As we continue to pray for all those devastated by the eruption of Volcano Fuego in Guatemala on Sunday, we can report that our mission partners in the country are safe and well.
At the time of writing, the official death toll has now risen to 69.
Mission partners Mark and Rosalie Balfour, in Guatemala City, report: "Having experienced some of the rain of ash in Antigua yesterday afternoon, where we were dropping off a friend to start Spanish school, we are very grateful to have returned safely to the capital city.
"But the number of casualties reported continues to rise and all over the city there are collection points for food, water and basic supplies. There is no doubt that this disaster will not only affect thousands in the short term but many, many people in the long term as well."
Video shows Guatemala's most violent volcano eruption in more than a century. Source – BBC News
In 2017 mission partner Azaria Spencer joined the Balfours in Guatemala City, working with the charity Street Kids Direct. While their work is not focused in the areas most affected, Azaria has written this blog post to share what it is like to be so close to disaster:
Sat overlooking the old capital city, La Antigua, are several volcanoes, they stand like sentinels proud and intimidating. Among them is Fuego, who likes to regularly let off steam with small rumblings and eruptions. Generally, these volcanoes pose no real threat and are a point of beauty and fascination. However, yesterday was different.
Yesterday Fuego erupted with a fury that has left at least 25 people dead and many missing and without homes. I first heard the news from friends who were in Antigua at the time of the first ash rain. We felt some small particles in the rain here in the city too. We didn’t think much more about it, until we saw the videos and heard the news. This eruption was big, powerful and deadly. The smoke toxic and the ash and lava destructive.
I have never seen anything quite like it and knowing that it was happening only a few miles away in a place I know was unnerving. I have never lived in a place where natural disasters pose any real threat, but here in this beautiful part of the world natural disasters are a regular occurrence.
An event like this reminds you of your humanity, mortality and the fragility of life for so many.
We were advised to remain inside with windows closed and so I returned home and got ready to sleep. As I lay in bed I messaged my family and told them I was safe, never before have I had to send a message like that. Knowing I couldn’t go to sleep without messaging home because they would wake up to the news of the eruption. I was receiving messages and calls throughout the night and woke to numerous emails. People checking that I was safe, offering their kind words and prayers.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to be in such close proximity to such a real threat, life changing for many. It is at times like this where you see true community, you see people come together and offer aid and relief. Here at Street Kids Direct Guatemala we have come into work and are planning our day around visits to all our families, to make sure everyone is well and taking precautions.
Here in the city we are little affected, but we know many have suffered great loss. Churches are collecting clothes, food and water and will distribute it to those most in need. A true expression of beauty from the ashes.
Perhaps the disaster is still too near to think like this, to see the good and the hope. For many I imagine it is too soon to see anything out of the darkness. However, if I have learnt anything while I have been living here in Guatemala for the past 10 months it is that the people of Guatemala have big hearts and will stand together in times of difficulty and need.
This devastating event has brought me to tears and I know that just as I and many others have wept so does God’s heart. It is hard to understand why and to make sense of something like this. Even so, I find comfort in knowing that God is in control even in difficult times. My prayer is for God’s comfort, peace and love at this sad time.