Help, Hope, and Healing after the Hurricane: An Update from Belize
By Carl Stagner
Storms of a variety of kinds continue to plague the world, seemingly stirring up trouble and trying times for far too many, all the while vying for attention from the media. Such storms—spiritual, emotional, relational, political, societal, and literal—wreak havoc on homes, churches, businesses, and schools, leaving behind lasting effects that linger long after the headlines have faded. Even the literal storms, like Hurricane Lisa and its path of destruction last November across the Central American country of Belize, contain elements of the range of their nonliteral counterparts. That’s why help, hope, and healing are crucial to the people whose lives and livelihoods are often upended and uprooted when the howling winds blow. A brief check-in with Alfonso Ayala, longtime missionary alongside his wife Elizabeth, offers the Church of God an update on disaster relief from Belize.
November 2, 2022, will long be remembered as a day of destruction in Belize, especially in two of its six districts hit the hardest by Hurricane Lisa. From landfall to exit, damaging winds and flooding proved relentless and indiscriminate in their widespread furor. An especially hard-hit area of the country was the Cayo District, where Alfonso and Elizabeth reside.
“One of our roles, since 1989,” Alfonso explains, “is to support and address family and community basic needs and to contribute to any efforts in their wellbeing, including emergency aid and disaster relief. We are committed to serve the population of Belize as long as we are able to do it.”
Highest concentrations of devastation in the wake of Hurricane Lisa were reported from Belize City and along the coast. Flooding left its mark on numerous homes, while gusty winds dealt severe blows to roofs of a variety of structures. Alfonso explains how the storm led to chronic problems not limited to a single sector of society.
“The primary damage in rural areas was destruction and loss of crops with dramatic reduction and loss of immediate and medium-term income, expected environmental disruption, food insecurity, and potential hunger among the most vulnerable,” he reports. “Our emergency aid and relief initiatives focused on food availability to priority groups and villages, the poor, single families, older adults, and people with disabilities.”
The implications are serious.
“Out of the many needs that hurricane Lisa left,” Alfonso continues, “food is essential. It will be especially difficult for farming families with damaged/destroyed crops before harvest time. They will increasingly struggle in the coming weeks and months. Many other side effects are taking place. For example, a single mother abandoned three school children. A pastor is feeding them, but his limited resources barely cover his own family expenses. Hurricane Lisa made evident the feeding need of some school children in rural communities in the West of the country where we live.”
Concerning the Church of God in Belize, especially in these months following Hurricane Lisa’s impact, Alfonso suggests several specific ways the Church of God around the world can best pray for them.
“Pray that families and communities will be provided with the opportunities and resources to feed their members and satisfy their basic needs sustainably,” Alfonso concludes. “Intercede for the body of Christ to respond and serve those most vulnerable in the love of Jesus. Ask God to increase our faith, to give us wisdom and love to network, coordinate, assist and accompany with a sensitive and empathic approach those in need, especially widows, orphans, older adults, single families, the poor, the disabled, and children.”
To financially come alongside the Church in Belize, donations can be made to Church of God Ministries Disaster Relief. 100 percent of your donation goes to assist those in Belize recovering from Hurricane Lisa, as well as other Church of God communities affected by disasters globally. Stay up-to-date on all current disaster responses here.
Learn more about the international ministries of the Church of God, including Alfonso and Elizabeth Ayala, at www.chogglobal.org.
Feature (top) collage: Flooding and wind damage caused by Hurricane Lisa.