As the Fuego volcano erupted in Guatemala this month, a group from Michigan and Iowa arrived for a planned mission trip. Twenty-five young people and leaders from Hillcrest Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Mich., along with nine people from New Hope Community Church in Sioux City, Iowa, worked with Paradise Bound Ministries to help construct homes and assist in a medical clinic. In spite of the devastation, the trip went mostly according to plan.
Erika Doorn, Hillcrest’s youth group director, said that although the closest the group got to the volcano was 17 miles (27 km), the effect of the ash cloud was present throughout. “It was foggy,” she said, and it looked like everything was covered in dust. Student Zach Van Dyke said, “The cloud was like brown fog that covered everything. However, unlike fog, the brown cloud stayed on whatever it touched, leaving a residue on windshields and the road.”
The group's planned activities were mostly unaffected, except for some altered routes to some of the destinations and finishing the week assisting at a shelter for volcano evacuees. They spent three days in one village building homes for five families, dedicating the homes, and sharing the gospel with the families. In two other villages they held day-long medical clinics with Paradise Bound’s Guatemalan staff. The ministry’s goal is “to do ‘whatever it takes’ to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and dying in Guatemala.” Doorn said that God had worked through the whole experience. “All of those things were not only able to continue, but God worked miraculously through them as well. In a time when that country was heartbroken, God was able to comfort.”
The Guatemalan government’s coordinator for disaster reduction has been reporting on the loss and destruction associated with the Fuego eruptions, which began June 3 and continue. As of June 25, 112 deaths were recorded. The government reported that more than 1.7 million people have been affected, including nearly 3,600 people displaced from their homes and living in shelters.
Meeting some of those people was a moving experience for Steve Van Dyk, Zach’s dad, who was also on the trip. “While the situation is tragic, being with [fellow] Christians in the shelter and singing, ‘I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God’ in both English and Spanish was an experience that has changed me forever. Paradise Bound Ministries is doing kingdom work, and worshiping with these Christians was a humbling and amazing experience,” he said.
Editor's note: When this story was published on June 29, Hillcrest CRC's city was mis-named. We regret the error.