Back in 1989 there was a devastating earthquake in Armenia that made the headlines all over the world. Over 30,000 people were killed and thousands were injured. One father raced to his son’s school and found that it had been leveled. There was just a mountain of stones where the school had been.
The father stood confused for a while as to what he could and should do. Then doubt and confusion were brushed aside as he remembered a promise he had made. Before his son was big enough to understand, this father had said to him regularly, “Son, no matter what, I’ll always be there for you.”
Rushing to the back corner where his son’s classroom had been, he started digging with his bare hands. Other parents arrived and were shocked by what he was doing. They understood, but it was a time to be practical. “Don’t do this to yourself,” they said. “There is no hope.” Glancing up, the father asked, “Will you help me?” They looked at him with pity. One by one sadly drifted away.
A policeman watched for a moment. Then he said, “My friend, I know how you feel. I know that you are upset, but if you keep digging, the rubble is going to cave in and you will be trapped, too.”
The father asked, “Will you help me?” The officer paused for a moment, then shaking his head he turned and walked on. The fire chief came over and said to him, “Sir, you are risking your life; let the professionals do what they are trained to do. Go home.”
Not so much as looking up, the father said to him, “Will you help me?” The fire chief moved on to work somewhere else. The father kept digging.
Eight hours passed, then 12 and then 24—an entire day. Left alone, the father kept digging, his hands swollen and bleeding. The clock said 36 hours had passed when he heard faint voices down inside. He cried out, “Who’s there? Armon? Armon?” Then he heard the most wonderful words he had ever heard in his life, “Dad! Is that you?”
Suddenly, hope and assurance filled the air. Villagers came running and began pulling the stones off. All 14 of the children came out safe and sound. And as they did, the father hugged each one.
Over and over the son kept saying, “Dad, you promised; and I knew you’d come. I kept telling the other kids, if my Dad is alive after the earthquake, he will come and save me and when he does...
“He will save all of you, too.”
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church in Temple where he served as senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.