Category: Mission Trips

The Guatemala Volcano Tragedy: A First-Hand Account

The Guatemala Volcano Tragedy: A First-Hand Account

We stood on what was essentially a glacier of sand, ash, and rock. It had snaked its way relentlessly down from the 12,500 feet summit of Volcan de Fuego, the Volcano of Fire, in southern Guatemala. Fuego has been erupting more or less constantly — and harmlessly — for the better part of the last twenty years. Apart from a false alarm in 2012 when 33,000 people evacuated, Fuego hasn’t done much more in recent times than beat its chest and belch smoke into the air.

As we stood in its shadow, the giant was still emitting smoke, but gently rather than a roar. But three weeks ago, before our It Is Written team arrived, Fuego roared. The desolation on which we stood was deceptive. There was no way we could know that we were standing where a town once stood.

The volcanic debris was piled up so high that heavy equipment operators were digging through thirty feet of piled up ash and dust to reach the road and clear it for use. We stood level with what once was the second-floor level of several houses. Virtually all buildings were completely buried. People had been trying since the initial eruption on June 3 to dig out buried family members.

While official figures state that two hundred people are still missing, one man told us he is certain at least 1,500 are still unaccounted for. Another told us that he has lost at least seventy family members in the tragedy. As one person told our team, “In many cases entire families have been killed. They’ve simply disappeared. There’s nobody looking for them, no one to report them as missing.”

As we filmed in what was once the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, a family waited for earth-moving equipment to arrive. The bodies of the man’s brother and his family are buried in the first-floor area of their home. Only the second story rises up out of the ash and debris. Why did the family not flee? “They couldn’t,” their relatives told us. “They had a disabled daughter and weren’t able to get her out. So they stayed.”

In spite of very clear warnings, many others chose to remain when they could have fled. “Some believed that if they locked the door of their home and shut themselves inside, they would be safe,” Rosa Chacón told us. Rosa volunteers for a government agency that issues emergency warnings when Fuego threatens. “I urged so many people to leave, to get to safety. They wouldn’t listen.”

Just a few yards from us in San Miguel Los Lotes a church once stood. Now it is entirely covered by the remnants of Fuego. The worshipers in the church were aware the volcano was threatening, and they received warnings to evacuate. Instead of heeding the warnings, they chose to remain in the church and pray that God would protect them. The entire congregation perished in the volcano.

As dust stirred by the heavy equipment was whipped through the area by gusting winds, a small crowd stood by as a yellow Cat digger removed bucket after bucket of volcanic debris. A body found while we were in the area lay covered by a pink sheet. The digger was stabilizing the area so the remains could be recovered. From there the digger would go the nearby home of the family with the disabled daughter to recover bodies there. The destitute families are covering the cost of hiring the digger and its operator as the government rescue and recovery mission has already ended.

As we were preparing to leave the area, a young man — maybe 18 years old — spotted someone holding several charred pages from a Bible. And with those pages — which included Luke 21 and the story of the widow’s mite — was part of a small sheet of pink paper. There were large letters on the page, written in pencil. While it was impossible to read the entire message, it was clearly part of what was once a card given to mark a special occasion.

The young man recognized it as soon as he saw it. “Please, may I see that paper you are holding,” he said to the missionary holding the page. “Yes, that’s it!” he said, clearly having found something very special.

He was now holding the remnants of a Mother’s Day card he had made for his mother years before. But while he had found what was left of the card, he had not yet found his mother. She was buried in the river of debris that had engulfed the family home. She was somewhere nearby, ten feet or so beneath where we stood. The young man wiped away tears.

Thank you for supporting It Is Written mission projects around the world. Please pray for our team in Guatemala and support It Is Written mission projects at itiswritten.com/give.

