Tuesday 5th June 2018

volcano2I am sitting on a plane right now heading back to the UK.  My plan was to return to the UK in November, not June.  As I was driving back from Honduras last weekend I received a message telling me that my father, soon to celebrate his 88thbirthday, was seriously ill in hospital and doctors did not think he would live much longer.  So, I am heading back in the hope to see him before he dies.

Life throws up all sorts of unexpected events and earlier in the week I was saddened by the news of a very good friend of mine had slipped on some steps and hit his head badly.  He was rushed into hospital and later died. He was an inspiration to me, a great man of God, loving husband and devoted father and grandfather.  

The fragility of life is often brought into sharp focus in our lives when tragedy strikes and can make us wonder again about our time here on earth and what the point of it all is. No sooner had my mind begun to adjust to my personal grief when one of Guatemala´s most active volcanoes exploded, spewing out tons of lava onto neighbouring villages and spewing gas, rock and volcanic ash into the air.  The “Fuego” volcano is only 25 miles from Guatemala City and the severity of the explosion only dawned on those of us who lived in the city when volcanic rock and ash started to cascade down on us late on Sunday afternoon. (More on our Facebook page)

volcano1The eerily dark clouds made it feel like early evening, even though it was only 1:30pm.  My little white jeep was soon covered in ash and I drove home to check the news and discovered the magnitude of the tragedy.  Even now, as I write this blog, the numbers of dead are rising as rescue crews discover more human remains. It is one of Guatemala´s worst volcanic eruptions and three days of national mourning have begun.

It does seem that Guatemala suffers more than its fair share of pain and tragedy.  I know we work in the micro, helping children and families at risk of living on the streets, but the macro picture can often be overlooked as TV crews pack up and head to the next major news story.  For those of us left behind we feel the pain of Guatemala as it sighs deeply and seeks to pick itself up and try again.

volcano3The local response has been inspiring.  Some of the rescuers have lost their lives or have been badly burned.  Schools, churches and other organisations have started to collect food and clothes for those affected while soldiers, police and the always servant-hearted bomberos (fire and rescue brigade) continue to help survivors and hold out some hope of finding people still alive.  Some charities, who clearly don´t work with these families or in the affected area, quickly setup appeals and have asked for donations.  My response is to not donate just yet but to wait and see what local people actually need and what the local response is.  Money will be needed much later but those most affected are being cared for, fed, clothed and housed.

We can never make sense of this event apart from knowing we live in a now fallen world, with all its flaws and desperate longings for a paradise restored.  The groans from our planet tell us that life is not as stable as we think.  The subsequent earth tremor in Guatemala yesterday does make you realise that what we think is stable really is not.  As a Christian all I can say is that my hope is not in this fallen world or in material things or even in those around me. I have to place my hope in my God who has changed my life and given me a peace that I never found in my previous life. It is rare I share these thoughts in a blog but thought, given the circumstances, I would do so today. Despite the mess, the pain, the loss and the uncertainty may we find peace in Him who is always with us and beckons us to see that all we know and have around us will soon be gone and that a much better place is already prepared for us.