Volcán Fuego (right) looks calm in this image but just a few days before it was taken, tons of ash erupted and buried villages resting in it's shadow.

Before dawn on Friday a group of about 20 young people gathered inside a tin storage building in Chichicastenango and organized a pile of supplies. They had spent the last several days collecting food, clothes, medicine and water to deliver to the victims of the Volcano Fuego that erupted five days earlier.

The group call themselves the United Churches Movement of Quiche and ASELSI is working with this movement to encourage unity among churches and provide help to those affected by this eruption.

After nearly five hours of driving, the group arrive in the town of Escuintla where refugees had found shelter in the homes, churches and government buildings that had been converted to emergency shelters.

The team visited three shelters and met with victims of the eruption. On one of the shelters, posters showing pictures of missing family members were stark reminders that not everyone made it to safety.

A clown entertains volunteers and victims in front of a church-turned-shelter for people who escaped from the Volcán Fuego eruption.

At the churches that were converted into shelters, children were being entertained with crafts and clowns, while parents picked through donated clothes to see what they could use. Volunteers were preparing meals to feed the families.

José Alfredo was one of those who found safety at the shelter. He said he and his family had evacuated from the small town of El Rodeo in cars or pickups filled with families like his who were desperate to escape the ash and lava that was rushing down the volcano. His six kids and his family were safe, but José told of others who were still looking for their children who were missing. 

Nearly 200 people are still listed as missing. The National Coordinators to Reduce Disasters (CONRED) website notes that 12,407 people have been evacuated and 110 people have died as a result of the volcanic eruption.

Domingo (left) and Josefa were injured during their escape from the hot ash and lava from the Volcán Fuego. Here they sit on a bus waiting to be transported to hospital after receiving basic care at a shelter clinic in Escuintla, Guatemala.

At one school that was housing victims, a hand-colored sign hung in front of the clinic. It read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13”

Below the sign, two patients were receiving breathing treatments on the front porch and inside a man lay with his feet bandaged with gauze to cover the burns he received from the hot ash.  His name was Domingo.

Praying for people receiving breathing treatments at a shelter for victims of the volcano eruption in Escuintla, Guatemala.

Domingo was from the village of San Miguel los Lotes where some three meters of hot ash1, rocks and rubble filled the streets and trapped people in their homes.

 “We were trapped in our house. It was hot,” Domingo said. “The firemen opened the house to let us out.”

He said the firemen opened up the house and put boards on the hot ash to help rescue him, his daughter, and three grandchildren. In the process of his escape, his feet were burned. As he told me all this, his voice cracked with emotion as he said that his thirty years of hard work had disappeared when his home was buried. We tried to encourage him that God had saved him from the volcano and there is hope for his future. 

 While waiting for other patients who needed to go to hospital Domingo sat on the empty bus doing what many of the victims of the volcano are doing in shelters across the region—waiting. Waiting and wondering what is next for them and their loved ones who survived.

 We prayed with him and hoped our words and the caring actions of so many people will remind him and other victims that God saved them and will help them now and on their next move and that like the sign on the clinic door stated, they can do “all things through Christ.”

Carrying an injured woman to a bus to be transported to hospital.

 We delivered our supplies to the Christian Community Church where they said the load we brought would help provide about three days’ worth of food and medicines for the victims. They told us that since many of the shelters were well supplied with food and emergency supplies, they were expanding to help other affected villages and areas where there was need. The supplies we provided would help with this. 

 Despite the major eruptions having calmed, there have still be smaller eruptions and villagers and rescuers have had to evacuate as dangers from mudslides and some other small eruptions have caused additional danger. 

 While the urgent needs of medical care for the injured, shelter, clothes, food and water are well taken care of right now, the long-term recovery will be an ongoing process.  The United Churches Movement group plans to continue working to help with the needs of the victims and show how the body of Christ can work together to help those in need. ASELSI is excited to continue encouraging this group to put God’s Word in practice as they care for those in need around them.

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(1) http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-44365470