Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It is a study in contrasts that I'm sure kept civil, structural, and architectural engineering students busy this last semester- the two major earthquakes that struck Haiti and Chile earlier this year. It's not hard to remember both of these tragic events, the utter devastation in Haiti and the tsunamis in Chile. Millions were donated for relief, headlines were made by those who gave up everything to serve. Add the fact that both of these occurred a month apart and many believed that this was it, that Christ's return was imminent.

But look past the emotional response. Look past the headlines that caught all of our attention. Look at the details. The Haiti earthquake was a magnitude 7 (for comparison, the famous Northridge earthquake was only 6.7) and the earthquake off the coast of Chile was 8.8. While those numbers look close, because of the way the scale is set the Chilean earthquake was nearly 500 times as powerful as Haiti's. There were an estimated 230,000 casualties from the Haitian earthquake compared to only 521 in Chile and elsewhere along the South American Pacific coast.
Yes, you read that right, roughly 200,000 more casualties for an earthquake almost 500 times less powerful. Let that sink in and you're bound to ask, "why?" Location is part of it- the Chilean quake was off the coast versus near Haiti's capital. But even with the resulting tsunamis, the death count would have been expected to be higher. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami claimed nearly the same number of lives as the earthquake in Haiti. (Though even there, location- how far off the coast- played an important role) But location doesn't tell the whole story.

Early reporting of the earthquake in Chile noted that because of frequent seismic activity, Chileans knew how to respond to the earthquake and much of the infrastructure was modernized to be earthquake-proofed. But earthquakes in Haiti are not rare, so the personal response should have been similar. The key difference then was infrastructure. Sadly it's no secret that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And that the earthquake epicenter was near a densely populated area, it becomes obvious why there was such a difference in casualties. When it comes right to it, buildings in Chile were simply built stronger.

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:46-49)

The Three Little Pigs teaches us that what we build with determines whether we can stand up to the big bad wolf. But Christ teaches us that it is more important what we build on. When thinking about strength, I could not help but reflect on Jesus. My strength is worthless if I'm not relying on His. He is my rock and my foundation. I'm comforted to know that so long as I build on Him as a foundation, I may be shaken but I will not fall. An infrastructure built on Christ is earthquake-proof.

This post is part of Bridget Chumbley's Blog Carnival. This week's topic is "strength". Head on over there to read other insightful posts from a diverse array of bloggers.


Glynn said...

Fatha Frank, this is a good reminder that anything of this world that we put are faith in isn't going to last. Good post.

katdish said...

Yes! I was thinking the same thing about those earthquakes. I live in a very flat part of the state. Flooding is a regular occurrance. Year after year, people have their homes flooded, sometimes destroyed, yet choose to rebuild instead of seeking higher ground. I realize the people of Haiti don't have the option of picking and choosing where they live, but the leaders have doomed their people by choosing to do precious little to improve their circumstances. It will be interesting to see whether all of the millions being poured into this country will be used as a band-aid or put towards actual solutions. (Sorry - mini rant.) Great post!

caryjo said...

As someone who is always trying to pay attention to exactly those details you laid out re: Haiti and Chile, I appreciated the post. And the fact that, yes, it's only Our Father Who can be our true strength and that we must rely on the foundation of Christ.

jasonS said...

Great analogy and reminders. We can build for the moment or we can build it for eternity. Jesus makes all the difference. Thanks so much.

JC Dude said...

Everything not of Him will be shaken for sure. My life had a few "earthquakes" and has help me realize to build on the Rock of His strength.

Still praying for Haiti/Chile.


Anonymous said...

Yes Fatha Frank, if we can rely on Jesus for strength... then no amount of huffing and puffing can hurt us. Good post!

M.L. Gallagher said...

I admire people with such a strong foundation of faith as yours. It is inspiring.

Great analogy. Great post!

Fatha Frank said...

Thank you everyone for your encouraging replies! And I regret that I neglected what Jay appropriately pointed out- we need to continue to keep Chile and Haiti in our prayers.