It Is Written and Local Church Partner to Aid Guatemala Volcano Victims

It Is Written and Local Church Partner to Aid Guatemala Volcano Victims

It Is Written and Escrito Está are partnering with a local Spanish-American church in Collegedale, Tennessee to help the victims of the volcano eruption in Guatemala. On June 3, Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted, killing nearly 100 and leaving almost 200 missing. The country’s government estimates that 1.7 million people were affected. Displaced families need medical attention, clothing, and help rebuilding their lives.

From June 21 to early July, 40 volunteers including It Is Written staff members and local church members will conduct a mission trip in Antigua Guatemala, a city within a few miles of the volcano. The mission group will offer health services, clothing, and provide financial support for rebuilding infrastructure in the devastated areas. They will hold medical clinics in both Antigua Guatemala and Escuintla, where most of the shelters are. The group plans to purchase tents to provide temporary housing for those who lost their homes or became displaced by the volcano. The mission group will also be reaching out to specifically help children impacted by the disaster.

We are currently gathering supplies. Please help us meet this urgent need by donating now and selecting “Humanitarian Projects.” Right now, your gift will go directly to help the people of Guatemala. Thank you for your support.

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Mission Mongolia: Two Cities, One Mission

Mission: Mongolia - Two Cities, One Mission

We are promised in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  And when God sets those plans in motion, the enemy strikes, attempting to thwart the good intended.

Mongolia has a population of about three million people, most of which live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Only about two to three percent of Mongolians are Christian, and most have never heard the name of Jesus.

That’s where our current mission trip to Mongolia comes in. Through March 25, 17 It Is Written volunteers and I are conducting medical clinics and evening seminars in two cities in Mongolia. In past trips, we have always worked in the capital city, but we wanted to share Jesus with some of the other cities as well. The original plan was to work primarily in Bulgan, hosting a medical clinic at a local church there, along with an evening “Jesus Talk” plus a children’s story and health feature. We were informed the Monday before we left that the plan had changed: a virulent livestock disease had broken out, and Bulgan was under quarantine!  

“No problem,” according to our fearless local leader, Enkhe! Plans were quickly made to work in two different cities, Erdenet and Darkhan, to conduct our clinics and evening Jesus Talks.

Please pray that people come to these evening meetings. It is illegal here to advertise this sort of a meeting so personal invitation and word of mouth are our only sources of advertising.

Below are updates and pictures from the first few days of our mission trip. 

Wednesday, March 14

We were 20 minutes from an uneventful landing in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar when the captain informed us that due to high winds (common in March-April), we would have to circle the city for 20-30 minutes longer and hope that the winds would subside long enough for a safe landing. The winds didn’t let up, however, so instead we had to fly to the Russian city of Irkutsk. After a three-hour layover in Irkutsk, we finally reboarded the plane and got into Ulaanbaatar about 7 pm local time. Thursday will be an orientation and sightseeing day as we acclimate to a new culture, temperatures, and time zone.

God is good! And He is on His throne, directing this mission trip.  We thank you for your prayers.

Thursday-Friday, March 15–16

Our group of 18 volunteers all safely arrived into Ulaanbaatar, and we’re slowly acclimating to the local time zone. Initially, it had been quite cold with a daytime high of 20°F and lows in the night of -1°F.  However, it is warming up (spring is almost here, too!), and yesterday it reached 40°F!

Following are pictures that show and tell more about the mission work here.

Saturday, March 17

On Saturday, we split into our two teams and headed to Darkhan and Erdenet to preach and interact some more with our local leaders and community members. I am leading the Darkhan team, and the Erdenet team is led by Dr. Gordon. Our local leader, Enkhe, helped plan and organize the mission trip with It Is Written Evangelism Director Yves Monnier. She has been a tremendous asset in providing translation and organization for this trip. We would not be here without her work and support!

Our meetings will be held Sunday-Friday, at 6 pm local time. Please pray that God will impress the hearts of those who need to hear His word. We cannot advertise the meetings, so it is only through personal invitation that people hear about them. Our meetings will include song service by the church (in Mongolian), then a translated health talk, and finally a translated Jesus talk.

