VANCOUVER, VANCOUVER, THIS IS IT!

 Volcano Erupting

A Force of Nature

by Eric Elkin


There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
— Psalm 19: 3-4

“Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”

These were the first words received by scientists announcing the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. They were also the last words spoken by geologist David Johnston. Johnston, a volcano specialist, had set up camp on a ridge close to the mountain to help monitor changes. Unfortunately for Johnston, his campsite was in the direct blast zone of the volcano.

Mt. St. Helens was a fixture of beauty dominating the Pacific Northwest landscape long before humans walked the land. The native people called it “Smoking Mountain” and told tales of previous eruptions. Early European settlers documented a series of volcanic activity throughout the 1800’s. None of the earlier explosions were on the scale of what took place in 1980. Within minutes of the eruption, the mountain would lose 1,300 feet of elevation.

Out of the mountain shot a glowing cloud of superheated gases and debris at supersonic speeds. Nearly every living thing within eight miles of the blast was completely wiped out. Another nineteen miles were devastated by shockwaves which rolled over the land leveling century-old trees and searing the land lifeless. When all was said and done, 230 square miles of land was left devastated by the blast.


Reporters used words to both describe the immediate destruction and the long-term impact on the land. The forecast was bleak for fish and wildlife in the blast zone. However, the voice which spoke no words, creation, sang a beautiful song over the land which continues today. Creation itself was reforming, renewing and reviving the land. The debris which once wiped out old life was now providing the soil for new life.

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens is a perfect example of the words of the psalmist in Psalm 19. Creation speaks no words, yet its voice goes throughout the earth, even to the ends of the world. It took fifteen days for the ashes of the blast to circle the globe.

The forces of nature can be brutal to the land as well as humanity. However, the voice of the one who speaks through it proclaims life, even in the midst of death. Resurrection activity is woven deeply into the fabric of life.  It serves to remind us not to fear the voice which is not heard but to draw nearer to it to discover new life.

Click to read: Psalm 19

Reflection Questions:

  • Where do you hear the voice which goes through all the earth?
  • When have you witnessed new life after a disastrous event?
  • How does resurrection shape your living?
  • When does the promise of new life provide you hope?

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