When the earth shook in Kathmandu on April 25, it dumped a seven-story building on top of 15 year-old Pemba Tamang. The boy was trapped under the weight of a world that for him and thousands of others literally tore apart and collapsed like a scene from a sci-fi doomsday movie.
Then five days passed. Helpless and alone, he waited, and survived. I figure that comes to about 7,200 minutes. Even a couple minutes can be scary if you find yourself crushed under debris, unable to move. I can’t imagine his plight for hour after hour in the dark, wondering what’s next as tremors continued for days, each rumble threatening to sever the tiny thread of life he desperately clung to. Finally a combined Nepalese and American disaster response team heard his cries for help, and brick by brick dug him out. “I thought I was just hallucinating again,” he said, when light finally broke through between the concrete slabs that wedged him into a deep crevice. Covered in dust from head to foot and squinting in the bright sunlight, he was surprisingly coherent and responsive, enough so to manage a little hand wave to a cheering crowd of jubilant onlookers, desperate for good news.
I will try to remember Pemba’s struggle and his remarkable patience next time I have to wait at the grocery store check-out line, or when the cars in front of me aren’t moving quickly enough at the Starbuck’s drive-through. I will remember that any small inconvenience in my so-called busy life is nothing compared to five days in a hole. I will also think about the parallel between this story and the way the God of the Bible is always on a rescue mission, searching for the lost, for those who are buried under tons of personal rubble, trapped without a chance of escaping on their own. I can personally testify that He hears even the faintest cry for help, and won’t stop digging for us until His saving hand pulls us out of what could have been our spiritual grave. We are told that “. . . there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:10 NLT) That sounds like a cheering crowd to me.