It’s been a crazy few weeks here in Guatemala. Sunday we experienced a strong 5.8 earthquake, thank God no major damage reported. Also, as you know, volcano Fuego had a massive eruption Sunday June 3 that sent pyroclastic flows through areas which consumed entire villages. Towns as far as 20miles away were covered in lava rocks/sand and ash. Though the mission home was covered in a sleet of volcanic rock & ash, it is a “safe” distance and location/elevation from the volcano at about 10 miles away. “Officially” the death toll is around 100 & missing is reported at 200. But because the country lacks accurate registration & census of persons, these numbers are believed by many to be inaccurate. It is reported by local residents in one village that was completely covered that there are at least 2,000 missing & buried which may never be accounted for because entire family groups have been wiped out. If there is not a surviving family member outside of the villages that were wiped out to report missing members, then essentially no one is reporting them missing. The population of el rodeo, a village completely buried by a pyroclastic flow, is 14,125 & was only in the initial stages of evacuation when it was devastated. Efforts to locate bodies have been halted because of ongoing extreme danger of heat, gasses, mud/landslides (lahars) & continued eruptions & pyroclastic flows.
Many are asking about the safety of mission teams and our safety as well. Even though the base of volcano Fuego is only 10 miles from the mission home and we are affected by the ash at times, we are a safe distance away and also not in an area likely to be affected by lahars, pyroclastic flows or lava. Minor volcanic eruptions, mudslides during the rainy season and the occasional earthquake are normal natural occurrences here in Guatemala just as tornadoes are in the Midwest. There are safety precautions and warnings we can heed but at times there is nothing we can do to avoid or prevent. There are areas in Guatemala that have increased danger due to the recent volcanic events. We are not equipped to enter into these areas to travel or directly aid in rescue and recovery effort & we won’t put our teams at increased risk. We are continuing our current work and looking for ways to collaborate & partner with larger organized efforts (food and supplies for rescue workers and displaced families). There are over 1 million people that have been affected directly or indirectly by the volcano’s eruption. We must not neglect the already difficult circumstances of so many families that already struggle on a daily basis to survive & are now cut off from access to what little work and food they had. We will work to support these families in an organized and safe manner not only for our own safety but as to not undermine the rescue & recovery work being done by organizations that know what to do & how to help. The most beautiful thing i have witnessed so far in all of this is the outpouring of love, generosity & tenacity of the Guatemalan people. We will keep you posted about the team’s safety & work.
Many of you have donated to support the relief efforts for those affected by the volcano disaster. We are working diligently to be good stewards with the funds that have been given. We currently are working to identify individual families in our neighboring towns which we can sponsor and assist. We are seeing the Guatemalan people themselves have responded in a tremendous way in providing the food, clothing and supplies needed at the shelters for displaced families & are working to reach villages cut off from supplies due to roads being buried in lava or waterways swollen from rain & mudflows.
We are working with several non-profit groups that have united together to identify immediate needs & long term needs for survivors utilizing & working within each of our areas of specific ministry/aid & sharing our financial resources where able. Recycled Lives’ area of strength/ministry is meeting individual families’ needs through housing & personalized care/encouragement through sharing the love of God. We know how to meet large group food needs with our supplemental food distribution..presently we are targeting assisting families that are being housed with extended family or friends and need support to get back on their feet. We are also working to identify the need to start a second supplemental food distribution in an appropriate area for families that are displaced but living outside of a shelter.
The process is and will be very tedious and slower than we would like it to be because the initial rescue & aid efforts were poorly planned, communicated & carried out. Nonprofit groups that specialize in disaster recovery are stepping in & on bureaucratic toes to get the proper help & coordinated efforts necessary to begin working through recovery. We are ready to jump in & are actively seeking any opportunities to volunteer help & to provide resources & aid where & when appropriate. Thanks for praying for us.
Life is uncertain everywhere in this world whether it be living in an area prone to earthquakes and volcanoes or tornadoes, wildfires and flooding. One certainty is that though natural disasters exist virtually everywhere on earth, we have a Father God that will provide sufficiently more than we can ask for or imagine when we rely faithfully in Him and when the body of Christ moves and reacts out of compassion and love to aid those that are suffering.
Trusting in Him,
🙂 Shawn Johnson
Founder, Executive Director, Missionary