Adventist Journal Online | Thirty Adventist members lose their homes after fire in Honduran Bay Islands
The Adventist school was also affected, but the historic church building was spared.
AAs the blaze engulfed the island of Guanaja Bay off the northern coast of Honduras in the wee hours of Saturday, October 2, 2021, Seventh-day Adventist leaders and members on the island acted quickly to prevent damage its school, its churches and its community. . The fire destroyed or damaged more than 200 homes and businesses. The school suffered damage to its third floor, while 30 church members lost their homes and properties, church leaders said.
“From the moment we were briefed at 5 a.m., pastors, conference leaders and church members across Honduras began to pray for God’s protection on our church members. the island, the church buildings and the school, ”Adan Ramos, president of the Adventist Church in Honduras, said.
Sad and tragic scene
Jorge Mairena, executive secretary of the Bay Islands Adventist Church, which oversees the islands of Roatán, Guanaja and Utila, said he and his fellow administrators traveled from Roatán to Guanaja as soon as they could. They arrived at noon. “It was a very sad and tragic scene,” Mairena said. “We had just been on the island the week before, visiting churches, talking to members as they started an evangelistic revival campaign.” Mairena added that the primary and secondary school, Instituto Adventista de Guanaja, which has 130 students enrolled this year, was also going through a week of revival prayer.
Upon arrival, Mairena and her fellow mission administrators found guest evangelists, pastors, and members working hard to ensure the fire was extinguished. “We found that the English Adventist Church had been rescued from the flames, drenched by the government’s helicopter rescue efforts that morning,” he said. The structure of the third floor of the school had apparently kept the flames from reaching the wooden church, he said. The Iglesia Adventista del Cayo in Guanaja was first held on the island in 1892. The structure of the church was built around this time and has been renovated over the years, he said.
Adventists move fast to help
Church leaders brought bread, food, milk and water to Guanaja in their small boat. The island’s Spanish Adventist Church immediately set up its building as a distribution site, where volunteer church members helped assist those affected by the blaze. “I saw members working hard, no matter if they didn’t speak the language, united to help help the community,” Mairena said. Other church members from nearby churches prepared food for the volunteers who worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the fire. The government of Honduras started sending goods to the distribution site for the church to help from there.
Mairena said many members echoed their gratitude to God for his protection and deliverance through the rapid fire.
The churches in Roatán and Útila have become collection sites for goods to be sent to Guanaja in the coming days, Mairena said. “The most urgent need right now is food and clothing, and that’s what we’re focusing on. Later we will coordinate with ADRA [the Adventist Development and Relief Agency] how and when can we help with the reconstruction.
A fire broke out on the third floor of the Adventist school in Guanaja, Honduras on Saturday (Sabbath) October 2, 2021. The Bay Island of Guanaja, on the northern coast of Honduras, has seen more than 200 homes and businesses razed to the ground all over the island. Some 30 church members lost their homes and properties. [Photo: Bay Islands Conference]
A view of the Adventist church and school in Guanaja before the fire hit the third floor of the school on October 2, 2021. The wooden church remained unscathed. [Photo: Bay Islands Conference]
A firefighter blasts the walls of homes and businesses that were burnt down earlier today on October 2, 2021, near the Adventist Church school. [Photo: Joni Jim Santos]
Miguel Adonia, from the neighboring island of Roatán Bay, preaches during an evangelistic campaign at the Spanish Adventist Church in Guanaja. The evangelistic series across the island began on September 25 and was scheduled to end on October 2. [Photo: Jairo Orellana]
Simeon Gabriel McLean (center) is helped out of the water after being baptized on Saturday (Sabbath) October 2 on a small key island in front of where the fire struck Guanaja. Others are expected to be baptized in the coming weeks. [Photo: Daniel Tathum]
Mairena said that although the school suffered apparent damage in a classroom on the third floor, water from the fire hoses also soaked the lower floors. Executives won’t know the extent of the damage until structural engineers make their final assessment in the coming days.
The bilingual school started the school year with a hybrid model of in-person and distance education. Now the school is closed indefinitely, he said. “We know that two teachers lost their homes in the fire,” he said.
Collect goods for Guanaja
Ramos said churches across Honduras are mobilizing their members to collect food, goods and clothing to ship to Guanaja. “We also opened a bank account to raise funds to help during this difficult time those who have lost everything,” said Ramos.
ADRA in Honduras is expected to assess needs on the ground in the coming days, Ramos said.
The island of Guanaja makes a lot of sense to the Adventist Church, not just in Honduras but throughout Central America, Ramos explained. “The Advent message arrived on the island in the 1890s, and the first organized church was in Guanaja in 1892. Two years later, the first Adventist school was inaugurated.” It was from Guanaja that the Adventist message spread across Central America, he said. “At one time the entire population was Seventh-day Adventist, and today, although the island has grown [to more than 5,500 people], many consider themselves Adventists even though they are not members or practitioners.
There are over 3,600 Seventh-day Adventists worshiping in 31 churches and congregations in Roatán, Guanaja, and Utila, which are overseen by the Bay Islands Conference. The conference operates seven primary and secondary schools on the islands.