Adventists in Southern Mexico Suffer
Devastating Effects by Tropical Storm Noel
eventh-day Adventist leaders in southern Mexico are fearing the worst as 20 church members are reported missing after tropical storm Noel recently battered and flooded the region. Entire communities were covered by overflowing rivers and mudslides as a result of the storm.
Juan del Grijalva, a mostly Adventist community in the Ostuacan district of North Chiapas, was one of the hardest hit by the storm. Of the 20 people reported missing there, 18 were Adventists.
According to pastor Adriel Clemente, North Chiapas Conference secretary, people from neighboring communities noticed that the flood waters passing through the community were increasing in force, and that the mud on the surrounding hills was beginning to slide down. He said 60 homes were buried by the mud and water. The neighboring communities were affected, as well. Two churches were completely destroyed. Dozens of Adventist families will have to relocate and won't be allowed to return for no less than six months, local authorities said. Relocating will not be easy, as several main roads were either destroyed or will remain flooded for days.
“This disaster is another of the many calamities that the southeast region of the country has suffered,” said Raul Lozano, South Mexican Union communication director. “In the state of Chiapas alone, there are 80 percent of all the districts reported flooding problems. The number of victims could easily climb to more than 80,000."
In the state of Tabasco, where 80 percent of the land was flooded, authorities reported that more than 1 million people were affected. Church leaders there reported that among the more than 36,000 church members, more than 20,000 have been affected by the disaster. Most have encountered severe flood damage to their homes.
HORRIFIC FLOODING: Rampant flooding in Tabasco caused roads to turn into rivers of destruction. [Photo: South Mexican Union/IAD]
According to Lozano, flood waters were five meters deep in the town of Gaviotas. “It is a daily critical and unsettling situation, ” said Lozano.
The Adventist Church is extending its hands to help. Churches in neighboring states have sent nine tons of food, blankets, clothing, and water to help Tabasco, according to Lozano. Church members of all ages have been active in gathering, sorting, and packaging supplies for the disaster victims. In addition, volunteer doctors from the Adventist Southeast Hospital in Tabasco provided medical checkups.
A small boat has also been used to rescue close to 100 people stranded in the most flooded areas. “The Adventist church has shown its concern and solidarity towards those affected by the storm in a wide and evident way,” said Lozano, who has been traveling with church leaders to affected areas since last week. “All the Master Guide and Pathfinder clubs in Merida have been working together to help.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Mexico moved into action immediately after the storm hit. Rafael Garcia, director for ADRA/Mexico, said that the agency has so far helped some 8,000 victims. More than 1,200 food baskets were initially distributed in Tabasco. In addition, 23 portable kitchens have been set up in shelters and are being used to feed three meals every day to more than 2,500 people.
“We are sponsoring a team of 40 doctors from the Adventist University in Montemorelos University to offer medical services starting this week to hundreds of victims in the affected areas,” said Garcia. “We are due to receive medical supplies worth more than 1 million dollars from donations gathered by ADRA International to help the affected victims.”
Additional funds were sent to North Chiapas to aid in the worst affected communities. More than 52,000 church members are worshiping in 196 churches and 395 congregations in the region.
In a statement from the church leadership of the South Mexican region, leaders expressed their deep sorrow for the families affected by the flooding in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco.
“We know that many have lost everything,” the statement said. “We encourage you to remain trusting in God, who knows best and tells us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness, (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
The Inter-American Division has disbursed special funds to help in the lingering disaster brought by Noel, which affected Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
To view more photos of the storm damage, click here.