News - Publications Feature Navas' Account of 2017 Earthquake

Publications Feature Navas' Account of 2017 Earthquake

By Carla Morris

magazine coverA journal out of the graduate school associated with Mexico’s Supreme Court has published an article by Mauricio and Faith Marie Nava.

The October 2018 issue of Gaceta del Tribunal Federal de Justicia carries the account of Mauricio’s experience as a volunteer rescue worker during the tragic earthquake that hit Mexico in 2017. The couple had previously co-authored articles on the subject for other publications including Mexico’s national newspaper El Universal.

Mauricio serves as associate professor of language at Greenville University; Faith Marie directs the University’s World Outreach and Missions program.  

The Earth Trembled Again and Again . . . 400 Times

The idea of capturing the account from a rescue worker’s perspective came out of Mauricio’s efforts during the rescue operation to keep his family, friends and students in Greenville informed of his safety in the face of danger. He worked both in Mexico City and at the quake’s epicenter in Jojutla and El Higuerón.

“In the days after the earthquake,” recalls Mauricio, “the earth trembled over 400 times.”

The after quakes were mostly mild and left him feeling dizzy. But one memorable tremble broke windows and caused people to run outside.

His team worked with the remains of buildings towering above and mounds of rubble, broken glass and rebar underfoot. It reminded Mauricio of the earthquake in 1985 earthquake-1when he, his mother and sister “came out of the rubble with our lives,” even as rescue workers around them were killed.

Now, in 2017, urgency drove his work.

Historical Account Reconstructed From Phone Messages

Earlier this year El Universal invited persons to submit stories in remembrance of both earthquakes. Faith Marie referred back to Mauricio’s 2017 phone messages updating the Greenville community on his safety, and edited them into a historical account of the 2017 tragedy. El Universal published the article September 11, 2018. 

The pair had already presented a version of the story at a Spanish literature conference, the Congreso Internacional de Literatura y Estudios Hispánicos, celebrated in the city of Quito, Ecuador, in March 2018. Ecuador had also suffered a major earthquake. The Navas’ account served as a literary homage to the rescue workers and victims of Mexico and Ecuador.

earthquake-1665898_640Memoire Narrative: You Are There

The article for Gaceta del Tribunal Federal de Justicia puts the reader in a rescue worker’s shoes, tracing the volunteer’s encounters as he joins “the rivers of volunteers, people from all walks of life” laboring together throughout the days and nights. It presents vivid images:

  • Workers periodically raising their fists as a signal for absolute silence so they can follow light tappings under rubble;
  • Traffic on a nearby thoroughfare slowing to a silent crawl when workers’ fists go up;
  • The sight of an office building about to continue its long delayed fall;
  • Workers receiving immunizations before they enter “Ground Zero,” the most dangerous area, and others verifying that they understand what site authorities have told them;
  • The names and phone numbers of relatives penned on rescuers’ arms, should they die.

The Navas entitled the article “19S”—a date marker that represents national mourning much like 9/11 represents solemn remembrance for people in the U.S. It means the 19th day of the ninth month of the years 1985 and 2017, dates of the two earthquakes that devastated Mexico.

Analysis And Critique

The article invites readers to consider leadership that came into play during the crisis, ineffective leaders who didn't identify with the overall vision and those who disrespected volunteer rescue workers.

In contrast, the authors talk about excellent leadership exemplified by a master carpenter who observed the workers under his charge, moved them around where they could flourish and tested them to see whether they shared the vision of the mission.

“He gave them authority as they proved faithful,” says Mauricio, explaining how each function—even minor jobs like sweeping wood chips—“translated into the safety of everyone else.”

“We Have Seen The Value of Youth”

Since Mauricio’s safe return home, he has carefully considered the message his Rescueprofound  experiences hold for students today.

He invites them to think about the nature of servanthood versus leadership, and to think about humility, unity and what Christ’s call to “follow me” really means.

“We are still working on those ourselves,” he concedes. “It took us many months to be able to revisit this experience as a family.”

“Most of the rescue workers were young, high school and college-age people,” he recalls. “We have seen the value they have and the strength they have. We have much admiration for students like those who attend Greenville University, because we know of what they are capable. We would say to them, ‘let no one tell you ‘you can’t,’ because the Lord says you can, if it brings Him honor and glory.’”

Learn More

When Disaster Strikes: The Curious Appeal of Crisis Response
World Outreach and Missions
Blend of Leadership and Service Score On and Off the Court
Urban Plunge
Stick it Out: Service Through Struggle

When you fund even part of a scholarship through The Greenville University Fund, you help a student embrace God’s call to serve. Thank you for giving today.

Post earthquake photos: Top - Mauricio Nava; Middle - Angelo Giordano, Pixabay; Bottom: Sara_Escobar /

This story was published on January 15, 2019

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