Guatemala’s latest disaster, the pyroclastic eruption of Volcano Fuego, happened almost two months ago. Since then, our charities, A Couple of Christians Foundation and Misioneros Cristianos Unidos (MCUGuatemala.org), have been providing relief to displaced survivors and others evacuated to shelters due to risks.
We are blessed to be able to help. Donations have paid for a lot of what these people ask for. We initially tried to provide “articles of dignity” for people forced to live in unbearable conditions for a time.
Plenty of clothing arrived, but they had no clean underwear. We brought that. They were held to a strict shower schedule, then returned to stifling sleeping areas to sweat. We provided hundreds of bottles of deodorant.
In the first weeks, we delivered towels they could call their own, along with shaving supplies, soap, and new socks. Another appreciated item was hair brushes, combs, and elastic tie-backs.
Next, we provided distractions for children. Coloring books and crayons, bubbles, jump ropes, glow-stick jewelry, a variety of balls and games, along with “fun” snacks and juice boxes to break the monotony of water and incaparina.
What people really need
We still carry many of these items with us in our travels. But they are now considered secondary to our main cargo, which is Bibles. The Bibles are well-received by most survivors we approach.
There is likely a percentage of people who take a Bible out of politeness, especially after watching us sweat and strain to carry the boxes into the compounds.
Mostly, we believe followers gratefully used them to inject some faith into their challenging situation. Many people are seen reading them before we even leave.
People seek us out to pray over them. Others just want to talk, and we pray together. More than a few people say they need to find a service to attend.
This week, I was looking for a new shelter and reached out to a communications site where expats are coordinating efforts and sharing information. When someone gave me the address I needed, she asked what I was bringing. I said Bibles.
The response reminded me that not all relief groups and volunteers are Christian. “Oh. Well, this site is for people who are sharing things people really need.”
No need for apologies
Unfortunately, I got a little defensive and probably missed an opportunity to present the case for Christ. Instead, I asked, “What are you bringing to the table?”
Admittedly, her individual solar energy power systems are pretty cool. Other groups bring water filters and smokeless cooking stoves and build houses to put them in.
We made a conscious decision to stay out of the “big ticket” relief projects and concentrate on smaller things people missed. This week, we added traditional bread and coffee to our repertoire.
When we visit shelters, we ask the people if there is anything they can’t seem to get that they need or really miss. Next week we will carry in seasonal fresh fruits and some lip balms as we check on our many new friends and deliver Bibles to additional locations.
We are certain our piles of “little” things make life more bearable for many. The spontaneous, wide smiles that break out with the sight of hair brushes, clean underwear, and simple cakes are well worth the drive to the shelters.
But nothing is received with more heartfelt thanks, knowing nods, and meaningful words than our Bibles.
Let the others provide light their way. We’ll provide the Light our way. No apologies.
Life in the shelters remains challenging. For all the good news about children returning to school and transportation options allowing many to return to work, there are additional barriers and delays on those waiting to be relocated.
The massive piles of food and supplies are starting to dwindle. Not as many relief crews and teams are visiting the shelters. Boredom is yielding to anxiety and despair for many.
There is no doubt in our minds that Bibles, conversations, smiles, and hugs are as effective as anything else being provided.
We do, however, remain ready to respond to other needs as well. We have purchased medicines and medical equipment where needed. Creams for babies and anti-mosquito devices (like fans, smoke coils, and lotions) were bought.
The latest need is for perishable food items, like fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and bread. We load our car with these things. When we ran out yesterday, we drove to a local market before we left to make sure one last shelter had enough to get through the week.
But everything centers around our Bibles and our mission to talk and pray with survivors.
Want to help?
We are still accepting donations to help Volcano Fuego survivors.
If you would like to contribute something to help with this effort, you can visit our website, https://mcuguatemala.org/donate/ for information, or send donations directly to us via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as we continue to work in the relief effort, as well as our regular city mission and rural outreach projects.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Pat & Yesenia