Visit to Jama
District Superintendent of the Ecuador North Coast District
It has been so difficult to make any kind of an assessment due to the collapse of the road system. On Sunday, April 17, the morning following the 7.8 earthquake we attempted to make it to the most affected cities and towns where we have Nazarene congregations. Jama was on the list but the roads were impassable.
On Monday, April 18, after hours of work we decided to try again to make it to Jama. We were told that the only way to get there was with 4 Wheel drive and that was not within our possibilities.
On Tuesday, April 19, and remember there has been no telephone contact within that entire area since the earthquake, we decided that one way or another we were going to make it to Jama. The road was to take us through Pedernales but when we arrived within 20 Kms. of that town, we found that the traffic was backed up bumper to bumper all the way into town and the road would not be opened until midnight.We began to investigate for an alternate route and discovered that if we backtracked about an hour, we could take a torturous country road. It was raining furiously the whole way but we finally pulled into Jama.
We went from shelter to shelter questioning if anyone knew where Pastor Servio Macías might be. Someone finally told us he was in a shelter with a big group of people at the top of a very difficult hill to climb.
It was 10:30 PM when we dragged ourselves over the top to find a number of temporary shelters made from plastic stretched across rough poles. Under a black plastic covering we found Pastor Servio with his wife and 5 children. It was an emotional reunion! When he saw us his face broke into a smile and we all embraced one another. We were impacted by his unbreakable spirit and his firm faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We were all reduced to tears as the pastor told us how the rented 3 story church building had collapsed to the ground. The evening of the earthquake, a bit before 7 PM, ten people had already arrived to pray for the service. When the shaking began, 6 were able to race out the door and into the street. Four were buried under the building. The pastor, who had not arrived yet, turned around and rushed home first to check on his family and then came to the church to find to his utter despair that the church had collapsed and that four were trapped inside.
They found flashlights and began to peer inside as best they could with the hopes of being able to rescue their brothers and sisters. There was a small opening of 12 to 16 inches wide and a passerby offered to try to fit inside to see how he could help. He was able to clear the debris off the two children and they pulled 12-year old Diego and his 13-year old sister out alive.
It was too late for Brother Colofito Avila Intriago and his wife Lidia Paredes. Apparently Lidia had died instantly. Colofito could be heard screaming for help for a few minutes. The next day both bodies were recovered from under the church.
Brother Israel Vélez was riding his motorcycle taxi from the beach towards the town when the earthquake occurred and he lost control and suffered a fatal crash.
The town people had naturally set up the shelters on high ground because of the fear of a tsunami. We shared the provisions of food and water that we brought. That night at 2 AM, Pastor Servio Macías preached a powerful sermon to all in the shelter with several city authorities present. The Word has been planted in the hearts of all those who were lucky enough to be in that highest refuge.
A decision was made to return the next evening, April 20, to show the Jesus Film at 7 PM on top of the highest hill of Jama. In moments like these, as difficult as they are, there is great hope in our Jesus of the Gospel message!
To be continued…