Guatemala (MNN) — It all started about 8 days ago. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake, the strongest in 36 years, struck Guatemala off the Pacific coast. It affected nearly 1.2 million Guatemalans and shook buildings as far away as Mexico City. Another powerful earthquake struck the region just days later, measuring 6.1 magnitude and sending a wave of panic through survivors.
The initial quake killed nearly 40 people in San Marcos state. A quarter of those victims came from a single family in San Cristobal Cucho. Justo Vasquez, his wife, and six of their children–all under the age of 15–were buried alive while working at a local quarry.
Pray for the only surviving member of the Vasquez family: 19-year-old Ivan. He's about to graduate with an accounting degree, the first in his family to have a professional career. Pray that he would find solace and salvation in Jesus Christ.
The back-to-back quakes shook over 10,000 homes in Guatemala, reducing nearly 3,000 to rubble. Worldwide Christian Schools has 3 projects right on the fault line.
"When you have a building that's 3 stories high and holds over 400, up to 500 students, immediately you have significant concerns," says Steve Geurink, WWCS Field Director for Central America and the Caribbean.
He says no one was hurt, and their projects are still standing. How? WWCS works with an engineering ministry to make their schools are quake-proof.
"Their engineers came to the site, looked at the ground structure, looked at what we would need for footings, and the entire building was designed understanding that it was a seismic area," Geurink explains.
"We went into this and wanted to be careful, and we're really pleased with how the buildings have held up."
Following the steadfast design set forth by WWCS' partner, Engineering Ministries International (EMI), local congregations play the biggest part in bringing these schools to life.
"They are building their own school, and we're assisting them with some resources," says Geurink. "These projects are built by a combination of short-term mission groups that come down [to Guatemala] and nationals."
Church members in the Mayan community of Chuixchimal hope to finish the Esmirna School by January. About 293 church and community members came together to work on the "dream school" recently, mixing cement by hand and pouring the school's second floor.
The school is the physical fulfillment of 25 years' worth of prayer and a vision for Christian education. Don Manuel, the Esmirna School project leader, played a key role in this accomplishment by motivating the church with weekly requests for labor and asking congregation members to contribute by purchasing bags of cement.
"They're trying to provide the resources themselves, but the reality is: something of this size and magnitude needs outside help," says Geurink. "We really need groups that want to go to Guatemala and work alongside [the nationals] and help them build this project."