Azaria Spencer

volcano eruption

When a volcano erupts!

Sat overlooking the old capital city, La Antigua, are several volcanoes, they stand like sentinels proud and intimidating. Among them is Fuego, who likes to regularly let off steam with small rumblings and eruptions. Generally, these volcanoes pose no real threat and are a point of beauty and fascination. However, yesterday was different.
Yesterday Fuego erupted with a fury that has left at least 25 people dead and many missing and without homes. I first heard the news from friends who were in Antigua at the time of the first ash rain. We felt some small particles in the rain here in the city too.
We didn’t think much more about it, until we saw the videos and heard the news. This eruption was big, powerful and deadly. The smoke toxic and the ash and lava destructive.
I have never seen anything quite like it and knowing that it was happening only a few miles away in a place I know was unnerving. I have never lived in a place where natural disasters pose any real threat, but here in this beautiful part of the world natural disasters are a regular occurrence.
An event like this reminds you of your humanity, mortality and the fragility of life for so many.
We were advised to remain inside with windows closed and so I returned home and got ready to sleep. As I lay in bed I messaged my family and told them I was safe, never before have I had to send a message like that. Knowing I couldn’t go to sleep without messaging home because they would wake up to the news of the eruption. I was receiving messages and calls throughout the night and woke to numerous emails. People checking that I was safe, offering their kind words and prayers.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to be in such close proximity to such a real threat, life changing for many. It is at times like this where you see true community, you see people come together and offer aid and relief. Here at Street Kids Direct Guatemala we have come into work and are planning our day around visits to all our families, to make sure everyone is well and taking precautions.
Here in the city we are little affected, but we know many have suffered great loss. Churches are collecting clothes, food and water and will distribute it to those most in need.
A true expression of beauty from the ashes.
Perhaps the disaster is still too near to think like this, to see the good and the hope. For many I imagine it is too soon to see anything out of the darkness. However, if I have learnt anything while I have been living here in Guatemala for the past 10 months it is that the people of Guatemala have big hearts and will stand together in times of difficulty and need.
This devastating event has brought me to tears and I know that just as I and many others have wept so does God’s heart. It is hard to understand why and to make sense of something like this. Even so, I find comfort in knowing that God is in control even in difficult times. My prayer is for God’s comfort, peace and love at this sad time.

(Photos by Edgar Alejandro Mendez from Go Guatemala).

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Tears for the sky

It was an ordinary evening, just like any other. Well, no actually, it wasn’t. None of my evenings were ‘ordinary’ anymore. How could they be when I lived in La Antigua, Guatemala and every time I stepped outside I saw volcanoes!? My evenings were far from ordinary and yet after a few weeks they had a similarity to them and a pattern and so in a way became normal and yes, a little ordinary.

I had been feeling a little frustrated and challenged by my life here, the life I knew full well that God had called me too.

But some days were just tough, and I would question all of it, why? What for? Is it worth it?

I went up onto the rooftop to think and pray, it was always a special place for me. To just be outside and look out over La Antigua and at the volcanoes, like sentinels standing watch over their quaint little city. Black silhouettes against the backdrop of a setting sun and almost night sky.
However, this time was different. God presented me with a gift that brought tears to my eyes.

I hope I am not alone in being so moved by the beauty God paints in the sky that for a few moments I am lost to everything and all I can do is stand in His wonderful presence and weep. Please tell me that there are others out there who find the sky utterly breath-taking, completely fascinating and full of God’s glory!?

As the sun set in the icy blue sky it highlighted the edges of the dark grey clouds with an array of intense yellows, deep oranges and soft pinks. It was almost an impossible combination of colours and movement (any description falls short as do any photos).

All I could do is watch, frozen where I stood, gazing out in awe as God painted with shades and colours almost outside the realms of nature with a motion that was captivating.

This alone was beauty enough to move me to tears, this alone was a gift only God can give. Yet He had more. With God there is not just enough, there is always more!

Standing in deep contemplation, tears rolling down my cheeks, I saw an eruption of volcanic lava and a cloud of intense black ash and smoke. Fuego reminded me of his presence, and my humanity. It was not the first time, nor the last, that I had seen Fuego show off his power and strength. It was a display of his life and activity in this world. A subtle yet firm reminder that I am awfully small and weak in comparison. A volcano is a symbol of how nature is wild, unpredictable and at times deadly. But above all a display of a God whose creativity is unrivalled, who designed a world with complexity and beauty that we can only marvel at.

This gift was fleeting, it lasted only a matter of minutes, yet it was beyond priceless and will forever be unforgettable. 

All of my doubts and fears were quieted in this moment and God reminded me of His presence and His deep love. His calling on my life and His desire to bless His children.

My ‘why?’ Became, ‘because I called you.’ My ‘what for?’ became ‘all for my glory.’ And my, ‘will it be worth it?’ became ‘Yes, I am worth it and so are you my child. I love you.’

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Dancing girl

I remember when I was a young girl how I used to get so excited about going to my dance classes. There are few little girls who don’t enjoy getting dressed in a beautiful, pale pink leotard and tutu. My mum used to brush my hair and tie it up in a perfect bun. Then I would slip on my pretty little ballet shoes, ready to dance to my heart’s content and I loved it, truly loved it. The delicate movements, the graceful spins, all of it. Some of my most joyful childhood memories are of dancing.

Having shared these joyful memories, you may now understand more the heartbreak of this story.

I was still living in La Antigua, learning Spanish and preparing for my move to the City when one of my colleagues told me something that gave me chills and left me feeling cold.

One of our beautiful girls had come to the centre one day and was clearly exhausted. Not her usual energetic, bundle of joy and affection. When asked why she was so tired the heart-breaking truth came out. The night before she had been forced to dress up and dance all night for a man.

She is only 11 years old!

The stark contrast of my experience and hers makes me feel physically sick. When I was a little girl I was getting dressed up in pink tutus filled with excitement and joy about dancing. Spinning around the room like a princess and the thought of being used or not being safe never once crossed my mind. Why would it?
But this little girl’s experience of dancing is completely different, tarnished with the sick, dark evil of a world that unfortunately is not all pretty pink tutus and joy! She was forced into an outfit that I can only imagine was not appropriate for anyone let alone a child. And then made to dance for a man several times her age. The kind of dancing won’t have been pretty spins and graceful footwork. I dare not imagine the thoughts or actions of the man as he watched. My heart wants to stop and not think about what he might have been thinking or doing, but my head tells me that the reality is that this is a dark and troubled world.

When I heard this, as I was sat in my room in Antigua, I was too angry to even cry. A week later I moved to the city and was sat upstairs at the centre playing with the children.
This same girl came over to me, chatting and happy as if she didn’t have a care in the world. My heart ached for her. She sat for almost an hour gently plaiting my hair, for this pocket of time she was content, she was safe.

And now what? What do you say to a girl who tells you this? How do you respond? What should you do?

What can you do?

Unfortunately, I do not have any of the answers. And unfortunately I can’t fix everything.
But I am here, in this place and I will love this girl. I will show her that she is special, cared for and precious. I will do all I can to make her safe, and to bring change for her. And I pray that her future is not defined by her past and that one day she will dance because she wants to. One day she will dance with joy.

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