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  • Writer's pictureSam Stewart

"Volcan De Fuego"

Dear Partners and Friends,

Just over 3 months have passed since Janey and I packed our most essential items in 2 suitcases each and a brief case for our office and made our way back to the region of Central America, specifically Guatemala. The country is a good base for our ministry operations to live and be set up from which to take periodic shorter stints for ministry in the surrounding areas of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. While we knew God brought us here for a time such as this; even giving us that word from different trusted friends and prayer intercessors around us, we weren't completely aware of what that meant exactly. Once Janey and I had stepped on the ground and an apartment was set up with a 2007 Honda CRV bought and registered in our name, the first opportunity to speak and share with long time friends in a local church was given to us. That Sunday morning June 3rd while I expressed and shared with the congregation that we believed God had brought us back to Guatemala for a season to base out of here primarily to work among our Pastors and churches directing Charlie's Lunch in 14 different areas; nevertheless, we still weren't completely sure of all of the reasons why God brought us here and I shared this detail with the congregation that morning and asked them to pray with us and for us as well that God would direct, lead and guide us in the coming days. It wasn't 30 minutes that had passed when unbeknownst to us “Fuego Volcano” erupted 35 miles away while just an hour later sand began to rain down on the country covering every open surface, vehicles, streets, sidewalks, patios and porches with a thick layer of volcanic sand.

As we listened to the breaking news we began hearing of people, families, entire villages had been buried in a wall of pyroclastic flow from inside the volcano as it spewed out and down, covering the villages and rich farmland, roads, streets, highways below with a 25 ft. tidal wave as it were of fiery gritty sand and poisonous gases at temperatures at minimum of 700 degrees fahrenheit incinerating hundreds who through the storm of rain and clouds covering had no idea the eruption was moments from killing and burying them alive. Some saved themselves by running as fast as they could possibly run through the coffee farms and trees having by chance chosen the right direction to run to save themselves but many ran the wrong way not knowing what was coming because of the rainy weather that accompanied the eruption. Many chose not to run for there wasn't time and they left their lives to fate. In the weeks following while there have been heroic attempts to find anyone trapped and sadly bodies buried for grieving families to have closure, the task was made mostly impossible as the 20 ft. depth for miles of the 100 ft. wide path was encrusted into a plasticised hard surface with the heavy rains of that day that melted the pyroclastic sandy grit mixed with the hottest sulfur and elements from deep within the earth as it spewed out in the eruption that day. There is the belief by most of the 4,500 people who have been in shelters for the past 10 weeks now, that upwards of 2,000 people at least were buried alive that day. Very few bodies in the aftermath were recovered with many instances of a charcoal-ed body part here and there as rescuers work down to the level where the people were 20 ft. below the surface of the flow. They say this was likened to and a repeat of the historical tragedy of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 A.D. of Pompai, Italy.

At least in this devastation to thousands of people within a 35 mile distance from us by the next day on Monday June the 4th, Janey and I knew that this was one of the reasons God was leading our steps to be here for such a time as this to comfort the people, bring them help and pray with them and offer hope that Jesus gives. Indeed within days we began to call on friends to help us do something to help those who were suffering this tragic loss and grief.

In the first weeks following, the people of Guatemala and even countries donated mega tons of water, food and clothes but what seemed to be lacking were items of personal hygiene. We put out a call for help for the major town of Alotenango closest to the foothills of Volcan Fuego where 1,200 people cramming the classrooms, beds wall to wall were staying. We were able to put together the hygiene family packs for 200 families delivering them to each, hearing their stories all day, listening and praying for them, one by one and sharing with them Jesus and His message of hope and salvation. Many in the shelters had suffered loss of multiple family members, children, fathers, mothers, elderly parents. We wept with them as we listened but offered prayer of hope. One small detail in the midst of their grief was to bring the best big decorated fresh just made donuts we could find to take out to the people. It was a huge hit, a treat these had never had and we had enough to cover and share with all the security personnel gathered in all the roads and doors around the plaza of the town.

Today, 2 months out from the devastating moment the government has built small 10 ft. by 23 ft. family units made of simple lumber with a tin roof to give each family privacy. Because these people have lost everything we have seen that a particularly important need for them is to have some cookware to feed their families. This is especially a small step to help to begin to heal the heart ache of women who know how to cook for their families but have lost all their kitchen utensils, pots and kettles and frying pans. We have found an assortment pack of 6 pieces of this cookware that we can purchase at a reduced rate for just $25., it even includes a coffee and or tea pot for hot water. This will help the women have a sense of dignity to enable to help her get to cooking once again. As we take these out to visit these grieving friends we have made, it's our desire to once again share Jesus in the utmost way we possibly can and be His hands and His heart extended to these precious people. God is not finished with them and He will make a way.

Long term plans we are praying about as God opens the door for us is to establish a Charlie's Lunch Feeding Center in a local church in the area to assist in feeding these who have been so deeply affected. For the moment the city governments in these particular areas are setting up tents where they are planning on feeding the continued thousands of people in the 4 different main areas where thousands have been staying in shelters. We are praying that in Gods time an opportunity comes available for Charlie's Lunch to help meet a long term need with those who find it difficult in moving forward and establishing house and home in the months ahead. Our plan will incorporate the partnership with the local church in the area as God leads us and opens doors for our ministry. Pray with us that indeed God will open such a door and provide as well the funding needed to open a kitchen with the structure, the equipment and regular feeding to cover the need for those God gives us.

It's all predicated on prayer and God's guidance. Except the Lord build His house, they labor in vain who build it.

Thank you for your prayers. Amen.

-Sam Stewart

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