Seminary distributes aid after volcano erupts in Guatemala

Aug 7, 2018 by and

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EL PORVENIR, Guatemala — The village of El Porvenir looked pleasant and sunny July 28. Roads, houses and buildings were washed clean by seasonal rain.

But the village was empty, with access restricted by national police. Only 10 families could return each day to recover what they could of lives overturned by the June 3 eruption of Volcán de Fuego.

SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary staff distribute volcano relief goods in the village of El Porvenir, Guatemala. — SEMILLA

SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary staff distribute volcano relief goods in the village of El Porvenir, Guatemala. — SEMILLA

Staff of SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary were allowed into the village for a short time in late July to deliver food, household supplies, clothing and medicine to these itinerant residents.

At the time of the eruption, SEMILLA, located in Guatemala City, declared itself a Centro de Acopio, a place for collecting and distributing relief supplies. Staff, neighbors, friends and donors from the U.S. and the Netherlands contributed relief goods and money. By the time it was SEMILLA’s turn to deliver relief, two pickups and a van were needed to carry all the supplies.

The relief trip’s first stop was a convenience store in San Lucas, on the route to Antigua just outside Guatemala City. The caravan was met by vehicles from other areas and an escort to take them to a collection point at the Catholic church in Alotenango, where most goods were transferred to a storeroom. The balance went on to El Porvenir.

There were three small coffins, surrounded by flowers on the plaza in front of the church. SEMILLA dean Rafael Escobar took time for laying on of hands and prayer for the grieving family with 10 children, seven of whom were lost to the volcano.

“This was an opportunity for us as a seminary to put into practice a sense of community with our neighbors, our staff and our donors, to be bearers of love and service, supporting in a small way the great need of those affected by the volcano,” said SEMILLA financial officer Ingrid Elias, who coordinated the effort.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports 12,800 people were evacuated because of the volcano, with thousands permanently displaced. Nearly 17,000 subsistence farmers have crops that were affected.

The depth of volcanic ash in some villages was as much as 10 feet. Thousands employed by large agricultural producers have lost their work, in addition to their homes, for an indeterminate future in a country plagued — in good times — by chronic food insecurity.

North Americans interested in supporting relief efforts can assemble relief kits for Mennonite Central Committee or contribute to the MCC Relief Fund. Relief kits, hygiene kits and blankets are being sent to Guatemala Mennonite churches, whose members are also assembling kits and transporting them to the distribution center in Alotenango.

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