John [?] - Tropical Storm Stan - 2005

El Rodeo, Guatemala
Octubre 6, 2005

Hello dear family,

Today is day 5 of the tropical storm "Stan" that marched westward from the Gulf of Mexico and has collided with another tropical storm that had swept in eastbound from the Pacific Ocean. These two immense weather systems are presently relentlessly slugging it out above most of Central America and deluging several countries with their torrential rain. Furthermore, we hear that yet another storm is coming our way from Venezuela...

These storms have caught tens of thousands off guard. Where I am, there are 4 rivers that unite on the outskirts of this mountainside town of El Rodeo. They have swelled into one gigantic river 1/2 mile across. I can hear the cascading, muddy torrent river's roar over 1 mile away above the pounding rain. The roar of the river and rain on the roof is so loud I can barely hear the dog barking just outside my door.

Yesterday we went to look at the river. It rumbles by like 100 freight trains passing side by side carrying trees, cars, and homes. We can hear the grinding and thumping of huge boulders being scraped along with the current. I was amazed to see basketball size stones being hurled into the air by huge waves. The river height reached the level of the two lane bridge then the waves broke away 150 feet of the bridge which we had crosed over 4 days prior. There were at least 100 villagers gathered on an prepacist just above the raging river. I admired their valor but deplored their lack of inteligence. Somewhere across the river the rains have caused an entire hill to slide down on a village of 200 homes. We don't know how many people are buried alive and we can not get to them. Mud slides now block the roads around our town and power poles and power lines are laying on the streets which look more like streams.

We just heard on the radio that where this river joins the sea, the city there (Tapachula) has lost 2,000 homes and the mud level in the streets are now 8 feet deep. In that city a convention was held just last week. We surely think of our poor Friends there, hoping they are safe...? Pat Daniel tells me in all her 36 years laboring in Central America she has never seen anything like this!

The battery operated radio also reports there are over 2,000 storm-caused moralities and thousands more homeless throughout Central America thus far. Also today we felt an earthquake here in El Rodeo that was epi-centered in El Salvador. Wonder how many more homes has been destroyed?

The river here has destroyed the 5 bridges and a mile of road around the town of El Rodeo. These bridges would allow us to join the rest of the Central American Staff of Workers. Those Workers are across the river in Malagatan, where we were to to hold a 3 day Convention starting today. Our being able to attend this Convention is now out of the question. Malagatan is also without power, phone lines are down and we are unable to communicate with them. So we wonder how it fares for them as well as they likely wonder how it fares for us?

We have been without electricity, without gas, without tap water and without phone service for 5 days now.

So, we wait and see what is our best plan. We are hoping for a road to open that would allow us pasage to Guatemala City. Food in the market is nearly depleted. The only Gas station ran out of gas and is now closed. At least we are situated in a house on a hill and have a roof over our heads. There is a kind professing family (Morales) of 3 generations living here. They have a wood stove to cook on and have collected buckets of rain water to drink and wild bananas to eat! Their nephew Paulo is a lad of 10 years and he is with us too. We have no news of the whereabouts of his parents as their home is on this raging river. The poor lad is very worried and often comes to me and silently gives me a hug seeking reassurance and consolation.

I am sharing this home with 4 Sister Workers: Pat Daniels, Lucia Atienza (Spain), Noemi Utrilla, and Lesvia Gutierrez. There are 17 - 18 Friends that live on this side of the river. Since none of us can cross the river, I have suggested that if the rains let up over the weekend, we should hold our own mini Convention here. I just wish there were some more Brothers Workers to help me.

This morning I invited the 4 Sister Workers to come into my room where we held a 1 hour long Workers Mtg. I wonder if Noah, inside the Ark, had the same feelings we had while hearing the torential rains just outside my room? I have a deeper appreciation than even before for our beautiful hymn, "All through the storm Lord I see thy face, beaming with love and with saving grace. I'll go where Thou leadest for Thou art my friend, and I am thine till the journey's end."

Remember us in your prayers and with best wishes to each.

Your son, brother, fellow laborer, and friend,
John