Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In a Matter of Minutes Part 4

My Heavenly Father had met my needs many times before. Just a few years earlier, I had won a all-expense-paid trip to the United Nations. I would fly to Spokane, Washington, to meet up with 35 other teenagers and four chaperons for a month-long, cross-country bus tour to New York City and back. Summers in Alaska were cool. For this trip, I would need lightweight clothes for hot weather. My missionary family had no discretionary money, but we knew how to pray. And God heard my prayers and supplied the funds for every article of clothing I needed.

When our family first moved to Seward, the airplane tickets and moving expenses had used up all our money so we were unable to stock the pantry with staple foods. The schools were close enough to our house that we usually walked home for lunch. One day, lunchtime was nearing, but my mother had no food to give us. All morning she had been praying.

Just before noon, a lady from the church called and asked my parents to babysit her children after school since she had to make an unexpected trip to Anchorage. "Do you need anything for dinner?" she asked. My mother hesitated. "Oh, I'll just bring some groceries," the lady said.

A few minutes later, she arrived with a large bag of groceries and some cash. In the bag, my mother found all the ingredients but one for bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches, a favorite but rare treat at our house. She sent my father to the store for that ingredient. Just in time, God had supplied not only our need but a treat too. When my mother told the ladies of the church of God's provision in that situation, they were shocked. They hadn't realized our situation and soon gave us a food shower.

Would God do it again? For me?

As that jobless summer progressed, I realized that nothing short of a miracle would enable me to go to any college in the fall. I prayed and tried to have faith, but by late July, I was in despair. Then our church held a series of special services. I shared my concern with the visiting evangelists. We agreed together to make it a matter of special prayer, and my faith increased.

The first week of August, the local librarian, asked me to help her catalog new books for the library. She could only pay me babysitting wages (50 cents an hour at that time) for two weeks of work. It wouldn't pay my way to college, but I was happy to have something useful to do.

For the exciting conclusion, see my next post.

In a Matter of Minutes Part 3

Fire carried into the woods by the tsunami was spreading quickly through the trees. Just when it seemed everyone would all be incinerated, a third tsunami swept in and extinguished the fire!

"Thank You, God!" I breathed. I knew He had protected my family.

My mother's postscript continued: They spent the long, cold, sleepless night in the home of friends who lived in the woods outside of town. When they returned home the next day, they found the church and attached parsonage undamaged except for a few broken dishes and knickknacks. Of course, they would be without electricity, water, and heat for weeks until the broken water mains and electric lines could be repaired.

In the weeks that followed, I began to realize how much my life would be affected by the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964. Ninety-five percent of the industrial area of Seward, including the docks, railroad, and shrimp canneries, had been swept into Resurrection Bay, along with the rest of the waterfront.

My father, pastor of a small missions church, had worked as a longshoreman to supplement his meager income. My two younger siblings were still in high school and lived at home. Now his income was reduced.
I had worked several shifts in the shrimp cannery while in high school and had planned to work there that summer to earn enough money to pay for my second year at Seattle Pacific College. Now, with those sources of income erased, I wondered if I would be financially able to continue my college education.

When I returned home for the summer, there was no employment for family men, let alone for single girls with little training. My one-year scholarship and savings had been used up, and I had already had to borrow money for my first year. As the jobless summer progressed, I realized that nothing short of a miracle would enable me to go to any college in the fall. My concern over my schooling mounted all summer. I was trying to believe God for a miracle, but my hopes were dwindling.

Could I trust God to meet this need?
To be continued....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In a Matter of Minutes Part 2

By now, we knew that the Good Friday Earthquake had registered 9.2 on the Richter Scale, the strongest earthquake to hit North America in recorded history.

Finally, word from my family came. With trembling fingers, I tore open the letter addressed in my father's handwriting and read quickly. Everyone was safe!

Weak with relief, I sank into a chair to read my mother's postscript. Longer than the letter itself, it described their hair-raising experiences:

When the violent shaking began, my mother wrote, they had all clung to doorposts or anything solid to keep from being thrown to the floor. The shaking seemed to go on and on, but it was only five minutes--a long time for an earthquake. When it finally subsided, they ran outside.

Black smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the air from the huge oil storage tanks just a few blocks away. The quake had ruptured the tanks, and they were belching burning oil that was being channeled through town along the railroad tracks. The quake had generated an immediate tsunami that spread the raging inferno throughout the entire industrial area along the waterfront.

To flee the flames, the townspeople of that town of about 1,800 people jumped into theirs cars and drove toward the lagoon that straddled the only road out of town. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Bumper to bumper, they inched their way across.

They were about midway across when my mother noticed that railroad cars and boats were being pushed up and over the breakwater as though by a giant hand. They sailed toward them--fast!

To her horror, she realized what it was. "Tsunami!" she screamed. "Drive faster!"

My dad swerved into the empty inbound lane and passed the nearly stopped cars. Waves swirled around the tires as they drove up to higher ground. Their's was the last car to make it across before the tsunami crashed across the road right behind them, sweeping away the cars and smashing houses, boats, and huge railroad cars against the cliffs like toys .

Still the nightmare continued. Burning debris from the exploding oil tanks rode the crest of that second tsunami and set the trees at the head of the bay on fire!

About three miles out of town, the line of traffic stopped again. Word passed from car to car, "The bridges are out!" And my family could see that the fire was spreading. They were trapped!

To be continued....

Have you ever been caught in an impossible situation? What did you do?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In a Matter of Minutes

The car door slammed behind me as Carol, Linda, and I dashed up the steps. Inside, Carol's mother asked, "Have you girls been watching TV?"

"No, why?" Carol asked.

"A news bulletin just said that the main street of Anchorage, Alaska, has been leveled by an earthquake," she answered.

"Oh, you're kidding!" I laughed. "It must be an exaggeration. We have earthquakes up there all the time."

Just then, the television announcer interrupted the programming: "And now for the latest report on the earthquake that hit Alaska early this evening...." We listened as a report by telephone from Fort Greeley, Alaska, came to us on a Portland television station.

It was Good Friday, 1964. I was visiting two friends in Portland, Oregon, during Easter vacation of my freshman year at Seattle Pacific College. I was 18 years old. I grew up in a missionary family in Alaska. Although I loved Alaska, my home for sixteen years, my dream growing up was to attend a Christian college where I could enjoy fellowship with Christians my own age, date Christian young men, and not feel like an outsider. That meant leaving Alaska.

Now, my home state was a disaster area. It had happened without warning in a matter of minutes.

I listened intently for news of Seward, where the rest of my family lived.

"...'The port city of Seward, 120 miles south of Anchorage by car, has been wiped off the map by tsunamis, and the town is entirely engulfed by fire' is the report received here from a disabled Alaska Standard tanker lying offshore in Resurrection Bay," the telephone report continued.

As the full impact of those awful words hit me, I groaned, "Oh, God, help them!"

Did I still have a family? Had our home been destroyed? What would happen to me if my folks had been killed? These questions and more played through my mind like a tape recorder, but I was powerless to do anything but pray.

I spent a sleepless night in front of the television and five anxious days listening to every news report and reading every newspaper. With every attempt to call home, I received the same reply: "I'm sorry! Your call cannot be completed due to the Alaska earthquake." Back at school, I checked the mail daily the instant it was distributed.

Then I heard that a minister friend of our family had lost his life when the dock where he had been working as a longshoreman collapsed in Valdez. My father had also supplemented his income as a longshoreman. My fear increased. When would I hear from my family? All I could do was trust God.

To be continued...

Have you ever had an experience like this? What sustained you?