Rising From the Ashes: Survivors of Disaster Begin to Rebuild

Less than a year ago, families in San Miguel los Lotes lost everything beneath a cataclysmic downpour of burning ash and rock. Now the survivors of Guatemala’s Volcano Fuego eruption are finally beginning to rebuild their lives — and I was blessed to see the progress.

On Monday, Jan. 21, I watched as several families received new houses, constructed under the leadership of our partners at Friends for Health and Life. I had attended events like this in the past. In Nicaragua, for example, I watched our friends at Rainbow Network pray and worship with 22 families who had been dwelling in extreme poverty. At that ceremony, I saw nothing but joy. Every family was leaving behind a dilapidated, leaking house and moving into a new concrete home, and the celebration was lively!

But in Guatemala, it was different. There was sincere gratitude, and every recipient repeatedly expressed thanks to God, to Cross and to every donor who helped them secure a place to live — but the joy felt muted.

Woven throughout their happiness, I realized, was something else — an underlying grief. This became evident in their words, their tears and the burn scars that marred their hands and faces. One woman I spoke to had lost 18 family members. Another had lost 35. Life would never be the same without their loved ones.

In undertaking this project to rebuild, we knew no amount of material help would ever completely cover the cost of what was stolen from these families on June 3, 2018, but we also knew recovery and restoration wouldn’t be possible without addressing the practical needs these families faced. Even though they grieved, they still needed a permanent place to live, to care for their children and to begin re-establishing a sense of normalcy. That is what the New Jerusalem housing community was intended to provide — not a full replacement for their losses, but a starting point to restore hope and create new life.

One of the places I did see clear evidence of these blessings was in the shining faces of the children who played on their new community’s playground. Their resilience and laughter gave me great hope for the future of their families. Inside their own homes, I knew they would find safety and security. In that place, I felt they could grow strong again.

This was the first time I had returned to Guatemala since the weeks immediately following the eruption. After witnessing that much devastation, I feel extremely grateful to have also witnessed these steps toward recovery. The survivors have lost so much, and their tears were very real — but so were their smiles and heartfelt prayers. I continue to pray with them that the Lord would give beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

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The UN estimates that between 93 and 150 million children worldwide live with a disability. In developing countries, these children are often unable to attend school, play outside or access specialized resources. Negative stigma or superstition among their parents, neighbors and community leaders often reinforce these barriers.

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The gift of an education is an investment that reaps long-term dividends for a child’s future. By opening doors for the children of the poor to enroll in Christian schools and get the same educational opportunities as their more economically well-off peers, you are giving not just a hand-out but a “hand-up.”

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Provide Clean, Safe Water

Our ministry partner, the Kachere Development Center, has an ambitious plan to install 20 wells, providing 5,160 adults and 8,414 children with clean water. Our goal is to finance the drilling and installation of one well – part of an entire community water system, which includes training to maintain the well, and sanitation and hygiene training for improved health.

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Feed Hungry Children

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 811 million in the world suffer from under-nourishment. By providing the gift of food, you will save the lives of thousands of hungry children and their families in developing countries like Haiti, Malawi, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

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This gift will benefit: Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Malawi

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