In Guatemala, Church Mourns Death of Five Members, Assesses Earthquake Damage
Worst temblor in 36 years
Inter-American Division news
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.
“This event has taken us by surprise and we are deeply saddened for the families who have lost their loved ones and some of our church leaders,” said Pastor Guenther Garcia, president of the church in Guatemala.
One 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 Nov. 7 earthquake struck. The resulting landslide covered Juan and his dad. Perez’s brother Augusto, two other church members and a few others tried to dig them out when an aftershock hit, causing another landslide that killed all of them including the rescuers.
“Our church in Guatemala mourns their loss,” added Garcia. “These are signs of the soon coming of Christ and we say to the people in Guatemala not to lose their faith…the greatest joy will be when we can meet together as a united church in the kingdom of heaven.”
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, age 18, will have to be the provider and caretaker 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.”
The Inter-American Division (IAD) has released emergency funds to help cover food and blankets for the affected Adventist families, said Garcia.
The National Commission for the Disaster Reduction (CONRED) has 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 the needed provisions to some 560 families thanks to funds provided by ADRA International and ADRA Inter-America said Gustavo Menéndez, ADRA Guatemala director.
“We have been able to purchase food and blankets for the earthquake victims in ten communities in Quetzaltenango and San Marcos,” said Menéndez.
In addition, ADRA Guatemala and the Adventist Church launched a national campaign for collecting food items throughout some 900 Adventist temples across the country, added Menéndez. “More than 1,000 bags of food with rice, beans, cornmeal, oil, clothes, blankets and shoes will be delivered to the affected areas in the coming days,” he explained.
The Guatemalan National Guard has joined in the efforts and have delivered two truckloads of food supplies to ADRA and dozens of church member volunteers have begun to distribute, said Menendez.
The November 7 earthquake is the strongest to hit Guatemala since the 1976 earthquake, which killed over 24,000.
To learn more about the earthquake response by ADRA and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guatemala, visit www.uniondeguatemala.org