Bolivia (MNN) — The rain won’t stop in Bolivia, and it’s creating massive problems. Storms have been rolling in since October; the disaster reached a peak in January and February when torrential rain triggered landslides that swept away homes and lives.
Widespread flooding is overtaking entire communities, but it’s also allowing local ministries to put the love of God into action.
“At least 60 people have been killed, more than 60,000 homes damaged or destroyed; crops are ruined; an estimated 100,000 cattle have been drowned,” says Rosa Contreras Hart. Hart oversees Bolivian ministry support for Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions
“It’s still raining, so the people are in great need.” Christian Aid Mission works with Serving Jesus Christ (SJC), a ministry which “is focusing its relief work in two towns, San Joaquin and San Ramon, where 110,000 families have been affected,” says Hart.
Over 80 municipalities have declared a state of emergency. The lowland region of Beni, near the Brazilian border, is accustomed to seasonal flooding. But this year’s rainy season has gotten out of control
“What is happening, particularly in Beni province, is something never before seen in the history of Bolivia,” President Evo Morales told OOSKAnews, an independent publisher of international water sector news in February.
Despite the damage being caused by this historic event, Bolivia’s government is rejecting calls for international assistance.
“This [flooding] has been very [difficult] for the region to deal with,” notes Hart. “Some of the worst flooding in years has engulfed many communities along the Mamore and Beni rivers.”
In February, a swollen river near San Joaquin threatened to overflow its banks. Neighbors worked together to stack a buffer of sandbags to protect their community of 5,000 people, according to Christian Aid.
In the wee hours of the morning, Edir and his family were awakened by shouts that the river had broken through the makeshift dam, and residents must flee to the highest section of town immediately.
“You cannot imagine the chaos that night. Everyone was looking for their relatives and people were crying and trying to find somewhere to go as the rain kept falling,” Edir told Christian Aid.
“In two hours the water had invaded the town. It was surprising to see how quickly our houses were washing away.”
Three gospel workers with SJC also lost their homes in the flooding. As part of its mission, SJC takes an integrated approach to ministry that includes meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of individuals.
“The flood response is a practical way to demonstrate Christ’s love to the hurting,” Hart explains.
“Emergency packs include cooking oil, canned or powdered milk, water, noodles, rice and sugar. They [also] want to include the Bible that will give [families] hope in Jesus, to know that the One who can really provide for them is the Lord.”
SJC is also bringing medical volunteers to affected communities, as well as medical kits to ward off waterborne diseases. Four cases of dengue fever have already been diagnosed in Trinidad, the capital of Beni.
As the rain continues to fall, SJC teams are doing what they can to deliver these emergency kits to affected families. When more financial support becomes available, they would like to bring encouragement and comfort to additional flooded communities.
For example, in Sachojere, 90 families lost their mud and thatch dwellings. Their crops of rice, yucca, and plantains were also wiped out.
“Our town looks like a war has happened,” Mauricio tells Christian Aid. “Almost everything is under water and has been destroyed. There is no road, no houses, and no crops.
“We are praying the Lord will help us rebuild our houses and restore our community.”
Once the water recedes, families will need to begin replacing their cattle, chickens, and other farm animals. Mario Hurtado, president of the Beni Stock Raisers’ Federation, told OOSKAnews that some 500,000 animals are at-risk because of drowning or starvation. This disaster is costing livestock owners more than $65 million so far, he added.
“Pray for the people of this region, that [they] will place their hope in the unfailing love of our Lord Jesus,” Hart asks.
Pray that damage caused by the ongoing rain will cause people to turn to Christ for their needs, instead of relying on themselves. Pray that the rains will stop soon so recovery can begin.