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Baptists in Mexico helping families driven out by volcano

MEXICO CITY (BP)–Baptists have mobilized to help families driven from their homes by violent eruptions of Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano Dec. 18-19.

Southern Baptist missionaries and their Mexican Baptist co-workers are maintaining a state of readiness to respond if an expected massive eruption occurs.

“El Popo” shot flaming rocks from its massive crater, forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people from villages that dot the volcano slopes. The eruptions were the most violent activity from the mountain in perhaps 500 years, according to vulcanologists.

Many people, however, were refusing to evacuate because they wanted to protect their homes, crops and livestock. Mexican disaster officials said their greatest fear was that a 3,000-foot glacier on the volcano’s western face might break loose and trigger massive mudslides.

Scientists said a serious buildup of pressure in the volcano’s core still has not been released. As many as 250,000 people will have to be evacuated if the situation worsens.

The snow-capped, 17,884-foot volcano sits just 42 miles from Mexico City’s 18 million residents.

A missionary assessment team identified four Baptist churches that could serve as shelters for displaced families. With basic cooking facilities in place, those four shelters could accommodate 750 refugees.

The first refugees to take shelter in one of those churches were 45 people from a town evacuated by the army, reported International Mission Board missionaries Don Kennedy and Thurman Pennick.

Several towns near the volcano have Baptist churches because Mexican Baptist women have organized medical projects and prayerwalking teams to work in the region over the past eight or 10 years, missionary Buddy Albright said.

Mexican Baptists began collecting food and money, Kennedy and Pennick said. IMB missionaries used Southern Baptist relief funds to buy blankets, serapes, cots and food packages that included corn meal, oil, rice, coffee and sugar.

The Mexican army and disaster relief agencies were well prepared for the crisis and responding admirably, Albright said. About 1,800 buses stood ready to evacuate people to 180 shelters in cities close to the mountain. Each shelter reportedly had a 30-day supply of food.

Contributions toward the relief efforts can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief Fund — Mexico Volcano Relief, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: VOLCANO.

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  • Mark Kelly