CHIPLEY - As Guatemala's active Fuego volcano erupted, one local missions team poured out hearts of compassion.
With the support of child welfare agency One More Child, seven members of Florida Baptist Church of Chipley provided assistance to first responders in Antigua, Guatemala who were staying at their hotel following the volcano's June 3 eruption.
The team arrived in Antigua the day before the eruption on a missions trip to assist with children at a malnutrition center.
"We were not expecting the volcano to erupt - we were about nine miles from it," said team member Stephanie Orr, who said it was her second time in the city for ministry. "We were covered in ash. It fell like rain coming from the sky. It was all over us."
The local people did not panic about the active eruption, Orr said. The 12,000-foot "Volcano of Fire" has erupted a number of times since 2002, according to a June 4 article on pbs.org. However, by Wednesday this week 114 lives had been taken and thousands more injured - and more than 200 missing.
Also, an emergency evacuation was declared for a large swath of the country, including Antigua - where the Chipley missions team lodged.
At the hotel, the team pooled together bottles of water, snacks and money to purchase items for the firefighters. One More Child collected money to be used to purchase clothing and medicine for children impacted by the volcano.
The team left a day earlier than planned, which was also a day prior to Antigua's evacuation. Despite plans being interrupted by the natural disaster, they took advantage of the time they had.
"We were only delayed a few hours the first day and the full day of the last day," said Hannah Strickland, who was on her first-ever trip outside of the United States. "But it was definitely worth it."
The malnutrition center is a government-owned program that provides nutritional assistance to under-nourished children.
At about half of its child population, Guatemala has the highest percent of malnourished children in Central America, according to One More Child.
"A lot of them are developing a little bit slow," Orr said, referring to the children served at the center. "You will have a one or two year old that wasn't the weight they're supposed to be."
The team unloaded a benevolence of fellowship with the children during the abbreviated stay. Orr described their work as a Vacation Bible School, engaging the children in crafts, music and different games.
"There was so much difference from the last time I went," she said, noting the center now has a nutritionist onside - a resource unavailable two years ago.
"We're able to broaden our ministry and able to go out in the city now and do more things," she said. "I think the org One More Child has definitely had an impact."
The population of malnourished children at the center is "about half the size now than it was" two years ago, she added.
To sponsor a monthly food box and other critical items for a child in need, go to sponsorships.onemorechild.org/sponsorships. To support the First Baptist Church of Chipley's missions trips, contact the church, located at 1300 South Blvd., at 850-638-1830.