There is an urgent need to offer relief to survivors of the devastating earthquake that rocked the Ecuadorian coast on Saturday, April 16, 2016. The Missionary Groups of the Home of the Mother have already begun making efforts. Will you help us?
I am going to begin this request for your help by telling you of an inspiring gesture we witnessed just recently. A terrible earthquake hit Ecuador on April 16, 2016, claiming the lives of many people, including six of our Sisters (Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother) passed away. A few days later, on Thursday, April 21, our Sisters in Alcala de Henares went to tape the testimony of a young Iraqi priest, Fr. Benham Benoka. He was forced to flee to Kurdistan from Mosul during the ISIS invasion in 2014, along with the entire Christian community there. Since then, Fr. Benoka and the hundreds of refugee Christians who fled with him live in miserable and very difficult conditions—in tents and small, prefabricated homes. Through HM Television and the EUK Mamie Foundation we’ve tried to spread the word about the genocide that Christians are suffering in the Middle East, through the series “In the Footsteps of the Nazarene”. In this series, we interview bishops, priests, and lay persons who have suffered and who continue to suffer anti-Christian persecution.
Our Sisters in Alcala de Henares have also been doing more. Every month, in one of the parishes where they work, they show one of these inspiring testimonies of courageous faith and take up a collection for the most urgent needs of these Christian communities. Foreseeing their appointment with Fr. Benoka, they thought of giving him the latest donations. Once they had finished the interview, they tried to give him the envelope of money, but his reaction was surprising. He refused the money and asked that it be sent to Ecuador. We are talking about a man who is in charge of a whole community and who has lived for a year and a half in a tent amidst all kinds of hardships. The Sisters insisted: “Father, we collected the money for you, for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.” But Fr. Benoka refused again. The Sisters continued to insist, so Fr. Benoka reached out and took the envelope, saying, “Ok, give me the money. Now it’s mine, right? And I can do whatever I want with my things. I’m giving it to you, so that you can make it reach the victims of the earthquake in Ecuador.” I can only say that it seems to me a gesture of heroic charity—just like that widow whom Our Lord admired, “for she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4); just as the Christians’ example made the pagans exclaim, “See how they love each other.”
While I write this, I ask myself: Are we up to the task? Will we be there for Ecuador? I certainly hope so.
Our Sisters in Ecuador need us. Two days after the earthquake, Sr. Mercedes wrote us from Guayaquil:
“In Playa Prieta, Portoviejo, Manta, Pedernales, and Esmeraldas, many provinces are in need of food and water. Trucks from Guayaquil are taking containers with clothes and food to the area. Almost everything is destroyed: churches, houses, hospitals, etc… We’re trying to take food to the areas most heavily affected by the earthquake. The food supply is already diminishing. We’re working hard to send truckloads of food and supplies to those areas. Thank you for your prayers and your help. God bless, Sister Mercedes
The Missionary Groups of the Home of the Mother (which began when we arrived in Ecuador in 2003 with the intention of channeling financial and humanitarian aid for the development and formation of the Ecuadorian people) is intensely working on the emergency aid which is going to be organized into two main projects:
--Earthquake Relief Project:There is an urgent need to attend to the most immediate and basic needs of hundreds of families who had lost nearly everything in the flooding that struck the area in the days leading up to the earthquake, and now as a result of the earthquake have been left completely stranded. Many of them live in rural areas where government aid takes a long time to arrive. The situation is serious because they are already suffering from hunger. Youth and lay members of the Home of the Mother are going from Guayaquil and Chone to the most affected areas to bring food. Fr. Jose Javier, Servant Priest of the Home of the Mother, writes from Guayaquil:
“On Monday, we packed two pickup trucks with all kinds of supplies: food, clothing, medicine, hygiene products, etc. We delivered it all directly to the earthquake victims. Yesterday, we sent two more pickup trucks and this morning, we sent out another truck. The people are responding very generously and every day they bring more donations to the parish. Our young people go house to house, asking people to bring whatever they can to the parish and selling raffle tickets to raise funds. United in prayer and with Our Lord’s blessing, Fr. José Javier"
More aid will be necessary, of course – not only in terms of food and clothing, but also mattresses and blankets, medicine, payment of medical bills in a country without social security, aid for rebuilding homes… The Missionary Groups of the Home of the Mother have the contact information for the poorest families in the area, as well as personal contact with parish pastors, religious, and catechists (who are well acquainted with the local communities). All this allows us to reach those most in need.
For more information on how to collaborate on this project, visit: https://www.hogardelamadre.org/en/mghm/projects/earthquake
-Project “Reconstruction of the school in Playa Prieta” We also have to face the reconstruction of the “Holy Family Educational Center” (Colegio Sagrada Familia), a school with 400 students where both human and spiritual formation is carried out. In addition to the work with the children and youth, we must add on the attention that their families also require on both a human and spiritual level. The earthquake has reduced the main school building and everything inside to rubble. Here is a concrete list of the damaged areas:
- On the ground floor: the Student Chapel, the administration office, and the woodshop classroom
- On the first floor: the computer lab and the sewing workshop
- On the second floor: the residence for the Sisters and postulants - On the third floor: the residence for volunteers who come to help
There are several other one or two-story buildings located near the main building, which contain grade school and high school classrooms, an activities hall, kitchen areas, and bathrooms. Many of these buildings have been severely damaged and may have to be completely demolished and rebuilt in order to be used safely by the children. We await the results of an expert who is examining the situation. The wall surrounding the entire complex has collapsed in several points and will also have to be rebuilt.
For more information on how to collaborate on this project, visit:https://www.hogardelamadre.org/en/mghm/projects/reconstruction
Providence needs our charity in order to alleviate and console our brethren in need. In situations like these, I am reminded of the great Spanish Carmelite nun, St. Maravillas of Jesus, who from her cloistered monastery worked immense works of charity. Whenever she heard of someone in need, her Sisters would hear her saying, “We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but at least we can help those closest to us…” Right now, our brothers and sisters of Ecuador are those closest to us, having suffered the earthquake on April 16, along with the 800 aftershocks that followed and the many that continue to rock the area. We cannot turn them a blind eye.