Friday, November 12, 2010

Changing Gears

Over a thousand people in the capital and along the Pacific coast were evacuated to shelters to escape the flooding last week. Officials would have declared a national state of emergency if the heavy rain storms that had been forecast would have continued any longer. At one point, President Laura Chinchilla solicited help from neighboring countries for emergency relief aid. Emergency workers were sent in to search for approximately 30 people who were declared missing in the shanty dwellings of the suburb of San Antonio de Escazu. Twenty ended up being found dead. The mudslide followed two days of heavy rains that also flooded a local river in the area, namely the one where the community we work with lives. According to Costa Rica's Meteorological Institute, the region received 6.3 inches (161 millimeters) of rain in only two hours Wednesday. Reports stated that rains also damaged a dam in Parrita, near the country's western coast. Engineers had trouble reaching the area because of road damage and bad weather. Because of the danger of continued flooding in the area, as well as the already shaky nature of the hill where many houses were tacked together, the municipality decided to evacuate the majority of the houses in the Quebrada.

There are approximately 3500 people in Anonos, which is divided into several smaller regions/neighborhoods. The Quebrada is the neighborhood along the river on the city of Escazu side of the river. The municipality moved some where between 300-500 people out of the Quebrada. But the people were not only evacuated, they were told they had a day to move all of their belongings out of their houses because they would be torn down. The area is no longer safe to live in. After the original decision to move people from the Quebrada, officials came in and marked houses which were to be torn down. Additional inspections showed further danger of mudslides in the neighborhood higher up the hill called the Mangoes. Houses were also marked up there to be torn down.

And so began the Exodus. I have never seen anything like it in my life. The people were bused back from the shelters to gather what they could. Some people were given storage areas, some weren't. Men, women, and children were frantically packing up whatever they could, whatever was salvageable and not water damaged. Then they were tearing off their rooves and even the boards of their walls. Good metal and boards were loaded onto their moving "trucks", too, to help build some where else. Metal that was old or rusty was sold to a scrap guy.

While I saw some laughter and comraderie among families, I have also never seen so much injustic in my life. People taking whatever metal they could find to sell to the scrap guy. People taking from each others houses. Men charging outrageous prices to move peoples things less than a mile. Greed was more rampant than the cockroaches in the floorboards. Even children realized the concept of selling scrap metal for money. I saw many children gathering sheets of roofing, tying them together, and carrying them off to sell. People who had refused to move to the shelters at the beginning of the week were also left off the lists to receive government assistance for rent. They still had to move out of their homes and into shelters (by police insistance), but they would not be eligible for assistance. Some of the things that were donated from well meaning people also turned my stomach. Dirty, stained, ripped clothing, useless knick nacks, and broken toys did not speak of giving out of love and compassion, but of laziness.

In spite of the injustice, I also saw the hand of God at work. People in horrible living conditions are being given a chance to find something better. Illegal immigrants are being provided with a way to finally get legal citizenship and not have to fear deportation. Churches opened their arms to take people in. The shelter in Pavas was awesome. We were free to come and go to visit our friends, to play games with the kids, and to hold our regular Bible studies. Other people from the Vineyard church gave generously, both of their wallets and of their time. Several people came to help pack up peoples belongings. Some came just to pray. I know God has a bigger plan for this community and I can't wait to see it unfold in the coming weeks.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

How to pray:
  • The people of Los Anonos will find new homes quickly.
  • That these people will get financial help from the government.
  • Justice will reign.
  • God will strengthen them during this hard time, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
  • That they will find peace in the midst of the storm.
  • God will protect those people who are working at tearing down their homes.
  • God will unify the people during this time.  Right now it is “every man for himself.”
  • God will show us the best way to help those people who are a part of our church here.
  • God will show us the best way to help others.
  • God will show us the next steps to building our new church.
The house on the left with the orange paint is where Adriana and her family used to live.

Tearing down walls...and rooves.

All of the sheets of metal were sold to the scrap guy.
They made up some one's roof.

Police stood by the whole day. They really didn't do much.

This was taken from the Mangoes looking down into the Quebrada.
The houses on the left now have no rooves. They are pretty much
completely gutted.
People continued to work on taking everything they could.

1 comment:

  1. I can't pretend to understand what you guys are feeling. I am indeed praying for Harvest Hands, La Viña and los Anonos. I know this is very difficult for everyone involved. It seems the government is taking this opportunity to "clean house" without a real plan. I understand their concern about future issues but this families are still suffering the consequences. Hopefully God will show all of us who have a heart for Los Anonos how we can help. Much love and prayer your way.