Guatemala’s La Aurora area is trembling—literally, under the violent and cataclysmic eruption of the Volcán de Fuego, a perfectly conical living, fire-breathing dragon of a mountain not far south-west of Guatemala City. The name of the mountain is fitting, but not pretty right now. Today’s news recorded 69 dead, with that number expected to rise. Horrific stories of missing family members and injured loved ones are filtering out. As typical, today’s headlines don’t pick up this story, but we can be sure that the Red Cross and other assistance agencies will be descending on the location to help dig out life and death from the steaming ash. Some of them will also stay behind to attend to the secondary and tertiary health issues that are sure to arise. When I get to Honduras next month I wouldn’t be surprised to find refugees from Guatemala at our clinics. Some have nothing to go home to. In another sense, nobody has “home” to go home to. “Home” has moved, it has changed. Even the memories of “home” have been overlaid with the ash of memories and sights and sounds engraved in pain on the heart. We pray for Guatemala, and we will be doing what we can to send help.
In central Ecuador there is another similar town called Baños. The name, meaning “baths,” comes from the mineral-laden geo-thermal springs that flow from the base of Tunguragua, another conical living, fire-breathing dragon just east of Ambato. There is a Catholic cathedral there whose walls are lined with commissioned paintings, given in thanksgiving for dodged bullets, times when against all odds people emerged from eruptions with more than they expected. The miracles are attributed to God and to La Virgen de las Aguas, the Virgin of the Waters, who in a previous age appeared in such a moment of terror to give people hope.
Perhaps the greatest miracle is that somehow, faith and life emerge from flames and death. To be sure, stories will emerge from La Aurora. They should be received with reverence and not just a tinge of awe.