While I was sleeping, about 3:30 a.m. early Sabbath morning, I felt a sudden jolt in my bed. At first, it didn’t bother me, but became stronger until it reached a magnitude of an 8.8 earthquake on the Richter scale. Suddenly, the lights were cut off and my computer fell to the floor. My roommate, Brother Sousa called, “Quick, run outside. It is dangerous to stay here.” He reminded me that our room was in the basement. We walked through the pitch-dark hallway and came outside trembling, looking for a safe place to pray. Brother Sousa asked me to pray, but in my panic, I started praying in my Filipino dialect, which he couldn’t understand. He touched me and said, “Pray in Spanish,” as suddenly roof tiles and other debris came flying beside us. I was speechless and couldn’t pray anymore, so he prayed. After about three minutes, the quake stopped, and we began looking for other brethren who were trapped in the basement. Thankfully no one was hurt. At dawn, we began checking out the church property and found the front wall had caved out and the wall on the right side was broken down from the front to the back. There were several aftershocks during the day which caused more damage to the front wall of the church.
At sunset, I immediately called the airline to check the status of my scheduled flight for home the next morning. I was told that the airport was destroyed, the runway was torn down, and most of the computers were not in operation. The airline transferred my flight to Lima, Peru, which meant I would have to travel four days by bus from Santiago, Chile. I said farewell to the brethren and boarded the bus on my way to Lima.
As we were traveling along, we passed the Atacama Desert, one of the driest deserts in the world. Looking out of my window, I could see how dry the place was; not even grass or trees could grow there.
During our travel, we passed by a valley where most of the vehicles, including our bus, made a stop. It was interesting to see the landscape. All the surroundings were covered with burnished brown sand while some green, towering palm trees were growing in the area.
I wondered how these palm trees could survive in the desert while the other trees could not. What was the secret of the palm tree? Most palm trees have many short roots which spread across the upper level of the soil. These roots can secure a big quantity of soil around the root ball. As long as the soil is moderately dry, this makes a large, heavy anchor for the palm tree. Palm trees absorb water through their roots. If you dig down and search for the roots of the palm tree, you will find out that they reach down to the water table. I thank the Lord that I arrived safely in Peru where I boarded a plane that took me home.
A few weeks later, while I was traveling to New York, I was sitting next to a man who seemed to be from the Middle East. He was very friendly and asked me where I came from and where I was going. He also asked what was my occupation. After some friendly introductions, I asked him a question, “Sir, you seem to be from the Middle East, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he said, “I’m from Lebanon.”
“Tell me, Sir, about your national tree, the famous cedar of Lebanon,” I added.
“You know,” he said, “our cedar trees are so special that some of them date back before the birth of Christ. These trees like to grow on hilly and rocky terrain. They have special roots that go down to the deep level of the water aquifer, which are underground layers of rock that are saturated with water. They can be brought to the surface through natural springs or by pumping. While roots from other trees are superficial, the roots of cedar trees look for rocks, embrace them and form networks of roots over the rocks so when the storm or hurricane comes, they will never be uprooted.
When I arrived home, my wife and I had morning worship and amazingly, we read from, :
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Then, I understood why the righteous are compared to a palm tree. We live in this evil world which resembles the dry desert of Atacama. Here we may expect to have trials, temptations, sickness, sadness, poverty, and every type of suffering which resembles the burnished, brown and hot sand of the desert. The palm tree cannot avoid these surroundings because this area is its habitat. Similarly, we can’t avoid these trying situations and difficult circumstances in our lives because we live in this wicked world. Despite its climate, the palm tree maintains its green foliage because it takes in water deep down from the water table.
How can we be like the palm tree? We can’t allow ourselves to be discouraged by the negative circumstances in which we may find ourselves. Our life is rooted in Christ, who is the Source of living water.
“The palm tree well represents the life of a Christian. It stands upright amid the burning desert sand, and dies not; for it draws its sustenance from the springs of life beneath the surface.”—The Review and Herald, September 1, 1885.
“As the palm tree, drawing nourishment from fountains of living water, is green and flourishing in the midst of the desert, so the Christian may draw rich supplies of grace from the fountain of God’s love, and may guide weary souls, that are full of unrest and ready to perish in the desert of sin, to those waters of which they may drink, and live.”—The Signs of the Times, June 26, 1884.
Why is the righteous man or woman compared to the cedar of Lebanon? The cedar trees will survive in the drought because although their twigs, branches and leaves may be shaken off by strong winds, they remain firm and steadfast. They are not uprooted because they embrace or imbed themselves in the rock. The tip of the roots of the cedar of Lebanon are equipped with a substance that allows them to drill through the rock and continue the deep-rootedness of the tree. Similarly, we will survive the storms of life because we are rooted on Jesus Christ, the rock of ages. Yes, Satan can take away our property, destroy our health, our business, and alienate our friends. He may even take our life, but he can’t take away our faith in Jesus Christ. We would rather die than commit one sin. Why? We are deeply rooted in Christ and we embrace Him by faith, therefore we can’t be moved.