Mexico (MNN) – Central Mexico has been devastated by one of the worst earthquakes the nation has seen for decades. What’s more, the 7.1 magnitude earthquake came on the 32nd-year anniversary of another earthquake that killed thousands.
So far, authorities have confirmed more than 200 deaths. The structural damage is severe, and as rescuers dig through the rubble, that number is likely to climb. When disaster strikes to a level that damages infrastructure, it means that damage assessment and relief aid is delayed.
(Photo courtesy of Contando Estrelas via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/XjWjxD)
Compassion International has worked across Mexico since 1980. They serve 50,474 beneficiaries through their partnerships with 210 local churches. They have reached out to their church partners to see if any Compassion children or their families have been impacted. According to their crisis alert, they’re prepared to offer shelter and whatever relief aid is needed. But this isn’t the first earthquake to impact their ministry this month.
Across the globe, it seems like each natural disaster is quickly followed by another, much like a line of dominoes falling over. International groups like Compassion have been impacted several disasters in a short time.
A historic quake
On September 7, an 8.2 quake hit the lower west side of Mexico. Oaxaca and Chiapas Mexico got hit the hardest, but neighboring Guatemala also sustained damage. It was the largest quake Mexico had seen in 100 years and at least 61 people were killed.
(Photo courtesy of Compassion International)
Several of Compassion’s Child Development Centers were affected in this earlier quake and their teams on the ground are still working hard to assess the extent of the damage in these regions.
Becca Bishop of Compassion International says, “I think we’re seeing a lot more of damage structurally to our church partners. I know that right now, about 18 of our church partners have been affected and they’ve suffered either minor or significant damage. Two of them have been destroyed…
“A little over 700 of our children have been affected. One has been severely injured and at the same time lost a caregiver and a sibling. So prayers for that child are greatly needed.”
In Guatemala, where Compassion is serving 65,710 beneficiaries alongside 219 churches, the damage was less severe. Two church partners were affected.
Sponsored children and their families
The first priority after assessing the immediate needs, Bishop says, is the get the programs back up and running. The children they serve face a number of daily challenges even without disasters.
“When you think about those Child Development Centers being destroyed or damaged, it puts pause in the daily activity of the children we’re trying to serve. Obviously, they can’t go to the child development center where they’re receiving all the benefits of our program. And sometimes it’s going to take a while for them to assess whether the buildings are safe, even if they have had minor damage.”
With the programs back up and running, the children will have at least one place where normalcy has resumed.
In the meantime, teams are working around the clock to make sure all of the Compassion children are accounted for.
“Are they at home? Is their home safe? Have they been temporarily moved to a shelter? They take a tally of each individual child and make sure that that child is safe, make sure that they identify what their needs are, make sure that they know where they are.”
It’s a difficult and slow process because of the loss of fully functioning infrastructure. Communication may be down, or roads destroyed.
Relief and recovery
In the weeks and months ahead, Compassion will also work with caretakers who have lost their livelihoods or homes to make sure the family-wide needs are met.
But this isn’t the effort of one organization. It’s that of the entire global Church.
“Practically, as someone like you and me, we can give our money or our resources to help these children. And the churches, they are going out and being the hands and feet of Jesus. They are delivering meals to children who need it. So they’re going out, buying groceries, delivering meals to them. They are providing shelter for them.”
Some of the churches that were not damaged by the earthquake have opened up as temporary shelters for those who’ve lost their homes. They are providing medical and hygiene resources and have established agreements with local water purification plants to make sure their communities get clean water.
“They’re also, at the same time, providing the emotional and psychological support that these children and families need,” Bishop says.
(Photo courtesy of Compassion International)
Because of the holistic care Compassion provides both in times of disaster and daily life, these children know they are individually loved and cared for. That kind of care has a lifelong, positive impact.
There are a couple of ways to step into this story and help Compassion meet the needs of their sponsored children and Child Development Centers around the globe. First of all, you can give to their disaster relief fund for Mexico. Find more information on that, here.
Secondly, take some time today to pray for those who have been affected by these quakes. Pray for the safety even as aftershocks continue. Ask God to protect relief workers and for the way to be clear for relief aid. Pray for emotional healing, too.
“It can be really devastating emotionally for the children that have felt it and it can be kind of scary. So praying for them, as well.”