GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — Hurricane Eta moved through Central America last week leaving wreckage in its path, especially in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. The hurricane claimed at least 260 lives; 150 of them in Guatemala, 62 in Honduras, and 27 in Mexico. Mennonite church members in the region are striving to do what they can to serve others despite the devastation in their own lives.
Deb Byler of Mennonite Mission Network corresponded by email from Carchá, Guatemala.
From a rooftop, Pastor José Fernandez, president of Iglesia
Evangélica Menonita Hondureña (Honduran Mennonite Church), looks out over the flood waters engulfing the neighborhood.
"Many Mennonites suffered significant losses. There have been landslides and major flooding throughout the region. Please pray that they will sense the love and support of God and the church during this difficult time," Byler wrote.
Santiago Iqui, president of the Kekchi Mennonite Church in Alta Verapaz, is organizing members to help those who lost homes and possessions. Mennonite Central Committee, with an inter-Mennonite mandate for disaster response ministry, is providing blankets, mattresses, and relief buckets filled with towels, soap, hand sanitizer, masks, and other hygiene items for people who have taken shelter in schools and other public buildings. Casa Horeb, a Mennonite congregation in Guatemala City, sent clothes.
Byler was present as church members received the aid items.
"We prayed thanks over it," Byler wrote. "We prayed for the people who sent it and the people who will receive it. The timing of this hurricane is especially difficult since people in the region are already suffering from COVID-19. Cases in the mountain regions of Alta Verapaz are increasing."
According to Byler, the most urgent need is for food. Bean crops, a staple food, were washed away in the flooding. As the flooding recedes, fields and homes that were under water are now covered with thick mud.
Linda Shelly, Mission Network's director for Latin America, said that people from the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita "Vida en Abundancia" congregation in the valley of Sula in Honduras escaped to the second story of the church's school where they sang and prayed together while awaiting rescue from the flood waters. Their song, translated from Spanish, says, "My hope is in you. I have nothing, nothing more than you, nothing more than your promises…"
Members of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita “Vida en Abundancia” sing and pray in the second story of church’s school above the flood waters. Pastor José Fernandez, president of the Honduran Mennonite Church, prays from a perch on the balcony railing. View a longer version of the video here.
"They had literally lost all their material possessions in the flood waters that passed through their homes," Shelly said. "After they were rescued, they started helping others."