The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guatemala is mourning the loss of five of its members including a church elder after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook the western part of the country last week. The death toll now stands at 52, and more than 2,600 homes were destroyed.
Church leaders reported that six churches were destroyed, 15 members lost their homes and more than 100 members’ homes suffered damage.
“We are deeply saddened for the families who have lost their loved ones and some of our church leaders,” said Guenther Garcia, president of the church in Guatemala.
An eyewitness said that Juan Perez Lopez, head elder at the Tupox Adventist Church in Concepcion Chiquirichapa, in the Quetzaltenango province, was with his dad Guillermo collecting sand by their truck on the side of a mountain when the November 7 earthquake struck.
The resulting landslide buried Juan and his dad. Perez’s brother, Augusto, two other church members and several others tried to dig them out when an aftershock hit, causing another landslide that killed all of them, including the rescuers.
Abilio Cima, treasurer of the church in Guatemala, visited the families days later and took part in the memorial service in the Tupox Adventist Church. He said the church families have not lost hope.
Kevin Perez, 18, will provide and care for his four younger siblings now that he has lost his father and grandfather. “We are not alone, we have a great Adventist Church family, so it’s like God is with us giving us support and consoling us,” Kevin said.
The challenges of the church in Guatemala in the midst of this disaster are overwhelming, said Garcia.
“There are thousands of families living in shelters, hundreds of homes destroyed and thousands of people affected. Added to this are the freezing temperatures and they need food, warmth and a roof over their heads,” he said.
The Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division has released emergency funds to help provide food and blankets for the affected Adventist families, Garcia said.
The National Commission for the Disaster Reduction (CONRED) reported that more than 1.2 million people have been affected by the earthquake, over 12,000 homes destroyed or damaged, some 18,700 people have been evacuated, and more than 6,200 are staying in 64 shelters. Adventist rescue teams assisted in the initial evaluation of damages.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Guatemala has already begun to distribute emergency provisions to some 560 families with funds provided by ADRA International and ADRA Inter-America, said Gustavo Menéndez, ADRA Guatemala director.
In addition, ADRA Guatemala and the Adventist Church in the country launched a national campaign for collecting food items throughout some 900 Adventist temples across the country, Menéndez said.
The Guatemalan National Guard has joined in the efforts having delivered two truckloads of food supplies to ADRA that dozens of Adventist member volunteers have begun to distribute, Menendez said.
The November 7 earthquake is the strongest to hit Guatemala since the 1976 quake, which killed more than 24,000 people.
To learn more of the earthquake response by ADRA and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guatemala, visit www.uniondeguatemala.org.