Mexican Methodists assess damage

The Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico damaged tile roofs and plaster walls at the Tree of Life Center, in the village of Tlancualpican. The center is part of the United Methodist-supported Give Ye Them to Eat ministry. ~ photo courtesy Muriel Henderson

Methodists are among those affected by and responding to the devastating Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico.

SAM HODGES
United Methodist News Service

Methodists are among those affected by and responding to the earthquake that struck south central Mexico on Sept. 19, killing at least 320 people and causing widespread damage to homes, hospitals, and government infrastructure.

UMCOR reports on September 28 that they are in communication with the local Methodist Church and is ready to respond to partners’ requests for relief and recovery assistance. Global Ministries two missionaries, Hector LaPorta and Amanda Cherry, are serving in Mexico City, Mexico. Both reported they are safe and accounted for.

Though the impact of the earthquake was widespread in Mexico City, the neighborhoods where they live were not as heavily damaged as others in the city. Both missionaries are actively working with volunteers from the Methodist Church and from local universities to assist with clean up and assessment. The community is in great need of pastoral support as many people have died because of the earthquake. There is also need for housing, food, and non-food items for families who have lost their homes.

The Rev. Raquel Balbuena, a superintendent in the Methodist Church of Mexico’s Southeast Annual Conference, said she has had reports from pastors of deaths among Methodist church families in the state of Morelos, near the earthquake’s epicenter.

Some church buildings of the Methodist Church of Mexico were damaged, as were some parsonages and homes of church members and ministry staff.

The Give Ye Them to Eat ministry, founded by longtime United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionaries Terry and Muriel Henderson, saw damage to its Tree of Life Training Center in the village of Tlancualpican, in Mexico’s state of Puebla.

The center teaches sustainable agriculture and other strategies for improving the lives of impoverished people in the area.

Muriel Henderson said all of the center’s employees and extended family have been accounted for, but many will be repairing their homes.

Tile roofs, plaster walls and windows at the center sustained damage. The buildings can be repaired.

“It will take time and money, but it will be done,” she said.

The Hendersons are retired from both Global Ministries and Give Ye Them to Eat, and live in Keller, Texas, after four decades in Mexico. But they remain close to the ministry.

Donate to International Disaster Response Advance #982450 of the United Methodist Committee on Relief to support relief efforts underway in Mexico.

Give Ye Them to Eat is supported by United Methodists through Advance #07629A, and mission teams from United Methodist churches and conferences in the U.S. have long done work there.

When the earthquake struck, the Hendersons were hosting two pastors from the Methodist Church of Mexico, including Balbuena.

Henderson said they all had been trying to call friends and colleagues in Mexico, and that Balbuena had learned from pastors of deaths among Methodist church families and of damage to church buildings in her conference.

Bishop Cruz Hernandez of that conference has compiled a list of several churches and parsonages that had cracked walls, confirmed the Rev. Edgar Avitia, global area liaison for Global Ministries.

The mission agency’s missionary personnel in Mexico were reported safe after the earthquake.

“Because I was home without a phone or internet and the buildings immediately surrounding mine seemed to be fine, I wasn’t made aware of the scale of the earthquake or of the damages until later,” said Amanda Cherry, a global mission fellow in Mexico City.

Cherry, interviewed by email, said she would be joining in relief work. She added that the Rev. Hector Laporta, a United Methodist missionary in Mexico City, has been working with the local Seminario Metodista Dr. Gonzalo Báez Camargo to provide food for relief workers.

Universidad Madero, a Methodist school in Puebla, Mexico, which earlier this year hosted a major meeting of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities, has been collecting supplies for earthquake victims.

Some Methodist Church of Mexico churches and ministries have become collection centers for relief, a task that began with a deadly earthquake that hit Sept. 7 off the coast of the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief said it expects to be providing short-term support, with a focus on food supply, hygiene kits and bedding, and long-term support for rebuilding.

Searches continue in Mexico City for survivors of the Sept. 19 earthquake. It occurred on the anniversary of a 1985 earthquake in Mexico City that killed thousands.

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