JOSE SALVADOR JIMENEZ GONZALEZ
“I noticed a piece of the shirt my wife had been wearing wrapped around that same wire that was pulling me to safety.”
Editor’s Note: How can a man begin to re-build a life when he sees it suddenly washed away in front of his eyes in a path of destruction? His home, his wife, his son, his unborn child. All gone in seconds.
By virtue of its location Central America is prone to hurricanes. Its residents know to prepare for them and wait out the rains and high winds. However, Hurricane Mitch in late October, 1998, was not the average hurricane. Its feverish path twisted and turned over the area for six days, wreaking havoc and becoming the worst natural calamity in the region’s history to that point. The infrastructure of roads and bridges was destroyed. Entire crops, such as the beans that are a dietary staple, were devastated. As hard as it is to imagine, whole countries were literally closed down. The toll on human life left 20,000 dead. Three million survivors who largely escaped with the clothes on their backs were left either homeless or with homes that were torn apart.
Those are the outward losses that can be calculated. What about the internal losses of spirit for the survivors? How do you go about re-building spirituality when you feel you have nothing to live for?
God bless you.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. It was a long time before I was able to talk about some of these things.
Growing up as the only boy in our family with two older sisters in the small village of Gualache in the Usulutan department, I was the sickly one. I am unaware of my diagnosis, but it was some kind of respiratory illness that kept me out of school. My parents had a hard life, and there were no options for my medicine or treatment. I was aware that my parents were in the process of arranging my funeral when I was six years old.
Eventually my health improved, and I was able to attend school through ninth grade. I helped my dad plant corn in a field two kilometers away. My dad did a variety of jobs, including welding steel to make storage bins for corn, carpentry, and masonry work. I learned these skills from him.
I was born on March 13, 1976, making me only four years old when the civil war began. That was too young to be recruited, but living close to the mountains where much of the fighting occurred, I do recall all of us having to hide under beds or anywhere we could when soldiers appeared. I often had to run away when I heard bullets and saw soldiers; this has had a lingering impact on me. My dad worked at a large local finca (agricultural plantation) at the time; guerrillas stopped him from working for the rich people, which meant he had no income at all.
In 1992 I met Rosa Wilma Cross and married her on May 20, 1994, when she was seventeen and I was eighteen. Both our families approved of the marriage. We lived along the river on the same property as my parents, but in a different house. I was working with my dad in carpentry and happy to be learning from him.
I can well remember the joy of the birth of our little boy, Medardo Antonio Jimenez, who was born the year after we married. Three years later Rosa was pregnant again. In mid-October the three of us had a delightful day playing together. That is the last carefree day we ever had.
At 2:30 P.M. on October 31, 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit our area. We had been carefully monitoring the level of the river for a couple of days, and it still appeared to be normal. All of a sudden, as we were watching the north, out of nowhere a big tsunami of water eight meters high came down off the side of the volcano, destroying everything in its path toward the river. Later I was to learn that the source of this immense cascading plunge of water came from the water tanks on top of the volcano that toppled over the side of the mountain as a result of a mudslide which then roared in a fury downhill. This caused the already high river to overflow. All the houses in front of it were destroyed. Although I was in shock, I called for my wife and son and saw that she was running away with him trying to save their lives, but the river widened. She may have felt that she was in a safe location, but then a second even bigger wave of water covered over her and our child. I quickly lost sight of them.
I rushed into the house to see if anyone else was inside, but no one was there. By this time large trees were washing through the house which was being destroyed. I held tight to a tree floating along in the force of the swift current. The water’s speed was so strong that it pulled my clothes right off my body. After moving fifty meters or so, I was able to grab a wire which helped me maneuver myself to the other side of the river. I noticed a piece of the shirt my wife had been wearing wrapped around that same wire that was pulling me to safety. Words cannot describe my thoughts at that moment.
That wire led me to a tree that miraculously was still standing, allowing me to climb down and seek help. Someone gave me clothes to wear, and we immediately began to search for my family while most of the others in the village had climbed the hills and remained for three days without food or shelter. We looked up and down the river just like everyone else was doing for their loved ones. A little eight-year- old girl from our area was found dead about 3/4 of the way down the river. My parents and in-laws survived and joined in the search. I discovered my wife’s body 40 kilometers down the river. It was unbelievably sad and hard. The loss was so final. I felt that my life was destroyed, including my very spirit.
