This past week has been one of the top ten hardest weeks of my entire life. I say that not for your pity or sympathy, but just as an honest introduction for this piece that I now write. I, Jesse Rivers, Founder and Executive Director of Abogar International Ministries, have seen much and experienced much, in challenges, trauma, and tragedy in life. However, I have seldom been impacted as profoundly as I have been this past week, and even now.
On Sunday, June 3rd, Volcano Fuego, one of Guatemala’s 37 volcanoes, had a massive eruption. While many communities were warned to leave their homes and villages earlier that very morning, many could not or did not heed the warning. Volcano Fuego proceeded to reek havoc over several cities and villages, killed more than 115 people, and has left more than two million people directly impacted and effected by its violent spewing. Many are left homeless, burnt and severely hurt, with loss of family, and without any belongings or provisions! Praise God for the generous and beautiful community of Guatemalans and foreigners, firefighters and police, military, doctors, psychologists, and volunteers, who have stepped up to fight on behalf of those in need!
This past Tuesday, June 5th, I joined with a team to bring donations, love, peace, and hugs to people in Escuintla, an area directly affected by the eruptions. While at an evacuation center for these people, before being able to distribute our donations, there was another eruption. This caused great panic and we were forced into evacuation mode; evacuating an evacuation center. Needless to say, as I carried an elderly woman from her bed on the second floor to a waiting pickup truck, my heart and mind were filled with many prayers for these hurting people. Fortunately, my team was able to return to our places of residence that night without injury or incident.
Today, however, I want to share a true and tragic story, and share some photos. (One photo is quite graphic, so please proceed with caution and preparation.) This past Saturday, June 9th, I, for Abogar, led a team of 10 volunteers to a town, Alotenango, to try again to distribute the donations, as well as to share the love, truth, and hope of Jesus Christ to a people so hurting and traumatized! We encountered so many families with need, and it was truly heart-breaking. I was not brought to tears though, until I met Brenda! She has granted me permission and authority to share her story, as well as the photos you will see below!
On the morning of the volcanic eruption, Brenda’s husband was at his work; which was construction; clearing land and preparing property for building. After the eruption, Brenda called her husband to see if he was aware and okay. He responded that he was fine, that he loved her and the children, and would be home after his work. Sadly, Brenda did not know that it would be the last time that she would hear her husband’s voice. As the volcanic eruption was continuing to spew lava, Brenda’s husband made a decision that would cost him his life. Instead of immediately getting out of danger’s way, Brenda’s husband rushed to try to save the lives of two precious children. Unfortunately, the volcano was quicker than he could be, and all three perished!
As I hugged and tried to comfort Brenda, I could not hold back the torrent of tears, and even now, as I write and share with you all, they still are coming! Brenda is now left as a widow of a hero, with three precious children who are now fatherless! James 1:27 tells us that pure religion is to care for such as these, the widow and the fatherless! Brenda is now left with no husband, no father for her children, no income, many loans (~$12,000) for a very small property that now is in danger of being taken away, and is traumatized and overwhelmed! While she is in emergency housing with her children, there is little comfort and very little help for them! There are truly no job opportunities for Brenda, and she feels overwhelmed and desperate! We brought a few donations, and some stuffed animals, and also tried comforting and loving on them, but I truly felt so inadequate to bless and help Brenda and the children in a more substantial way.
With collaboration with the Board of Directors of Abogar International Ministries, we are now going to start a Help for Brenda Campaign! We would like to, with your help, provide to Brenda the help she needs as a widow, and to her three, now fatherless, children! We are setting a goal of $15,000 to raise to help Brenda with her home and children in this time of great need! We believe that this is a part of what it means to fight for the fatherless, for the widow!
I, personally, have donated the first $1,000 to launch this campaign, and would ask you to prayerfully, generously, and joyfully join me in fighting for those who are near and dear to God’s heart! I will put my money where my mouth is, and hope that you too will find this a worthy cause in which to invest! You can go to our website, www.abogarim.org/support, and make your generous, tax-deductible gift today. Please, PLEASE be sure to indicate that it is specifically for our Help for Brenda Campaign!
Your continued prayers and support for the Guatemalan people, in this very tragic time, are greatly needed! We, at Abogar International Ministries, are very grateful for your continued interest and help in all that God is calling us to; fighting for the child who is orphaned or fatherless and the widow as well! May God’s rich blessings be evident to you today, and may we not take life nor the many other blessings for granted!
Serving and loving Jesus by serving and loving others,
President, Executive Director
Abogar International Ministries