Tag: Guatemala

Hope for a New Beginning

Girls wearing Escrito Esta shirts

It was Sunday afternoon when I was looking through the news and learned that a volcano had erupted in Guatemala. I immediately contacted one of my close friends from Guatemala to ask about the seriousness of the catastrophe, and he told me: “Carolina, it’s not a big deal, Volcán de Fuego is always erupting.” I was very concerned because in the next two weeks my local church would visit Guatemala on a mission trip that had been planned for over a year.

Next, I contacted the mission trip coordinator, Danny, to see if anything had changed. He said there were no changes, except that we needed to be there more than ever to help as much as we could. The following Monday I requested for prayer during worship at It Is Written. That’s when the general manager, Jesse Johnson, approached me to offer the ministry’s support during this mission trip. What a blessing!

Smoke still rises as workers clear rubble.

The truth is, this wasn’t just another small eruption. The devastation went much further than we ever imagined. This became visible when we reached the community of San Miguel los Lotes to film a program with It Is Written Speaker/Director John Bradshaw and Escrito Está Speaker/Director Robert Costa. The town was completely buried. It was heartbreaking to see survivors returning to their streets, only to find volcanic material covering their houses and relatives. One lady came to us crying: “You’re standing on what used to be my home. My mother didn’t escape. She’s buried under your feet.”

I asked another man who he had lost during this eruption. He said, “I only want to mention my mother and my wife. If I count my uncles, cousins, and other relatives, the number will be more than forty people. But I don’t want to even think about it, the pain is overwhelming.”

As we walked through the once-populated town, smoke still ascended from the ground. The smell of sulfur and death were all around us. I couldn’t stop wondering why people didn’t leave their homes and escape before the eruption. Some said that their loved ones didn’t receive warning in time. Others said that people didn’t take the warnings seriously because the crater was facing a different direction and lava had never descended their direction. People had become so used to living next to the danger of an active volcano, that they didn’t take the warning seriously. They believed, as they had done in the past, that locking themselves inside their homes would be enough to keep them from harm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Today, the total number of deaths is still under debate. The national government counts are close to 300, but locals argue that the death toll is in the thousands. Unfortunately, finding all the bodies is almost impossible, so we will never really know.  

Mission trip volunteers distribute potable water barrels to volcano victims.

According to the communications coordinator for CONRED, the disaster relief agency in Guatemala, warning people to evacuate on time is challenging. Communication law in Guatemala does not allow for the government to send free text messages to alert people whenever they are in danger. Because of its location, Guatemala is prone to multiple natural disasters and millions of people are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions. The best way to prevent loss of life like this is to keep people from living in dangerous areas and to train them to be aware of imminent danger.

Today, the road to recovery for this nation and the thousands affected by Volcán de Fuego is long and difficult. Hundreds of people are currently amassed in temporary shelters and will soon be moved to transitional homes. The government will have to implement plans to establish people in a new location. Nobody really knows what will happen next. People have little hope for the future and no trust in their government. Right now is when they most need to hear about the second coming of Jesus and the mansions He has prepared for us – a real future and hope. As vulnerable as they are, the people of Guatemala have open hearts and are seeking God for answers to life’s deepest questions.

During our visit to Guatemala, we tried to share Christ’s love and glimpses of hope in the midst of unbearable pain. Thanks to It Is Written’s support, we were able to see 4,000 patients in our health clinics. We gave medication and over 750 pairs of glasses. We distributed 100, 55-gallon barrels to hold potable water. Twelve full-size family tents were delivered to people who lost their homes and were living in the streets. We handed out 600 t-shirts with the Escrito Está logo and the message “God Is Love” reminding the people who had just lost everything that they were loved by a merciful God. Finally, we gave out year-long scholarships to 68 local children displaced by the volcano so they could continue their education at the local church school.

I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of this trip. I’m grateful to It Is Written for their support and to our donors for so quickly responding to the need in Guatemala. This is the love of Jesus in action. Thank you for your support! As Escrito Está approaches its 25th anniversary, we plan to return to Guatemala in 2019 to share more of Jesus’ love and hope of a new beginning.

Pastor Robert Costa, right, and Carolina Bonilla, center, pose with children affected by the Fuego volcanic eruption.

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.

Donate now

Living with Hope – Guatemala 2018

Living with Hope - Guatemala 2018

From February 21 through February 23, Pastor Robert Costa, speaker/director of Escrito Está, held evangelistic meetings in the capital city of Guatemala. On the first night, almost 3,000 people attended the meetings. One thousand of the attendees were visitors who were either brought by a friend or who received one of 10,000 invitations delivered by Publinews newspaper or through social media. The event concluded with 90 baptisms, including eight on the first night, and 195 additional decisions for baptism.

A local church pastor, Leonardo, told us: “I’m a blind person, but tonight I’ve lived with hope. As I hear the splashing of the water from people getting baptized and listen to the footsteps of those coming to the Lord, I think it’s worth being blind because having hope is more important than having sight.”

The event was streamed through three local radio stations and Facebook Live where thousands more had the opportunity to listen to the message.

During his visit to Guatemala, Pastor Costa was also scheduled to speak and pray for the thirteen magistrates of the Supreme Court of the nation. He and the local leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were welcomed with kindness and given full attention. One of the employees of the Supreme Court who coordinated this meeting said, “We will receive them like ambassadors because they are ambassadors from Heaven.” Pastor Costa gave the president of the Supreme Court, Jose Antonio Pineda, an Ambassador of Peace Medallion and invited the magistrates to attend the evangelistic meetings. They were also given the book, Una Luz de Esperanza (“A Light of Hope”), written by Pastor Costa. The pastors were delighted to learn that one of the Supreme Court judges watches the half-hour program, Escrito Está, and enjoys listening to the daily devotional, Una Mejor Manera de Vivir (“A Better Way to Live”).

Another important activity took place last Thursday, February 22, when Pastor Costa was invited by a lay member, Manuel, to visit the military prison to preach and pray for two former presidents of the country and former government officials who are accused of political corruption. Manuel visits this prison weekly to study the Bible with the inmates and bring them hope. He was grateful that elder Costa could come to share with them.

The weekend’s agenda also included providing evangelism training to lay members and pastors and a professional seminar entitled “Failing Successfully”  for a relatively small group of 300.

Pastor Costa said, “I’m very excited to see what we are doing in Guatemala to reach people in all levels of society. They have a great team here and I ask that you please continue to pray for the people who have and will be reached with this message of hope through their ministry.”

Video overview

This video provides a short summary of one of the evening meetings in Guatemala City.

Photo gallery