More than 150,000 people suffered damage to their homes and were displaced after Hurricane Eta’s wrath in Central America swelled rivers and flooded communities in the State of Tabasco in southeast Mexico. In a region already saturated by the torrential rain from two previous hurricanes, Delta and Zeta, Eta’s downpour caused flooding two meters (6.6 feet) high, covering homes and leaving many to seek refuge in shelters.
Leaders in each of the country’s regional church areas accounted for its members’ properties as early as Nov. 5, then began transporting people to churches operating as shelters, and collected food and toiletries to assist the needy. Leaders reported that 3,778 Adventist families were affected. Most lost all their belongings and their homes. In addition, leaders reported that 102 of its 259 churches were flooded across the state.
In a special message, Pastor Isaias Espinoza, president of the church in southeast Mexico, reminded church members in Tabasco to cling to God. “As a church, we have one another,” he said. “Let’s trust in the Lord because he is with us; do not be dismayed.”
Union administrators toured the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco, on Nov. 7 to assess the damage and gather funds from its regional offices to assist the affected families. Other unaffected conferences and missions across the southern states began collecting food to distribute to dozens of families.
The Nicanor Gonzalez Mendoza Adventist School in Villahermosa made its school bus available to transport dozens of people out of the flooded areas and into shelters.
So far, 38 Adventist churches and schools across the state have taken in 850 displaced people and are providing hot meals as well as medical, psychological, and spiritual care.
“In the Pomoca area, our brothers and sisters have been severely affected, but they are supporting each other by sharing hot meals, clothes, and a place to rest,” says Pastor Humberto Lara, president of the church in the South Tabasco conference. He says pastors are holding support brigades to care for needy families in five of the most affected districts.
The Kalein Pathfinders and Master Club from the Macuspana Adventist Church rescued people trapped in their homes and set up a base camp nearby with a community kitchen. The kitchen is serving 400 meals daily to shelters and homes of needy families.
Erick López and his family are staying at the Febrero 27 Adventist Church because a church member convinced them to shelter there.
“My wife and I have never been through a flooding before and we were really scared and came here mostly because of our children,” says López. “We have stayed here all these days and thank God that we are here because we have been well-treated.”
López says he went to visit his home several days later and found the water had not receded.
“It’s like the water is stuck there and there’s no telling when it can be safe to get back home,” he expresses.
The national water commission reported that the torrential rains this year have been historic, exceeding widespread flooding in the region in 2007.
Once the water subsides, the church is planning to help with cleanup in the communities most affected by flooding. In the meantime, the church continues to distribute food bags and boxes of rice, beans, oats, cornmeal, sugar, pasta, tomato paste, milk, water, toiletries, diapers, clothes, shoes, and blankets.
Unaffected church conferences and missions across Tabasco will be collecting special offerings among its constituents to provide additional assistance. Leaders hope to provide 20 tons of food to distribute among the three flooded conference territories in Tabasco.
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Mexico and its relief efforts, visit unionsureste.org.mx.