Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Guatemala storms of Biblical proportions elicit equivalent response

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the November 17, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Pablo Guachiac, a Family-To-Family staff member in the Highlands of Guatemala, talks to residents at a community gathering of Mayan Indian residents in the village of Chui Patan. Pablo, along with others, helped salvage some corn to feed needy families, as torrential rains continued to wash out homes and crops in the area served by the Spokane missionaries in Northern Guatemala. (IR photo courtesy of Jerry Monks)

As reported earlier (IR 11/11/10), tropical storm Agatha took the lives of 165 people in Guatemala in May 2010. Many of the storm’s victims lived in the Highlands area served by the Spokane Guatemala Mission (IR 4/28/11). Spokane responded with over $20,000 in aid to survivors who lost their loved ones, homes, and crops.

Unfortunately, the heavy rains and mud slides have continued on into this year. The June-November rainy season, which coincides with the hurricane season in the Caribbean, has been especially bad. Some estimates are that torrential rains have now caused more damage than storm Agatha, with flooding and landslides blocking many major highways. Last month, the president of Guatemala declared a “State of Disaster” for the entire country.

Reports from the priest, Sisters, and lay personnel serving in the Spokane Mission tell of the loss of life, homes, and crops from the rains of the tropical depressions that have been battering Guatemala. Another entire community has moved to the 11,000 feet elevation Chiquisis area, where 10 communities moved after Hurricane Stan in 2005. Some communities seem to be so isolated that residents even have difficulty walking out of their locations.

Spokane-based organizations are continuing to help with food and medicines. Funds for food (corn and beans) are being channeled through Adela Tambriz, the Highlands project manager for Family-To-Family (FTF). Medicines will be taken to Guatemala this month by Deacon Gary Franz, a member of the Spokane Guatemala Commission.

In the meantime, some of the (non-ordained) Guatemala mission personnel have taken on a role much like that of the Biblical deacons. Recall that in Acts 6: 2-3, St. Paul writes, “And the Twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty….” The apostles went on to select the seven, and “laid their hands on them” that they might provide food for the widows who were in great need.

In the face of the storm disasters currently pummeling Guatemala, members of the mission team are doing what they can to provide food for those in great need in the Highlands. One of the team members is Pablo Guachiac a long-time FTF staff member who helps arrange training classes for poor families in the area. Natalia de Leon, the FTF program coordinator, has reported that Pablo and other workers were busy attempting to salvage some of the corn before it was totally washed away, so they could share it out to families in the Chui Patan area.

With food in short supply, with countless families driven from their homes, and large stretches of the Inter-American Highway blocked, the native people of the Highlands will continue to face difficult times ahead. However, with help from long standing relationships like those with Spokane, and the Christian response of “non-ordained” deacons such as Pablo, they are dealing with the challenges that come their way.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the diocese’s Guatemala Commission.)

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