The Aftermath of Fuego....
“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”
As many of you have already heard, June 3 was a day that has forever changed the life of many of us here in Guatemala. It was around lunchtime that Juli and I noticed the sky growing dark. Our first thought was that a strong storm was coming, something that is not uncommon for this time of the year. We began to hear the sounds of thunder, which also confirmed the idea that we were about to have a storm. Shortly after, we began to hear the sound of what we thought was hail and I remember telling Juli that this is really going to be a strong storm. However, when I looked outside to see the hail, I did not see anything. Normally hail stays on the ground long enough to see it lying there in the grass, but on this day, I saw nothing. I then went outside to see what was happening and immediately got pelted with the sting of little rocks hitting my neck! I then held out my hand and sure enough, we had sand, mud, and rocks falling from the sky! Fuego had erupted and we were not even aware of it!
To be totally honest, we still did not realize the magnitude of what was happening till later that evening when we saw the devastation of many nearby towns on the news. For us in the Antigua area, seeing Fuego erupt is something we often see, though to actually have the rock / sand shower is not something that happens all the time (but still it does happen from time to time). In the moment it was happening, we saw no reason to think we were in the middle of a serious situation, one that could easily take the lives of many people. In fact, Juli left with William in the middle of it so that he could compete with his hip hop team in the National Dance Competition. Sadly, we were not the only ones who did not realize the magnitude of the eruption. A few days after the 2nd eruption happened, we were helping in a shelter and learned of a very sad story. Shortly after the initial eruption began, two little boys ran off to a nearby bridge that overlooks the lava flow from the volcano. This was something they had often done and up until then was considered safe, so to go was not that big of a deal. However, on this day, those 2 boys never came home as they had no idea that what was coming down the mountain was not just lava, but a boiling mudslide filled with lava. Though no one actually knows what happened to those boys, it is pretty safe to assume that they were did not survive and were likely washed away in the mudslide. There is also a story of an entire church that got buried by the mud. In the moment one saw the need to leave, they just continued on with their service as normal. This is what has made this eruption so tragic. Many lives were lost simply because everyone was so accustomed to Fuego’s activity, that no one took the needed precautions when the eruptions began.
On a positive note, I am sure that many have seen the photos of the golf resort on the side of the volcano. This result was actually one of the 1st places affected by the eruption as it sits higher up the volcano than the towns that are now buried. Miraculously, no one died at the resort due to the hotel manager who was on duty. From what we have read, when the activity of Fuego began, she had a hunch that something was different and asked her hotel staff to immediately evacuate the hotel along with all the guests. She was actually the last person out and right before she left took the incredible video that has circulated around the internet. If only others further down the volcano had taken the same precautions, again, many more lives might have been saved.
So now, 2 weeks later, our nation of Guatemala continues to look for answers as to how to recover. It is still unknown how many have died, however, it seems almost certain that it will range from 100-500 people. Thousands more have lost their homes and will likely never be able to return to the land they once called home. The government is planning to build homes for them, however, the question remains as to where? Clearly building on the same land would be foolish. So if they cannot rebuild on their land, then where do they build these homes? So now for many people, living in a school/shelter is all that they can do until things calm down with the volcano (it is still very active, though not quite like it was during those 1st days after the eruption). So many questions remain, and as of now, there are few answers for those questions.
Over the next few weeks, we have some rather large groups coming to the base to help out in whatever way that they can. When the volcano initially erupted, we had a team from Louisiana arrive that knows a lot about losing everything and this coming week we will have a team from Houston. I do not think it is a coincidence that the teams coming are experienced with this kind of sudden tragedy. Though God did not cause this eruption, we can see that He has been at work coordinating relief efforts since long before the eruption happened.
Right now, we have discovered that it is very hard to get connected to the survivors, but we know that we have a big God and that He will make a way for us. Our desire is not just to serve the shelters where they are staying, but also to encourage and bring hope to everyone who is hurting from this disaster. There is so much for them to process and we know that sometimes, what a survivor of this kind of tragedy needs is simply someone to listen to them, to cry with them, to hold them, and to pray with them. Homes can easily be rebuilt, but the heart is something that needs time to process and heal.
Please join us in praying for this nation over the next few weeks. Pray for us to have open doors to get into the shelters and connect directly with the people. Pray for favor and His guidance as well so that we can effectively be His hands and feet in this difficult season.