A local church is sending a team to help with recovery efforts in Guatemala.

On June 3, the volcano Fuego erupted in southwestern Guatemala, killing at least 113 people and burying some towns in as much as 15 feet of ash. The country is still digging out, and Brices Creek Bible Church is sending a team to assist.

Bob Pettis, team leader, said the church is sending workers and supplies through Fellowship Guatemala, which is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

This is the second year the church has sent a team to the Central American country. Before it started visiting Guatemala, the missions teams had spent nearly 18 years traveling to Honduras, where they assisted with dental and medical missions.

Pettis said the volunteers originally planned to perform the same kind of work it did in 2017 – installing water purification systems, building playgrounds and teaching children, and helping to plant Protestant churches in a nation that is overwhelmingly Catholic.

Two churches were planted last year in particularly tough neighborhoods in Guatemala City, he said.

Another part of the annual mission “is a thing called a Children’s Opportunity Center,” Pettis said. “We bring in 150 kids and give them a good meal, and help them with their homework. We play games with them and share the gospel with them as well.”

But news of the El Fuego eruption changed things. “My friends from down there started contacting me about it,” Pettis said, “saying that they needed help.”

At first, he said, he had decided to completely forego any of their previously planned work. “But they told us that the water is really needed,” he said. The filtration system the volunteers are installing will provide 35,000 gallons of fresh water for a community.

Pettis also said the school has contacted Fellowship Guatemala asking not to cancel the children’s playground, because it had already told the children it was going to be built.

“We were torn,” Pettis said. “But we’ll work day and night. We’ll cancel our day of touring and our shopping trips to get that playground built.”

The bulk of the weeklong trip – the will be in Guatemala from June 14 to 21 – will be in recovery. “We’ll be talking to the families of those that lost their homes,” he said. “We’re providing places for them to stay. We’re going to provide food and clothing for them to live for at least two months.”

Once immediate needs are met, the volunteers will begin repairing damaged homes. They are also taking any donated items to give out, and will buy supplies with donated funds.

The group of volunteers will include seven men and six women, along with one female 14-year-old. The overall cost of the trip, including flights and supplies, is $26,000, in addition to $15,000 the church has raised so far for disaster relief. “We’ve received 75 disaster relief blankets,” he said. “We’ve received all kinds of kitchen supplies, which are things that they’ve asked me to bring.”

He said the volunteers would leave Thursday morning from the Coastal Carolina Airport at 6 a.m.

Anyone who is interested in donating funds for Guatemala relief can mail checks to Fellowship Guatemala, PO Box 242866, Little Rock, AK, 72223.