*Note: Although this volcanic eruption occurred several years ago, you can read this page to learn more about living through a volcanic eruption, and the aftermath, and what A Song in the Night and so many others joined together to do. Guatemala has several active volcanoes that continue to spew lava and/or ash regularly.
Volcan de Fuego Disaster
Volcan de Fuego Guatemala
Volcan de Fuego Guatemala
On June 3, 2018, Guatemala's Volcan de Fuego violently erupted, spewing lava, ash, rocks and deadly hot gas, which buried three villages and a resort within minutes. Some were able to escape, but many did not make it out, and there were families of fifteen, twenty, up to forty plus people missing. The debris smoldered for weeks, burning off the soles of the boots of brave rescue workers, who, along with survivors, searched to find remains amidst highly dangerous conditions.
Dead and missing numbered in the hundreds, and those displaced to shelters, not including people who went with other family members or further afield, numbered over four thousand. Reports estimated that the eruption affected over 1.5 million Guatemalans.
The fact is that villages were destroyed, people lost their homes, land, and everything they had, along with family members, friends and community. It will take a long-term effort to heal and build new lives again in another place.
The devastation was complete. The two photos at right show the town of San Miguel Los Lotes. The first photo was taken in May of 2018; the second at far right is of the SAME town after the pyroclastic flow buried the town in a few short minutes.
Yes, this is the same town, or was - scientists liken the eruption that covered Pompeii to what occurred here.
Please continue to pray.
Coming Together to Help
We realize that healing and rebuilding, of human hearts and minds, as well as homes, businesses, jobs, and infastructure, will take years. The volcano, Fuego, still continues to smoke and spew gases and ash. Sometimes we can see, hear, or feel the fallout in Antigua. Please continue to pray for those whose lives were upended, and for others who still live near the volcano and may be affected at any time.
Our Response -
Donie and A Song in the Night, along with Casa Bernabe, FOCE, and many other churches, NGOs and organizations have came together to assist survivors of this national disaster in a number of ways. These included providing:
food, essentials and hygiene products
clothing and shoes
mattresses, blankets and pillows
sending trained counselors in to assist survivors
equipping local churches and those on-ground nearby to effectively meet needs
assisting families who live in poverty who opened their small homes to take in survivors
preparing orphanage staff with counseling to take in displaced or orphaned children
planning to meet physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs on a long term basis
long-term assistance in finding new property and building homes
providing livestock, seed and tools so survivors can sustain themselves once again
Greater Effect - Donie's Experience
On June 3, around mid-day, sand, ash, and cinder began pelting us as my daughter, Debbie, and I ran errands in Antigua Guatemala. Living very close to two live volcanos, Fuego and Pacaya, this wasn't too unusual, although the fallout was a little heavier than usual. We could only see the very bottom of the volcanos, including two others that are presently dormant, because there was such a heavy cloud cover. At first we thought it was raining, but when we saw the black spots on our arms and clothes we realized that there must have been an eruption. Little did we know that what we had thought was the sound of heavy thunder was really the sound of a huge eruption on the top and south side of el Volcan de Fuego! We had no idea that at that very moment lava was spewing out and careening down the other side of the volcano, 15 minutes away by car, covering villages and farmland, changing the flow of two rivers which caused extensive flooding, and followed by the deadly pyroclastic cloud made up of gases, lava, rocks, sand, and cinder, an whatever else the volcano had to offer!
With very little warning from Fuego, people who had been going about their daily lives were overtaken and buried, burned beyond recognition, or drowned! Entire families were caught, unawares and buried together in their homes, or separated and running frantically trying to find one another in the fiery deluge! Rescue workers and reporters began pouring into the area, only to find themselves on the run, with a number of them also losing their lives!
In this day of phones and cameras, much of this ongoing tragedy has been captured and shared with the world in detail; people running back to search for their children, their parents, spouses, grandparents, many finding their entire family or large portions disappeared. For days rescue workers tramped back in with people, at first hoping against hope to find their family members alive, and finally just trying to find and identify their bodies in order to bury them. Hope weakened with each passing day and hour. Rescues were halted even weeks after, as the eruptions continued, and because of the danger of accidentally stepping into and sinking in meters and meters of hot ash!
The government, churches, and schools have set up shelters for survivors. Many families have opened their homes to take in one or more families that have been displaced! The titanic job of trying to care for and help these people overcome the pain and loss in their lives, and to find a way forward is only beginning. Apart from their loved ones, which is the greatest loss, the majority of these people have nowhere to go! Their homes and fields and livelihood are are covered in hot ash. As Edgar, the director of Casa Bernabe, said, the needs are so great, it will take the whole church to meet them!
The third day after the eruption, Casa Bernabe sent a pick-up loaded with food, medicines, toiletries, mattresses and bedding and delivered it to a local Verbo Church that had begun collecting and distributing goods where they were not yet being distributed. The next day I was able to go together with Ronny Gilmore to visit other longtime friends who are using their church and school as a distribution center, also. We went with them to assess the need and to take food, supplies, and a doctor to several families in a couple of nearby villages. I was blessed and amazed to see families with barely space and resource enough for themselves who had scooted over to welcome one or more families or pieces of families that had survived. We spoke and prayed with one woman who had lost several of her own children and 13 or 14 grandchildren. As are so many, she has no idea what the future holds, but was leaning hard on Jesus!
Some time later, Flory and the team of psychologists, social workers, and others from Casa Bernabe came to minister, council, and pray with people as they could. Another larger group, including some of the youth from CB came on another day to pitch in and help at a shelter and distribution center. Tents had been set up and classes were being given to children from the shelter.
There is a lot of help pouring in, even from other countries, at this time! Praise God! But I know that this has no quick fix. These families and those who lost their families are going to need help for a very long time! We are trying to help meet the present need as we can, but also gearing up to be able to be there over the long haul! Casa Bernabe is preparing to receive as many orphans or displaced children as they can. These are minors and the government decides where they go! CB is letting them know that we are ready and willing to receive these precious children who have lost their families! We've already begun trying to stock up on food and supplies, and even some of the families that I work with in A Song in the Night are anxious and willing to pitch in and help!
Please help us to be a help at this time of need!
This video below has been circulating throughout Guatemala and the latin world. It contains images of the disaster, and the lyrics, loosely translated, are a prayer, asking the Lord to remember the nations of the world; that his love and favor will be poured out on the people; that he will have mercy, and hear the cry of people; that He is the God of promises, and that He never fails.
Vehicles in Antigua were covered in black ash, barely recognizable even to their owners.
Donations have been taken several times to the disaster zone by Donie, Casa Bernabé, and others.