JOJUTLA, Mexico—Baptist churches in Central Mexico continue to feel the figurative aftershocks of the earthquake that shook their region Sept. 19, but damage to facilities has not deterred congregations from offering disaster relief to their neighbors.
The tremor, which started in the state of Puebla, occurred 32 years after the deadliest earthquake in the country’s history. While damage in Mexico City drew most international attention, churches in less densely populated areas suffered serious structural damage.
“It has been two months, and we still cannot do much,” said Eduardo Herrera Perez, president of the Baptist Regional Association of Elim, in the state of Morelos.
State and federal officials have been slow to respond to the affected region, some area residents noted.
“These disasters have exceeded the churches’ funding capacity and their capacity for organization,” said Herrera.
‘Looks like a war-torn area’
Primera Iglesia Bautista in Jojutla, a congregation of about 25 members, has met in houses since its quake-damaged building was condemned. The facility awaits demolition by the government.
“A lot of buildings in downtown Jojutla suffered severe damages,” said Ramiro Rebollado, who has been the pastor of the church for a year and a half.
“Jojutla truly looks like a war-torn area,” Herrera said.
Government officials announced earthquake damaged homes will be given priority in terms of the demolition schedule, with schools next in line, Rebollado said. Churches rank near the end of the list, he noted.
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“We want to build the sanctuary back again,” he said. “We hope to do so little by little.”
Construction costs remain unknown, and while Rebollado said other churches want to help, he trusts God to supply all their needs.
Delivering groceries, serving hot meals
Although the earthquake affected Baptist churches, their members played a key role in disaster relief in the area, serving meals to earthquake survivors at the Niños Heroes shelter—the largest one in Jojutla.
“We have been feeding people there since September, and we hope to be there until the end of December,” Herrera said.
In addition to providing meals at the shelter, Baptists distributed groceries in neighborhoods, as well as setting up locations in communities to serve hot meals.
“So far, we have donated 5,000 bags of food to 5,000 families,” Herrera said.
The Baptist Association of Elim has spent about $60 a day to provide the meals.
Baptist churches in Morelos also are considering providing temporary homes for people who lost theirs after the earthquake. The cost of building the homes would be around $400, Herrera said.
“Three thousand homes were damaged in the area, so we want to provide something that will help them make it until they work everything out,” he said.
Baptist churches in Morelos have focused not just on their own needs, but also on the needs of their neighbors, ministering where God placed them—even when they lacked funding, Herrera noted.
“We know we only have to be faithful, and God will supply for all this work to be done,” he said.