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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Danger on the Doorstep

John Bradshaw - Danger on the Doorstep

John Bradshaw - Danger on the Doorstep
John Bradshaw - Danger on the Doorstep
TOPICS: Danger

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. What would it be like to live with danger on your doorstep? People living under the shadow of a 12,500-feet-tall volcano, 25 miles outside Guatemala City, know exactly what it's like. Guatemala and its population of 16.5 million people is located in Central America. To its north and west is Mexico, Belize is to the northeast, and to the east are both Honduras and El Salvador. The country has two coasts; in the northeast is the Caribbean, and to the south, the Pacific Ocean.

Guatemala is the same size as Tennessee, or for that matter, the same size as the country of Iceland. And for as long as anyone can remember, volcanoes and earthquakes have been part of the fabric of life here. The capital of Guatemala has been moved twice, once because of volcanic mudflow, and once because of an earthquake. In fact, in 1976, an earthquake here in Guatemala claimed 25,000 lives. Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes, four of which are still active, Pacaya, Santiaguito, Tacaná, and Volcán de Fuego, which in English means, ominously, "Volcano of Fire".

And in June of 2018, the Volcano of Fire rained destruction onto surrounding communities. It was the deadliest eruption in Guatemala in almost 100 years. "Fuego" is well-known in these parts. It's one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It's been erupting almost constantly for many years. An eruption in 2012 saw 33,000 people evacuate their homes. Since then, the eruptions have been much smaller, but they have been persistent. The 54,000 people who live within six miles of Fuego are constantly reminded that danger is never far away.

It was about the middle of the day on June the 3rd, 2018, that Fuego erupted violently, and continued to do so for about the next week or so. A column of ash rose up above the mountain, stretching nine miles high into the sky, and rocks, many of them enormous, rained down over a wide area. Volcanic ash closed Guatemala City's main airport. But it was the pyroclastic flows that did so much damage. That's hot poisonous volcanic gas mixed with volcanic matter. They can move quickly, easily 50 miles an hour, sometimes much faster. And when they come down a mountainside toward a settlement of people, unless you move really quickly, essentially, you don't have a chance.

As rescue workers tried to reach people the next day, they were interrupted by fresh flows of mud, gas, and ash. And because the pyroclastic flows are really hot, most of the bodies recovered were unrecognizable. Ash that fell to the ground was said to be between 400 and 700 degrees Celsius, between 750 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. When Fuego erupted, destruction engulfed community after community. It seemed as though it happened in the blink of an eye. It was like a nightmare, except this was all too real. People lost their homes, completely swept away. They lost their crops, gone. They lost their possessions. And many people lost their entire family.

And so today thousands of people mourn those losses, and they're adjusting to a new way of life, without the past, without their possessions, without their homes, yes, in many cases, without their families. In a moment I'm going to introduce you to somebody who survived Fuego. She lost all of her possessions, but she considers herself especially blessed because she and her family made it out in one piece. They've lived to tell the story. But Rosa's neighbors did not. Many of them perished, for one reason. I'll tell you why in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Government statistics said, following the dramatic and devastating volcano in southern Guatemala, that 120 people lost their lives, and another 200 were officially missing. Locals tell another story. One man told us that he himself lost at least 70 extended family members. Another individual said that there is no question that there are at least 1,500 people missing in the wake of the volcano. In Escuintla, Guatemala, Rosa Chacón works as a volunteer for the government's emergency alert services. It's her responsibility to warn local residents when Fuego puts them in danger.

Rosa Chacón: We had been doing simulations for two months before this situation because we had calculated that the volcano erupts every 35 to 40 years, and we were getting to the 40-year mark. So we were already preparing ourselves for another eruption, but we didn't think that the eruption would be as big as it was. At 9 in the morning, we took some photos and saw that there was no problem for our area at that moment. When 11 in the morning came, we heard a very loud boom, and I started running from one community to another, from one community to another, warning people, alerting them to prepare themselves. It is very difficult for me... because I lived at the epicenter of that place, in the very place where that big monster was coming. I was trying to save the people that were on the bridge. My granddaughter and I yelled, and two other people that were from the same CONRED community, we yelled to them to leave, to clear the area, but the people were taking videos. It was something they had never seen before. The heat of it even got to me. Like this, like there were big waves coming down that came with a terrible speed. It came crashing, and when we saw that it gained speed, we ran. We ran. We ran to save ourselves. We continued in a car. They picked us up, and we were yelling, "Come, come! That thing is coming over"! I lived through an experience.

John Bradshaw: There are so many people who have been through so much and who have lost so much. What have you heard about the experiences of other people?

