After a church service in Antigua, Guatemala, Elaine Jump and others from Lakewood Baptist Church stared out at the cobblestone streets from a restaurant’s second floor.
The mission group had arrived June 2 at a bed and breakfast roughly 10 miles from the Volcan de Fuego, which was rumbling and spewing smoke.
“All of the sudden there was all this traffic, and it was backed up. They all were covered in ashes. We didn’t know what was going on,” Jump said.
The volcano, commonly called Fuego, erupted June 3. At least 110 people were killed when the volcano sent waves of super-heated debris down onto villages on its flanks. About 200 people were listed as missing last week, and authorities continue working to identify some of the recovered bodies.
“It wasn’t really till Monday (June 5) that we knew the magnitude of it all,” Jump said.
Missions pastor Robert Puckett said the Gainesville church partners with the Iglesia Baptista El Camino in Guatemala City and reaches families living in a landfill.
The women who went on the trip served at the school called “Rays of Hope” with about 200 children, as well as ministering to women of the church.
“The school on the edge of the landfill serves the children and their families with accredited teachers, quality education and a biblical worldview,” Puckett said.
Jump and others traveled about 30 miles from Antigua to Guatemala City to serve at the school.
“That volcano historically blows ash (and) water and smokes pretty often, but what happened two weeks ago was pretty devastating,” Puckett said.
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While in Antigua, Jump said they worked with a woman from the bed and breakfast whose brother and family lost their home following the volcanic eruption.
“We were able to get some clothes, leave our clothes, get some toiletry articles. We gave her probably two suitcases worth of stuff,” Jump said.
At the end of the “ladies’ conference” that serves 125 women, the mission team gave out black garbage bags filled with food. Members of the church pay to sponsor a lady.
For Jump, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord in a place where people have it so hard.”
“We’ve built relationships with a lot of these ladies. We look forward to going every year, and they look forward to seeing us,” she said.
This volcano is probably the most active in Guatemala, according to the country’s National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology. Records of activity go back to the 1500s and recent reports show that the volcano has been continuously erupting since 2002. Before the eruptions June 3, the most recent event began May 17, when a mudflow of water and rocks started moving down the slope of the volcano, followed by explosions and ash plumes that rose almost 3,300 feet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.