Once again, Carlos Hernandez, my travel partner and friend, has written another nice piece.
Reflections by Pastor Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care
"Christian Compassion in Guatemala -Demonstrating that Jesus IS the Light of the World "
Quelzaltenango, Guatemala, June 9, 2010 - On this our third and final day of our Assessment/Pastoral Care work in Guatemala after Agatha's torrential rains and Pacaya's volcanic ash claimed more than 200 lives (and counting!), our excellent driver, Felipe Hernandez, drives us into the mountainous area of Guatemala known as "Occidente" to the Quelzaltenango/Cantel area where we meet with President Ignacio Chan.
Pastors Collver and Hernandez with President Ignacio Chan at a farewell in Quelzaltenango
(Picture by Andres Lopez)
(Picture by Andres Lopez)
Along with some of our entourage of other Pastors and Lay leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guatemala that have been accompanying us on various segments of our visits, we gather with President Chan.
We are graciously received with a plate of assorted fruits, fresh breads and coffee.
This time together turns out to be a time of prayer, sharing, and de-briefing from the trauma of going through the disaster.
As with most disasters, the "Caregiving Pastors" and other "helping persons" are also in need of Pastoral Care and Conversation.
The next order of business for us in the area is to see, first hand, the extent of the damage.
President Chan leads us to some of the homes where familes along the area's foothills resided.
Here we again see the destructive and indelible mark left by Agatha's and Pacaya's onslaught of heavy, sooty mud on roof tops and walls.
The torrential rains mixed in with volcanic ash come down as heavy mud that destroy roofs in homes like this in Cantel, Guatemala. (Picture by Carlos Hernandez)
Our ambitous goal for today was to also travel to Retalhuleu where Ricardo Chan is Pastor. But it started raining pretty hard and the two and a half hour drive would have extended our time on the road beyond our ability to return to Antigua at a reasonable hour, where we are staying at the Lutheran Center.
This was unfortunate because Pastor Ricardo Chan's congregation, "Jesus, La Luz Del Mundo" ("Jesus, the Light of the World") got hit pretty hard.
Many of their members are staying in shelters set up by local congregations and other public buildings.
Their church was flooded and the roof downed so a shelter could not be set up at "Jesus - La Luz del Mundo."
When Pastor Ricardo Chan announced the decision (via cell phone) not to continue to Retalhuleu to the congregation, they were, of course, disappointed. They were anxiously waiting for us!
The president of the congregation, Hector Rene Donis, wanted to speak to me. Pastor Chan handed me his cell phone and we had a cordial and informative conversation.
I assured him that help would be on the way for some of their urgent needs - staples, clothing, towels, diapers, toiletries, aluminum (for roofing), cement blocks to repair walls, etc.
So again today, Assessment (on a cellphone) ended and immediate help began!
Dr. Collver, carrying with him (thank you Charlie Rhodes!) cash from LCMS World Relief and Human Care, granted "Jesus, Light of the World" congregation Q. 10,070 ($1,500) which will be delivered to them in person tomorrow.
Our Assessment/Pastoral Care visit here has made it pretty clear that there are humongous, urgent and emergency disaster needs in Guatemala, already at various levels of disaster before the disaster.
Rio Zamala, running through the Quelzaltenango/Cantel area wreaked havoc during its rapid and high flow through this mountainous area that left many areas inacessible. (Picture by Carlos Hernandez)
Another opportunity for LCMS World Relief and Human Care to join hands with our Mercy partners in the body of Christ and, like the name of Pastor's Ricardo Chan's congregation in Retahuleu reminds us, demonstrate with Christian compassion that "Jesus" IS "the Light of the World."
Pastor Hernandez can be reached at 314-956-2005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.