Following report received from Paul and Jean Sywulka:
Last Thursday night the side of a mountain gave way and fell on a residential area near Guatemala City. The community belongs to the town of Santa Catarina Pinula and is called El Cambray 2. Heavy rains and unstable soil contributed to the slide, which covered some 125 houses with tons of mud and dirt. Rescue crews have worked around the clock, hoping to find survivors. Some have come out alive, but many others were not so fortunate. So far some 140 bodies have been found; the total number could climb to more than 500. The excavation process will go on for several days.
While this tragedy affects the country of Guatemala and has made international news, it also strikes close to home for us. Raúl Morán, one of our alumni, is pastor of a church in Santa Catarina Pinula. His son-in-law, William Quiñónez (also a graduate), is youth pastor at the church as well as Director of Practical Ministry at SETECA. He has had a key role in his community, working with city officials in various projects. Raúl’s daughter Mimi directs an outreach center for children in the town, offering after-school tutoring, Bible classes, and other types of support.
This morning I spoke with Pastor Morán. He said that entire families from the outreach center had lost their lives. Among the victims from the center were the music teacher and some 30 children. Mimi was called to identify the bodies of a good number of victims since she knew them; the experience was very traumatic for her. People from the church were among the first to arrive at the scene and try to help; since then, professional rescue workers have stepped in.
Later on Jean and I talked briefly with William who had come to the campus and was on his way home. His breathing was congested from exposure to the dust and the cold, but has kept going in response to this emergency. He told us that the young people from the church have been actively involved in classifying and distributing food and other relief supplies.
The immediate situation is being care for, but there will be on-going needs over the coming weeks. This evening a group from Kansas City and a visiting teacher for the Master’s in Counseling program at SETECA, along with her family, will help to pack 60 bags of food staples for some of the needy families. William will coordinate the distribution of this food later. The seminary faculty, students, and staff will also be helping to collect needed items.
Please help us by praying for these requests:
- That God will strengthen William and restore his health at this time when he has an important role in the response to the tragedy.
- Emotional and spiritual stamina for Mimi in particular, for Pastor Morán, and for other alumni and church leaders who are helping with the disaster relief.
- Comfort for those who have lost loved ones.
- That our contribution as a Seminary will be effective as we show the love of Christ through our actions and through the message of hope from God’s Word.
Thank you so much for your prayers.
Paul and Jean Sywulka