After that I simply lost interest in living. For two years I drank heavily non-stop and was unable to talk about my grief or seek help. Then one day after drinking with my cousin, I decided to stop by a church to observe. I had no intention of getting involved. At that point I was uninterested in committing to Christ. I watched and listened to the message. When the pastor finished his message, he approached me saying, “Welcome to the church. You are here because God brought you here for a purpose in your life. That purpose is to come to His feet.” He began reciting scriptures and then continued, “Son, if you hear my voice, don’t be hard in your heart because the day of salvation is now and I am here in front of you.” At that moment suddenly I felt something hot penetrate throughout my body. My hands and feet felt gigantic, and I was unable to move them. I stood up and tried to run away but was unable to move my legs. Something held my body in place. Then slowly and deliberately this involuntary force began to urge my body forward toward the pastor. At the very same time all my negative thoughts evaporated, and I made a pact with Jesus. I stopped drinking on that day.
This was not a positive ending in my life, however. Eight days after I began attending church regularly, my mom, with whom I was now living because my home had been destroyed, gathered all my clothes and threw them at me and evicted me from their house. Some may think it was due to the difference in religious beliefs because my mom was Roman Catholic and I was attending a different church. However, my feeling is that she was upset over losing her drinking partner. It caused a rift in our relationship for many years.
That clash improved only through years of my prayer and efforts to mend our relationship. One day I prayed for my mom’s improved health because I saw no way I could help her. That night I heard a voice in my ear tell me I was praying for the wrong thing. The voice said I should not be praying for her body, rather for her soul. Within a couple of days there was an improvement in our relationship, and now for two years I would say that it is restored. I feel God is responsible for our reconciliation.
In 2005 I heard the voice again. I believe it to be the voice of Jesus. This time He told me I needed to go tell people about Him. I began walking to the people He directed me to and telling them about Him. They became converted to Christ. The group of 35-40 members we have called together in our congregation is in the process of building a church in the front of my property. It is built through faith a little at a time when donations for materials come. I dream that we can see the construction complete, and I know that God will help me realize my dream. I dedicate my time to people and pray to God to touch people’s hearts. I do not ever see visions; I only hear Jesus’ voice which comes when I am working, relaxing, or praying.
After a period of living alone, God gave me Daisy Luce Pozada to be my wife on July 20, 2001. We are blessed with four wonderful children: Salvador – 10, Jonas – 9, Heron – 6, and Sarah – 2. Maybe later we will try to have more. The three older children attend school. We raise chickens for our own use. I work within the community part-time using the variety of skills that my dad taught me in order to provide for my family’s needs. I dedicate the rest of my time to work on behalf of my ministry to God in thanks for saving my life.
Besides the completion of the church itself, I also dream that my children will grow up believing in God and being good people who will also work in God’s ministry. In our faith we baptize at the age of 12 or 13 when they can be prepared to choose for themselves with an open heart to receive God and renounce the Devil. I made a mistake in my own life in not choosing Jesus sooner.
God has given me mercy. I have everything I need. Daisy also feels her life is complete. It has now been nearly twelve years since I have been sober and seven years that I have been listening to Jesus, inviting people to join us in worship and ministering to their needs. I rejoice in having rebuilt a life thanks to God. Because of my relationship with Christ, I am beginning to forget the bad experiences and remember them only when someone now asks me.
Editor’s Note: There was a time in Salvador’s life when he saw absolutely no future. Now he has another life and direction which he hears spoken from above. This gives him hopes and dreams.
The rudimentary exterior structure of a church is beginning to take shape on Salvador’s property a few courses of brick at a time as funds become available. It has a very long way to go. Salvador optimistically is determined to see this project completed.
Salvador has learned to handle his grief in ways better than drinking. He is now living a life in thanksgiving to God for His mercy in sparing him from the waters of that terrible catastrophic event called Hurricane Mitch.