Jimena and Diana are two of the GEU Guatemala students who have been volunteering to support survivors of the recent Fuego volcano eruption. 1.7 million people were affected when the volcano erupted on 3 June. When the search for victims was suspended after two weeks, the death toll had reached 110, with 200 people still missing. The psychology students joined a team of professionals to provide psychological care for the survivors, now living in shelters. Jimena reflected:
“Many adults wanted to express their pain, but could not express it in words. Others could say it with their eyes: desolate, lost, angry, unable to comprehend what had happened, without hope. They wanted to give thanks for the life they still had, but didn’t know how to live it now. Some were strengthened by their faith in Jesus, but nevertheless were wrestling with valid questions: What can I do now? How do I start again?”
Close to the broken-hearted
With the adults, the students were silent companions, there to share their pain. They sat with those who could not talk, and listened quietly to those who could. Diana shared her experience:
“My heart ached for them. And at the same time my inability to do something frustrated me. I felt afraid and helpless. The first thing I did was to ask God for strength to be strength for them. But inside I was talking to Him, questioning Him. Why had He allowed this to happen?
But among the painful stories, I found God. The God of miracles, the God of love, close to the broken-hearted. Some spoke of how God had saved them. They told me how His hope and peace was all they had left. I heard one of them saying: “I am alive to speak of the miracles that God did in my life, and I will not remain silent.”
At that moment my heart was broken. I had been putting myself in the position of questioning God’s plans. But they were still worshiping Him, despite their suffering.”
Life in the shelters
The students spent much of their time with the children in the shelter. Jimena reflected:
“The children’s resilience is incredible. Their smiles, their laughter; their desire to play and hug and learn in the midst of the situation is amazing. They were excited because they were going to be sent back to school the following week. They were the ones who gave life to the shelter. Their tenderness and joy strengthened the adults.”
Doing what they can
Other GEU students have joined the relief efforts as well, going along with their churches or families to bring food, clothing, medicine and even music. The student movement is raising money to support three families affected by the eruption. They continue to consider ways to support the survivors in the medium and long-term. And they continue to pray. They can’t do everything, but they’re doing what they can.
Staff-worker Benita writes:
“We long with all our heart that in the midst of the pain, they can feel in a palpable way the constant embrace of our God who restores, our Father who sustains.”
Let us join them in prayer:
- Pray that the God of peace would comfort the survivors and bring healing and hope.
- Pray that God would give wisdom and strength to the government, churches and organisations (including GEU) as they respond to the needs of the survivors.