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How we can give aid to Guatemala

A woman cries while making a phone call after the Pacaya Volcano eruption.
A woman cries while making a phone call after the Pacaya Volcano eruption.
PHOTO: AP (Moises Castillo)

As you may have seen in the media recently, in the past week Guatemala has seen more that its fair share of natural disasters. First Pacaya Volcano erupted showering lava and ash throughout Guatemala City and the country. What has followed has been hard to imagine – an earthquake, tropical storm, mudslides, and most recently a huge sink hole. Any country would have a difficult time dealing with such a series of natural disasters, but for a poor country like Guatemala, the effects can be devastating.

In the past few years, I have been on four missions trips to Chichicastenango, Guatemala, and have completely fallen in love with the friendly people and beautiful countryside. Grace Community Church of Noblesville has partnered with Missions Frontier (founded and currently run by Matt and Leslie Capehart, who have lived and served in Chichi since 2003) to arrange such missions trips to Chichicastenango. The following is an excerpt of an email I received today from Leslie Capehart describing the current situation in Guatemala:

“Last Thursday began what seemed like the never ending array of natural disasters - volcanoes, tropical storms, and sink holes. Volcano Pacaya exploded multiple times last week covering Guatemala City and the surrounding areas in a thick blanket of black volcanic ash (small sandlike rocks). The problem of volcanic ash was complicated by rain. As people raced to clean up the ash, the rains continued and the ash began to clog the drainage systems. The airport closed. On Saturday, Tropical Storm Agatha hit Guatemala, causing country wide devastation - (apparently making the US news). Thank you to all of those who have written to inquire about our well-being. We were driving on the Pan Am Highway from Guatemala City to Chichi during the storm. We made it home just before the Highway was completely overtaken by landslides. Thanks to God, we made it through the storm and are fine. The country however is a mess. Agatha brought torrential downpours in excess of 20 inches of rain, very reminiscent of Hurricane Stan in 2005. The storm caused mudslides, flooding, loss of homes, and loss of life. Thanks to God, many people were evacuated from their homes before their homes were washed away by flooding or crushed by massive landslides. Currently Chichi, among other towns, is without water. Many of the water pipes were crushed due to mudslides. Many bridges have collapsed and many roads are impassable due to the mudslides. It will take a while for the country to repair the damages. In spite of all the damage, the people of Guatemala remain resourceful and resilient. As with hurricane Stan, communities, churches, and help organizations have united to help begin to repair and rebuild. It has been encouraging to see Guatemalans helping their neighbors and to watch the local church reach out to help the community. The people are out of immediate danger and rebuilding has begun. However, as we enter the rainy season, structures may be further damaged by additional rains.”

If you are looking for a way to get involved in aiding Guatemala, Missions Frontier is a wonderful organization to go through (I speak from first hand experience!)

How you can help:

Donate money toward immediate relief efforts. Missions Frontier will be partnering with local churches in the community to distribute food, water, clothing and medicine.

Home construction. Many families have lost their homes in the storms. Many missions trips (including a couple that I’ve been on) will build houses for families; donations designated for “Agatha” will be used toward the reconstruction of these wooden homes. It cost $1,500 for a team to construct one home.

Missions Trips. The country is currently safe for travel and missions trips are greatly encouraged. In addition to participating in missions projects, the tourism generates much needed business and greatly helps the economy.
 

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