Sunday, March 18

Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

On Sunday, March, 18, we went to a local orphanage here in Darkhan to provide medical services. It is one of two orphanages in this city. This one is privately owned and operated and has been in existence since 2001. It currently has 40 children ranging in ages from 3-17. The orphanage runs solely on funds given by donors, primarily Japanese donors. They run a bakery, car wash, and tailor shop, and the kids all work in these industries as well.

We also learned that it is not possible to adopt children from this orphanage, and the director told us that she considers all of the children her own, even after they grow up and leave. They stay in touch when they go on to college and have families of their own. Many children go on to college in Japan, China, Germany, and elsewhere. We sense a lot of love on this campus from all the children and the staff. It was actually a very happy place; not sad or depressing at all. It was very evident that these children were very well loved and cared for. In addition to the medical work we provided, our team presented a financial gift to the director at the end of our day to help continue the great work that is being done in this orphanage.

At the end of our visit, we were treated to a 40-minute acrobatic performance from the children. These kids are so talented!

Monday, March 19

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

There has been a lot of praying going on in our team here in Mongolia, both in Darkhan and Erdenet. And we feel the results of your prayers for us as well. Please don’t stop!

The day here in Darkhan started out with eager anticipation because it was our first day doing medical work at a local healthcare clinic. It is illegal to do healthcare outreach at the churches here in Mongolia so we are grateful for this invitation and opportunity to serve the Mongolian people.

As the morning progressed, one of our team members saw two policeman enter the clinic. They didn’t say much but observed what we were doing. About an hour later, a gentleman from the local health authority showed up. He requested to see all of our professional medical volunteers’ licenses, and then he entered our pharmacy area to examine our medication bottles for expiration dates. We had to shut down for about an hour. After he left our pharmacy room, we sent up a prayer to God, asking that He would move on this man’s heart and allow us to continue our work.

Enkhe, our local leader, worked and negotiated with him and he gave us permission to continue through that afternoon. He told Enkhe that she needed to go to his office on Tuesday with copies of all of our licenses and to do additional paperwork. She did, and we are now cleared here in Darkhan to continue our medical work through the end of the week. Praise the Lord!

The situation is not as positive with our sister team in Erdenet. They were doing medical work in the morning and got word from the authorities to shut down. Sadly, for the rest of Monday, they could not administer care to the people of that city. They were able to hold the evening Jesus Talks at the church in Erdenet. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Gordon (our medical director for this trip) visited the health authority with a local church member. They were told that they could do medical work in a nearby town, just not Erdenet.

The enemy hates our good God and will always try to disrupt or stop anything good that He wants for us. Our mission trip here is no exception, as evidenced by the last 24-48 hours. But, God is still on His throne, and He is in control!

It was a long, busy, eventful day. But it ended well. We are all safe and patients have been ministered to, by the grace of God.

Eyes for India team brings sight to the blind in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh

Eyes for India: Over 1500 People Receive Sight

The Eyes For India team was invited to a Hindu temple this January to do the work of Jesus in opening the eyes of blind people. From January 3 to 17, the medical team conducted cataract eye surgeries in the remote forest village of Hardiakol, district Barabanki, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Led by Dr. Jacob Prabhakar, It Is Written’s humanitarian Eyes for India project seeks to restore sight to the 15 million blind living in India through a simple cataract surgery and intraocular lens implantation. “This initiative will help as many as possible and restore their hope and sight,” said Dr. Prabhakar.

More than 2,500 blind people initially registered for treatment, and 60 percent of those were blind in both eyes. Most patients are very poor with hardly any warm clothing and must travel long distances by road and train. Thick fog created zero visibility and caused trains and buses to be canceled. Many patients who had initially registered were unable to return for treatment. Most of the patients that did make it back to the temple slept outside on sand and hay that served as beds as they awaited their turn for surgery.

