Some Sioux City residents ventured to Guatemala expecting to experience poverty. But instead, they faced a national disaster.
Six members of Riverside Lutheran and New Hope Church traveled from the U.S. to Guatemala expecting a "typical" mission trip. For seven days, they planned to build five houses, help at medical clinics, and explore the area through the organization "Paradise Bound."
Plans changed on their first day there. The eruption of the Fuego volcano devastated unsuspecting communities... including one "Paradise Bound" spent 7 years building.
"Going down thinking that you're building homes and doing medical clinics is one thing, and it's an amazing experience, something that I've done before. But going down and experiencing a global, national disaster like we did, and being a part of it, and helping people in need in such an immediate way is life-changing," said Jeana Squier, Riverside Lutheran Church youth leader.
The next morning, the team's mission changed. Despite high temperatures and ruin, they built homes in a new location because to blocked roads. They still visited medical centers. And, in their free time, worked at a shelter for victims.
The health minister says more than 4,000 people are housed in those shelters.
They also faced rising tension, as rumors circulated the government could have prevented many deaths.
"Rumor has it that there were 10 phone calls made to the government that the volcano was going to go off and that it went off, and the government did absolutely nothing about it. So, these people that it just happened so fast for them, they had to run and get out of there as fast as they possibly could," said Josh Van Den Hull, elder at sister church New Hope Community.
After 6 days, the missionaries safely returned home with prayful minds and heavy, yet full, hearts.
"It was satisfying in the fact that you were able to be down there helping this people, but it also broke your heart because you had to leave because there is nothing else physically that we can do other than just pray for them. It will be a core memory, for sure, that I'll never forget," said Squier.
The team is asking everyone to keep Guatemala in their prayers, and send donations through reliable organizations.