Rosa Chacón: That whole first week was very hard. They would approach me, they would hug me, and they would tell me, "Mrs. Rosita, they've already delivered my first dead loved one. I found my son". Others said, "I found my dad". "They are helping me bury them". I have encountered grief. Here we have cried together with all of these people. Although I've had to hold it in at times and close myself off somewhere very quiet and vent, because here I have been trying to give people a smile. To the people here I offer a hug, because for this reason the Lord has sent me here, to hug them and give them smiles, to all these people.

John Bradshaw: How did people respond when you alerted them to the, to the danger?

Rosa Chacón: Some people told me, "We're coming". Some didn't respond. This happened mainly at ground zero, which is where we've lost so many people. They would say, "We're going to put ourselves in our houses". And that's where all the families would gather. And us with the cars, buses, national police, telling people to get in the cars, and we would call them, "Come up, come up"! But what the people did instead was to lock themselves in their houses.

John Bradshaw: So the people who've been through something like this, how do you understand their attitude towards God? Has that been affected one way or another?

Rosa Chacón: Today, all the people have come closer to God, seeking God, especially if we pray with them. They may have come from different churches, but today when you approach someone and tell them, "We want to pray for you," they cry, they repent, and they come close to God. That is the attitude that the people now have.

John Bradshaw: After the Volcano of Fire erupted, rescue efforts were hindered by the clouds of toxic gas that hung heavy in the air. The ground was so hot that the soles of the boots worn by rescuers melted while on their feet. And then heavy rain fell, making rescue and recovery just that much more difficult. But rescuers, many of them volunteers, flocked to the area to see what they could do to help. One of them was Ricardo Carrillo, a local church pastor, among the first to arrive on the scene in Escuintla. Pastor, I understand you were one of the very first church workers to get to the site of the disaster. Tell me what went through your mind when you heard that the volcano had erupted.

Rosa Chacón: In that moment I thought, the volcano had been active every day before this, and in that moment, the first thing that came into my mind was the volcanic activity that was happening the days before the eruption. And I said, "Wow, what must have happened"? If the volcano erupted, that means it would have devastated several of the communities that I actually knew. When we arrived at the location of the disaster, what we were looking at, well, it was definitely shocking. In that moment, in my mind, I said to myself, how many people must have been killed?

John Bradshaw: When you made it to the volcano area, to that area that was affected, what did you see? What did you experience when you got there?

Rosa Chacón: It is difficult to explain with words because my heart, it sank in that moment. When I got there, I saw a community that I'd seen many times because I used to pass by that area all the time. Now a person would end up getting lost out there because the land there has become unrecognizable. So, in that moment, my heart sank so much; there was so much sadness in my heart.

John Bradshaw: With everything that you've seen and experienced, and the people that you've spoken to, and the stories that you've heard, what has impacted you the most throughout this process?

Rosa Chacón: Seeing the kids, to see the bodies of the children that were being taken out of this place. Some of the kids who died hugging each other, seeing that part, the physical reaction that some of these kids had when this was happening. Some of them ended up with their arms up, like in a defensive position, trying to protect themselves from what was happening. So, when they were taking them out, their arms were still up in that defensive position. That was one of the things that impacted me the most.

John Bradshaw: We've read in the news that 120 people died; 200 people are missing. But we're told by people in the area there's maybe 1,500 people that are unaccounted for. Maybe we'll never know. Why was it that so many people weren't able to get out or didn't get out in time?

Rosa Chacón: Because of the number of people that were in that place, because it was a Sunday, Sunday usually isn't a working day. Many people were in their houses, and the children weren't at school. The few who were saved at the time were saved because they had gone out to do something outside of their houses, something that wasn't routine. The people were too accustomed to the volcanic activity, too accustomed, I would say. They thought this volcanic activity was the same as what had always happened. So many of them thought that the column of smoke that was coming through was the only thing they needed to be concerned about. So they decided to close themselves in their houses to avoid being harmed by the smoke column, because, by being inside their homes, they didn't realize what was coming behind the column of smoke, the danger that was there.

John Bradshaw: You know, there are people all around the world that are suffering. Just a few meters away from where we're sitting is a young man who lost his entire family in this volcanic disaster. All around the world, people are going through suffering of many, many different kinds. As a pastor, what do you say to people?

Rosa Chacón: I would tell them what Paul said. You have the right to feel sad, but not like those who don't have hope. We as Christians, and as the people who believe in Jesus and understand that Jesus will come again, have the right to be saddened, but in a different way because there is hope. And as long as we have hope, our sadness is different because we know that the hope sustains us with a certain positivity that we'll be able to see our loved ones again when Jesus Christ comes on high.