Once treatment began, 250 patients were called for surgery each day. It Is Written Partner Dr. Jason Leng, an ophthalmologist from Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute, Chehalis, Washington, participated in the mobile camp for the second time. Dr. Leng, Dr. Prabhakar, and the rest of the medical team completed diagnostic tests for each patient and then the cataract surgery with an intraocular lens implantation. Postoperative patients stayed in a makeshift hall for care, postoperative dressings, and instillation of eye drops. Patients were discharged on the second postoperative day with specific medications and dark protective glasses. The patients are called for postoperative follow up each week for the next six weeks and then advised on the use of bifocal glasses.

By God’s grace, the eye camp was a huge success, despite many unforeseen challenges. A total of 1,672 cataract surgeries were performed, many for children and young women who are the breadwinners of their homes. The patients who missed their operation due to weather are scheduled for surgery during the month of March.

But providing eyesight is only the first step in the the work of our medical team. About 80 percent of the state’s population are Hindus, and 18 percent are Muslim. Many of these patients have never heard about Jesus. Patients were given the book Steps to Christ in their own language and a health booklet. The team prayed with patients and conducted worship services daily in the temple complex.

“Thanks are due to the Eyes For India sponsors for their generosity in making this possible,” said Dr. Prabhakar. “The smiles and the joy the patients demonstrate following surgery is noteworthy! They go back home being able to carry on with work and their daily livelihood. Leading an independent life makes all the difference. We are so grateful! Eyes For India has been such a blessing and we thank God for this amazing ministry.”

Thousands of lives have been changed in just days by a simple eye surgery. People who were once blind are now able to see because of the kindness of many donors who make this happen on a regular basis. Join the Eyes for India team in bringing sight to the blind by donating today.

Video Field Reports:

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Philippines & South Africa Mission Trips

Join John Bradshaw & It Is Written on a Mission Trip in 2018

23,000,000. That’s the combined population of two places where It Is Written is doing mission trips in 2018. Those places are the Central Luzon region in the Philippines and the Guateng province in South Africa.

The Gauteng province is home to the administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria, and also the largest city in the country, Johannesburg. It is the place where four languages overlap: Zulu, Afrikaans, Sotho, and English. About 50% of the population lives at or below poverty level because unemployment is rampant. The economic forecast for these people is bleaker than a category 5 hurricane about to make landfall.  

The Central Luzon region is where the two largest cities in the Philippines are located: Quezon City (almost 3 million inhabitants) and Manila (1.8 million inhabitants). According to the World Economic Forum, Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is the fourth most crowded city in the world (behind Dhaka, Bangladesh; Mumbai, India; and Medellin, Colombia) with 38,480 people per square mile. If that number were applied to Chattanooga, Tennessee (a city of 177,000 people where It Is Written is headquartered) the population would be a whopping 25 million people. In other words, the citizens of Manila literally live on top of each other and in often deplorable conditions.

Millions in the Central Luzon region and the Gauteng province are living with no hope of a better life—nothing to look forward to. The long-term solution is not a windfall of money, or a better head of state, but a new head of heart: Jesus Christ. And that’s the message we as Christians have been mandated to proclaim far and wide.

This year you are invited to join It Is Written to share that message in the Philippines and South Africa, through two different mission trips.

Both trips are two weeks long, during which volunteers will be conducting nightly evangelistic, Christ-centered presentations. The manuscripts and slides for the presentations are provided by It Is Written and are easy to use whether a person is a veteran preacher or a novice. In addition to the nightly meetings, It Is Written is also including a health component to these mission trips. We’re not referring to simply a short health talk prior to each nightly presentation, but the operation of basic health clinics where people can visit kind and caring health professionals. Doctors (all specialties), dentists, nurses, physical therapists, etc., are all needed to build vital bridges with people who find themselves in dire situations.

The needs are great and the door of opportunity to share the Good News in word and action is wide open. Join It Is Written this year for an exciting, life-changing mission adventure.

Sign up here!