By Kim Plummer Krull
While traveling to New Jersey to help with Superstorm Sandy relief, the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Church and Community Development with the LCMS Office of National Mission, got a call from a Guatemalan pastor about another disaster Hernandez had not yet heard about.
More than a week later, many in the United States may be surprised to learn that a 7.4-magnitude earthquake devastated families in western Guatemala on Nov. 7, killing more than 40 people and leaving thousands homeless.
With so much attention understandably focused on the havoc Sandy continues to wreak on the East Coast, the Guatemalan quake has been overshadowed, Hernandez said.
The Rev. Ignacio Chan, former president of the Lutheran Church of Guatemala (LCG), also expressed uncertainty if he should contact LCMS Disaster Response, Hernandez added, because few Guatemalan families affected by that temblor are Lutheran.
“Absolutely!” Hernandez said he told Chan, who now serves a congregation in Quetzaltenango with the LCG, an LCMS partner church. “This is an opportunity to share the Gospel!”
Hernandez consulted with the Rev. Glenn Merritt, director, LCMS Disaster Response, and the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director, LCMS Mercy Operations, who also were on the ground on the East Coast. After contacting the Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, LCMS Disaster Response urged LCG President Rev. Eduardo Bonilla to request emergency assistance.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, Fale and Merritt announced a $10,000 grant, made possible by LCMS donors, to help 75 Guatemalan families in three hard-hit communities.
Bonilla asked for LCMS assistance “to bring relief to the many who have suffered the impact of the earthquake, those grieving the death of loved ones, the wounded, homeless, and those lacking basic foods, water, and medical [care] and medications, especially in San Marcos, Guatemala.”
Pictures of rubble-filled streets and crumbled homes accompanied Bonilla’s request. “Many of the people [who lost homes] lived in little more than shacks to begin with,” Hernandez said.
The quake was centered near the coastal town of Champerico, 100 miles southwest of Guatemala City, where the LCG is based. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the Central American country since a 1976 temblor that killed 23,000, according to news reports.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, another 6.5-magnitude quake shook Guatemala’s Pacific coast, sending people into the streets but causing no reported deaths or damages.
Over the years the LCG has grown to a baptized membership of some 4,000 people in 40 congregations and preaching stations.
While the number of Lutheran congregations may be small in Guatemala, the quake opens a big door for sharing Christ’s mercy with hurting people, Hernandez said.
To support those in need from this earthquake:
- make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Nov. 16, 2012