International Ministries

And the river came...

October 10, 2010 Journal
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September 2010

Tropical storm Matthew severely affected many indigenous communities and cities in the southern states of Mexico. After more than 30 hours of rain along the mountain range in the evening of September 25, the Chulhá River, which runs through the center of the city of Yajalón, overflowed its banks and grew to two meters high leaving a trail of destruction and death in its path.

Visit to Yajalón

On Thursday, September 30, we went to Yajalón with the supportive donation from Salomón and Consuelo, from Marianne of INESIN, from Jaime Patricio and from us, the Mayan Intercultural Seminary (SIM). Pedro Aurelio, student from the seminary and Pastor Humberto de Zapata, accompanied me on this trip. We arrived at the home of Pastor José Sánchez. His daughter, Cristabel was waiting for us together with some people from the church. With devotion and hope, we unloaded the cargo and prepared 80 individual packages of food supplies. We filled the truck up with these supplies and we delivered them to the homes most affected by the rains. This journey allowed us to see and hear from this broken town.

Anguish and Solidarity

Walking through the village, the people told us that on the day of the tragedy they were holding a prayer vigil. It rained with such a terrifying force from 5:00 in the afternoon. The vigil was close to the children’s park. This was the first place where the river crosses the city that it overflowed. Upon leaving the vigil, they saw that the homes had almost two meters of water in them and the force was so strong that it had taken all the belongings from the homes. Upon seeing what was happening the people started to rescue persons from their rooftops and their homes and to seal, tearfully, the doors of the homes in order to save the few or many belongings from the hands of petty thieves who took advantage of the state of shock of those affected in order to ransack their homes. We had arrived at this area without realizing it. We took out packages of supplies and started distributing them. A Tseltal woman and her daughter showed me where they lived and how they had nothing left. A young Zapata woman told me that in her community, a hill came down and flattened her house and that Yajalón where she rents and works on the river had taken everything.

In another neighborhood, they showed us a tributary that flows into the main river. They told us about the raging floodwaters and that they struck and forced their way into the homes at the edge of the river. The force was so great that it broke retaining walls thus connecting the angry flow with the violent waters of Chulhá River. In its path, it emptied homes, dragging televisions, beds and all their belongings, and in more than a few cases person through the holes in the walls.

We entered some of these homes and talked with some of the residents. Marco Antonio and Cristabel’s aunt, who had such anguished expressions on their faces, were grateful that they could leave their homes when the water level had risen to a meter and a half. They saw and heard the ferociousness of the water and they were so fearful. Marco Antonio and his wife told us how they went up to second floor of their house so that they could cross over to the neighbor’s zinc roof for fear that the delirious river would wash their home away. Miraculously, they were able to get to safety at the neighbor’s house, when the river uprooted the house and swept it away.

Facing this muddy street with rubble piled up on the corners and cars that were crumpled and covered with mud inside and out, we saw brigades of young people with wheelbarrows, shovels, and brooms helping to clean up the rubble and groups taking hot meals to those affected.

That day, the last place that we went was Pulpitillo to visit Alberto and Armando. These brothers were at the vigil when the catastrophe occurred. When they arrived at their homes, they found they had lost everything. Their homes were at the edge of the river, and the water reached the rooftop. However, they emphasized how moved they were that the Catholic brothers and sisters had brought them hot meals and that the Pentecostals had gone to help them clean up the rubble and wash their homes.

We meditated with them regarding the enigma of the sorrow and the faithful presence of God in the midst of this anguish. Also, we remembered the sorrow of “Mother Earth” because of the irresponsible mistreatment that we have given her by wanting to live unsustainable lifestyles that threaten the normal balance of the land. We prayed asking for forgiveness.

Join your Strength and your Heart

Before all this misfortune, some persons who are suffering from addictions take advantage of those who are in a state of shock to rob and take things for themselves. Given the state of anguish affecting the people of Yajalón, women are being advised to walk on the main streets because in the side streets women are being raped. Facing these lazy people are those who contribute and accompany the town in their sorrow and of course among them are the Iglesia Bautista Alfa y Omega, which is one of CICEM’s churches with whom we made this journey and distribution of food supplies.

I know that you also are in this group that heals the brokenness of these people.

Not only has Yajalón been affected, but also Tacuba Nueva, the wife of a man from one of CICEM’s churches, was swept away by the river. In Zapata, a hillside broke away leaving the people homeless and the same thing happened in El Jardín and in other communities. The most tragic thing is not material losses, but the loss of loved ones. Many are putting up signs with photos with the hope of finding their dear loved ones alive. The official figures are five deaths, but the people talk about 120 persons in Yajalón alone.

At this time, the invitation is to respond to this emergency with food, medicines, cleaning supplies, and with a supportive presence. In this phase, continues the cooperation in the restoration of homes and means of living. Please come closer and shower your love on your neighbors with an offering from the bottom of your heart.

Thanks for walking with us and with the people we serve. There is still a lot more to be done. We count with you, with your love, your support and testimony!

Dios sk'oltayak!