John Bradshaw: I'll be back with more in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala, or what's left of it, following the devastating eruption of Volcán de Fuego just three weeks ago, as I speak to you. And you may wonder why people stay when there's danger on the doorstep. So why do people stay? Well, there's a couple of reasons. One is economics. This is where they live; it's where their homes are. This is where land is; this is jobs; it's survival. It's not that easy just to take off and pick up again. And the second one is related to the first: It's logistics. So this is a danger zone; it's a well-known danger zone. But to leave, to gather up your family, when you don't have much of anything, to go to another part of the country, find new work, it's just difficult.

There's another reason people stay. It's the same reason that people move to the coast of Florida, even though it will certainly be hit by another major hurricane, or why people build homes on the banks of rivers that flood, or why people live in earthquake country in California. Danger tends to be predictable to a degree. You can see a hurricane coming, so you can prepare. If floodwaters begin to rise, you can get out, or at least you hope you can. And most people survive earthquakes, so you hope you're going to be lucky. It's like driving without a seatbelt. Most people who do it are going to be okay. But those who aren't okay are going to be really not okay.

If you have to pay the price for your decision, it's usually an incredibly high price. And then there's another reason: familiarity. You live around danger, and you think, "It's never going to happen to me. It's happened before, and I got away with it. If it happens again, I'll get away with it then". And you will, unless, of course, you don't. Now, here's a question: Why do people go on living where they do, or how they do, when there's danger at their doorstep spiritually? It's like people play a sort of spiritual Russian roulette, taking spiritual risks when they ought to be minimizing risk and maximizing safety.

There are people waiting for a better time to come to faith in God. But what if, in the interim, that volcano blows? What if, what if your life comes to an end? What if Jesus were to return? What if you were simply to never get around to giving your heart to God? People dabble with sin. A little "harmless flirting" turns into an attraction, which leads to bad decisions and regret and a broken home and ruined relationships and with children as the casualties all because, well, no one expected it to turn out like this. But that's how it turns out. When there's danger on your doorstep, when you live on a fault line, you really can't be surprised when the ground shifts beneath your feet.

You know, you just can't afford to take risks with your spiritual life. It's dangerous. Life is unpredictable. And while you put God on hold, don't forget, you're spurning, you are saying "no" to the love of God for you. You're telling God you don't want Him in your life. But here's what happens. You wait. "I'll pray another day". You wait. "I'll read my Bible another day". And another day comes, and your heart has gone cold. That desire has all just bled away. And now you don't even want to come to God at all. Or there are those who are putting God on hold because they're pursuing the things of this world. They're saying in their hearts, "You know, it's okay. I know Jesus said it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. But it's going to be okay for me. I'll be fine. I can pursue that exclusive home I don't need, that expensive car I can't afford".

You hang in there doing that, and one day you become living proof that what Paul told Timothy is true: "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil". We just can't afford to wait. We can't afford to put anything in front of God. God calls us to come to Him now. To do anything other than to do that, well, that's like living on the side of a volcano and failing to take action when the warnings come. The reason Lot got himself into so much trouble in Sodom and Gomorrah is that he made a very risky spiritual decision. Thinking he'd be okay, he chose to live near those very wicked cities. The Bible says in Genesis 13 and verse 12, "Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom".

Yes, it's true Lot made it out of Sodom alive, but his wife didn't. His sons-in-law didn't. And while his daughters came out of Sodom, it's pretty obvious that the spirit of Sodom didn't come out of them. James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you". "Resist" is what James wrote. In other words, make some good decisions. Be proactive in order to safeguard your spiritual well-being. You do that in other areas of your life. People make decisions proactively to safeguard and preserve their health. We do that to preserve our well-being, our homes, our possessions. That's why you lock your car. It's why you lock your house. But what decisions are you making proactively to guard yourself spiritually?

Now, let's make sure we're not getting the cart before the horse. James wrote, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you". But where do you get the power to resist? Where does that strength come from? Right before he wrote that, he said, "Submit yourself therefore to God". Submit. That's to surrender. That's to yield. And when you submit yourself to God, God moves into your life, and He occupies your whole heart. Angels become your attendants, your helpers, and the Holy Spirit provides the power that you need to keep from evil and to remain in the will and in the heart of God.

First John 5 and verse 12 says, "He [or she] that hath the Son of God hath life". That's where the strength is, when you have Jesus. How do you have Jesus? You surrender. You yield. You offer your heart to him, and He takes it, and He makes it yours. Surrender. Have you surrendered? If you haven't, can you do it now? I know you can. God calls you to submit your life to Him. He takes your life in His hands, and He makes your old life new. And that's when you're really living, walking with Jesus, looking forward to an eternal future.
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