Effort links young adults to ministry opportunities, pastors and each other.

Giving thanks: "Light side" features stories about Thanksgiving — and other meals.

Where you put your treasure...: That’s where your heart will go.

Also: Challenges of hunger.

Also: Reflections on campus ministry.

Also: Thanksgiving.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss how giving affects us:

Mark Allan Powell (right) is professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. His most recent book is Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life (Eerdmans, 2006)

Powell will lead a discussion today through Nov. 14 about how giving affects us.

Consider reading Powell's article "Where you put your treasure..." before joining the discussion.

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Amber Leberman (right) blogs about beginning to share stories upon her return from Egypt and Lebanon.

Sonia Solomonson writes about the Associated Church Press, of which The Lutheran is a member.

Check out our blog > > >

Share your evangelism tips:

Reader George C. Weirick challenged the staff of The Lutheran: "Tell us about programs that work, or unusual or new evangelism methods."

Send us your tips via email, with a brief description (two or three paragraphs), along with contact information for those wanting more background.

The staff will review submissions and start publishing the best as a regular item on the “Currents” pages.

Members: Respond online > > >

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February issue


Embracing diversity