Volcanic eruption devastates Guatemala

Escuintla, Guatemala

Image from Prensa Libre

Volcán de Fuego, a volcano located about 25 miles from Guatemala City, erupted 3 June, killing more than 100 people and leaving countless others affected. The number is expected to climb as first responders continue searching for survivors. According to BBC News, this is the first time Volcán de Fuego's eruption resulted in the death of Guatemalan citizens since 1902.

Villages in three provinces — Chimaltenango, Escuintla, Sacatepéquez — were significantly affected by the disaster, leaving many homes consumed by lava and residents buried in ash.

"There's the rest of my family," a victim told Prensa Libre, a local news publication, as he pointed to a pile of ash. "And how could I cry? The only way to cry is to see [my] family."

Gustavo A. Crocker, chair of the Church of the Nazarene's Board of General Superintendents, and his wife, Rachel, are from Guatemala. 

"I want to personally thank the Nazarene family for the outpouring of prayers and support in the aftermath of the volcano eruption this week," he said. "Several of Rachel's relatives and their families live in the proximity of the affected area, but they are all safe and out of danger." 

Nazarenes and other local organizations are responding to the tragedy. A group from the church's North Central Field traveled to Escuintla, one of the communities affected by the eruption, to bring emergency medical supplies such as water, food, diapers, and blankets.

Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Field Coordinator Dámaris Kellogg and Field Strategy Coordinator Leonel de León were among the North Central Field team members.

Kellogg reports there is no damage to the infrastructure of the Church of the Nazarene in Guatemala, though many members are frightened and were moved to shelters to ensure their safety.

"There are several families that have [had] their loved ones disappear and others [have] their relatives in hospitals," Kellogg said. "There [is] emergency personnel missing, too. We pray for the families affected and for the church that we can see with the eyes of Jesus both physical and spiritual needs. We know that God is in control and that God loves Guatemala!"

The team recently met with CONRED (Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres; National Coordination for Disaster Reduction), SESOP (La Secretaría de Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente; The Secretary of Social Work of the President's Wife), and the Health Department in Guatemala to see how they could serve. They have agreed to work with children twice a day until 9 June and have volunteered at various shelters in the area. The following week they will be working with a team of Nazarene doctors from Mexico who will be adding needed medical professionals.

The team is working with a shelter in Escuintla to communicate with other areas that may be in need.

"We found the people in charge of the shelters and we put ourselves at their disposal to open another shelter if necessary," Kellogg said. "It was a blessing; there were police officers in that shelter and they asked us to please pray with the people and for them."

Local Nazarene churches are also responding to the victims' needs. Pastor Faustino Menéndez initially opened the Escuintla Church of the Nazarene as a shelter for families but later served as an area to store food and other supplies. A Nazarene church in the neighboring area of Coatepeque is working with the church in Escuintla to provide adequate supplies as the number of people who need them continues to grow.

Volunteers from other Guatemala Nazarene districts are also helping. On 6 June, a group from the Atlantic District gathered volunteers and supplies to take to clinics and shelters in Escuintla.

"With the young Nazarenes of the Atlantic District, we managed to gather one van and two trucks and left [Wednesday] at [3 a.m.] towards Escuintla," said Mario Pineda, Atlantic district superintendent.

Local Nazarenes, past and present, have been encouraged by the continued support from members of the Church of the Nazarene from all over the world.

"We are blessed to hear that several Nazarene Disaster Response teams have been deployed within hours of the disaster and they have been helping the victims with immediate crisis assistance, water, food, and spiritual counseling," Gustavo Crocker said. "God's people have been with those suffering every step of the way."

Prayer is requested for the victims' families in Guatemala and the church as it responds.

The Church of the Nazarene officially entered Guatemala in 1904. Guatemala reported 753 Churches of the Nazarene in 2017, 655 of which had been officially organized. It has 93,000 total members. Located on the Mesoamerica Region, Guatemala has 12 Phase 3 districts and four Phase 2 districts.

How to help

Pray

Please pray for families and individuals affected by the eruption and subsequent landslides. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Pray for the energy, resilience, and success of the rescue workers and volunteers. Pray those are experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for those who are most vulnerable, especially senior adults, individuals with disabilities, and people living in poverty. Pray for church leaders and churches responding to the needs around them. To send a prayer or note of encouragement, go to ncm.org/pray.

Give

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries' Mesoamerica Disaster Relief Fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food, water, and medical supplies, as well as for long-term rebuilding.

To send donations by mail:

In the U.S., make checks payable to "General Treasurer" and send them to: 

Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
P.O. Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

In Canada, make checks payable to "Church of the Nazarene Canada" and send them to:

Church of the Nazarene Canada
3657 Ponytrail Drive
Mississauga, ON L4X 1W5

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

For additional countries, please give through your local church or district, designating your gift to Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Guatemala Volcano

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