By Pamela Nielsen
Volcàn de Fuego, or “fire volcano,” violently erupted without warning Sunday, June 3, burying whole villages and farms near the Central American city of Antigua, Guatemala. Initial news reports are grim, and emergency efforts to rescue and recover victims are ongoing even as the death toll rises.
The Rev. Dr. Abdiel Orozco Aguirre, president of LCMS partner church Lutheran Church of Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, ILG, for Iglesia Luterana en Guatemala), has requested assistance from LCMS Disaster Response. Aguirre identified two immediate needs — food and clothing — for victims who fled as lava and ash rained down.
The thriving Mayan ILG congregation Redeemer of the World is located at the foothills of the volcano. A large retreat center and small parish, The Resurrection, are located in nearby Antigua. All three ILG locations and the surrounding areas are covered with thick ash that will destroy this year’s coffee crops for the area’s many subsistence farmers. The personal and economic damage is devastating.
When former LCMS missionaries to Guatemala Rev. Ed Auger and Deaconess Cherie Auger arrived in Antigua in 1985, the people there described themselves as the “faraway and forgotten ones.” Indeed, they had no power, communication technology, education, running water or infrastructure.
Today, because of the Gospel that has continually been proclaimed for 33 years at the foot of De Fuego, Auger says “they are now close to God and remembered by Him and His people.”
The Augers spent a decade working with the ILG, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) and the LCMS Recognized Service Organization Lead a Child to plant Redeemer of the World parish along with a school and medical clinic. Through their efforts, God transformed the impoverished community.
The pervasive theology of glory, brought by evangelical preachers, and the ancient indigenous animistic beliefs of Guatemala’s many tribes, will likely “cause significant spiritual confusion and lead people to feel very judged by what has happened,” said Auger, who is certain many will view the eruption and destruction as “punishment from God. Our [Lutheran] theology of the cross and all that flows from that will be the answer and will be needed long term.”
As this story goes to press, LCMS Disaster Response is walking alongside the leaders of the ILG, LHM and Lead a Child to provide immediate and ongoing assistance. Together they will continue to proclaim Christ’s mercy while caring for those affected in body and soul.
The Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson and the Rev. Michael Meyer, director and manager of LCMS Disaster Response, respectively, will work in Guatemala this week to assess and assist in planning a long-term response with the ILG. Preparations are already underway to deliver over 300 pounds of clothes and two truckloads of food and staple items to a refugee/homeless camp for people displaced by the volcano.
Anyone who wishes to support LCMS Disaster Response in the wake of this event is asked to contact LCMS Mission Advancement at 888-930-4438 or donate online at lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
Posted June 6, 2018