Back in late November, I had the opportunity to go up to Mexico City to get a report on how our long-term church planting team was doing after the earthquake in September. Their neighborhood is generally one of the hardest hit during earthquakes, and this occasion was no different for them. During the days and weeks after the 7.1 tremble shook and literally shattered parts of the city, I followed their news closely through social media and our prayer chains. Being that this team was already on the ground, living in the neighborhood, and functioning in established relationship and trust with their community, it made sense to just aid them in whatever way they needed but not go up and “reinvent the wheel”. A wonderful recounting of those first hours and days comes from Sam here in this post she wrote for us.
ReachGlobal has an incredible Crisis Response division, headed up by Mark Lewis. Very shortly after the earthquake, Mark went down to train the Mexico City team on what he calls “The Anatomy of a Crisis” and help brainstorm some ideas on how to assist their community in moving forward with restoration and healing.
By the time of my visit, it was already 2 months after the crisis. The news had stopped reporting it long before that, once all the first responders finished their work. I was taken aback at how the city itself, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, had already forgotten its own tragedy. As humans, we do that though. We tend to want to get things back to normal, to move on, to reestablish our regular rhythms. This is fine and all, for those not directly affected by tragedy, but what of the others? Over 300 people were killed, and it is not likely that the families of the victims forgot about the earthquake within 2 months. 50+ buildings were destroyed, either completely crushed or just so structurally damaged that they were uninhabitable. People were still trying to move out of their homes, and some would never be able to return to their apartments to get any belongings, so dangerous was the state of their building.
On the day that most of the footage in the video was taken, I went with James and Reuben to help in the moving ministry established by their church (the fruit of the brainstorming with Mark Lewis). We were unable to access the apartment from the front of the building, as it had been crushed, and we had to crawl through a garage door and then through another gate and come in through a back way. Upon first sight at what was in front of me, my stomach seized up in knots. We were looking at 2 apartment buildings, adjoined by a garage. One building HAD been 7 stories tall, but was now 5, as the first two floors had been pancaked immediately when the earthquake hit. I scanned over the wreckage for a long time. How on earth did people escape from this building? It looked as though people had just abandoned ship–laundry was still hanging on drying racks, toys and dishes were still strewn about, right where they had been left when their lives were suddenly interrupted.
In the other apartment building, things were far less awful, but still bad enough that everyone needed to move out. After the earthquake, thieves had come in and looted homes, stealing everything from furniture to valuable jewelry to food. James and Reuben were able to help a family move their belongings out of their home, and even more importantly to listen to their story. They were able to offer the hope of Jesus and pray with them, while also offering hands-on, in-the-moment help.
This is what responding to a crisis should look like! It is a long term process. There is the initial stage, where you truly must “stop the bleeding”, but then what comes next? Rehabilitation, redevelopment, discipleship and transformation. These things are BEST done where there is already established relationship and trust. Instead of Crisis Response sending in a whole team of their own, they worked with ReachGlobal’s Mexico City team, and even more importantly than them, they worked with the local church in the affected neighborhood and came up with a plan to effectively minister to their neighbors.
There were definitely difficult moments of what I saw before me while in Mexico City. However, the hope of the Gospel being offered and the way I witnessed the church being the very hands and feet of Jesus, surpassed all else. Way to go, teams, and way to go, church.