Saturday, July 20, 2013

Flood victims shelter in Yerravaram church

Fr. Varghese sent this press clipping from 
the local paper "Eenadu" to show flood 
conditions in Yerravaram.

Emergency flood conditions continue in Yerravaram, one of five scattered villages served by Fr. Varghese. 

"Chaos, robbery and two rape cases" unfolded as flood waters rose, says the missionary. Read yesterday's post about how nearly a week of incessant rains caused the Godavari River to surge, causing drowning deaths of six people in this village, known for having the largest statue of Hindu god Hanuman in all India. People have lost crops to the floodwaters, and those who lost their lives had gone out searching for missing livestock. 
The biggest concerns now are evacuating people 
from low-lying canal areas and providing them 
with sanitary water. Shown here is the bore 
well at Holy Family Mission. Wells in 
Yerravaram are flooded and 
"The lost ones have no fear, "explains Fr. Varghese. "They simply go in search of their cow and sheep," and then drown in the floodwaters. Twelve flood-displaced Catholic families have left damaged and destroyed thatch-roofed homes in lowlands along the Godavari Canal to take refuge in their mission church. Since the church lacks indoor plumbing, toilet and other facilities, people are going into the forest to see to basic needs.

Fr. Varghese is shown here Holy Week of 2013, in
the mission church in Yerravaram. Now, 12

Catholic families who were flooded out of their 
thatch-roofed huts are living in the church.
Fr. Varghese says he and his volunteers are going door-to-door along the Godavari Canal, to convince "Catholics as well as others to move from the huts." He sees people of faith being willing to evacuate. But some others are not leaving. "They are ready to die in that house, cursing God and fate."

Government choppers drop food several times in such emergencies, and government workers are setting up a camp for some relocated residents, but people still lack sanitary water, and are developing fevers. Others are injured and risk developing infections. Medical workers are striving to reach residents with needed vaccines and care. 

Fr. and his volunteers started a community outreach to get safe water to the suffering. Twice a day they are renting a tanker and drawing water from the public well in their colony, to transport it to Yerravaram. People of all faiths are helping to distribute the water to villagers "in an orderly way," says Fr. Varghese. They have already made four trips with water. Each trip costs $30 in tanker rental.

Please pray God's blessings on this situation, so people might be reached with aid they need, keep faith and strength to move forward, and rebuild their lives. 

From this day until this crisis is resolved, funds donated through the "donate" button on this site will go directly to emergency relief efforts. Thank you and God bless you! 

The Godavari looks peaceful, but turns deadly in 
monsoon season, which just began in east 
central India.
Interesting note: Fr. Varghese's camera was lost out of his back pocket as he was rescuing a girl in flood relief efforts last year. Ironically, the day floods hit his region this week, a friend had dropped a simple, used camera in the mail, and it's now working its slow way across the globe to the missionary. In the meanwhile, Fr. has been borrowing cameras whenever possible to catalogue life at his mission, and he sent the press clipping above to show current conditions. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Days of "incessant rains" hit Andhra Pradesh

Fr. Varghese sent this photo of the Godavari in flood
last September, when the worst floods in 20 years
hit his area.

Fr. Varghese raced to his village of Yerravaram two nights ago, when he learned a boy went missing in flood waters. Father reported the lost child to police and rescuers in lifeboats located the boy, clinging for dear life to a tree. Returning home at 2 AM, Fr. Varghese returned next day, and then today, to assess the situation in the village, as the Times of India reported that the government was preparing to evacuate residents along the Godavari River.

The Gulf News site reported that flood gates were being opened across the region after "five days of incessant rains," and that a "large number" of villages "were cut off due to the floods."

"Please tell all our friends to pray for our mission," Fr. wrote, when a spotty internet connection was restored late last night. "Because of heavy rain," he reported, "phone and internet is out of service."

He is praying flood damage will be limited, unlike last year, when Holy Family Mission fed and sheltered 150 villagers for many weeks, when floods destroyed their homes. 

A reader on the Times of India site wrote about the relief first felt when deadly temperatures up to 117-degrees F. were broken by rainy weather: "All of us were quite happy on the onset of monsoon. Now the calamity of floods threatening us. How to combat with the Nature's fury. Only God should help us. There are many villages, towns, cities on the banks of River Godavari and poor section live in hutments on the banks of the river. God help them."

Up to 150 displaced flood victims sought refuge at Holy
Family Mission last year, sleeping on the floor of the church
for many weeks. Providing meals and relief aid put severe
financial strain on an already struggling mission, where Sunday 

collections average just $100 a week.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Holy Family women step forward, serve and pray

Women in the Mariadalem Sodality at Holy Family Mission helped swing sledgehammers and carry concrete to bring down the old crumbling slab and build a beautiful new stage (see posts below) for their mission -- the stage will be a center for feast days and other special events for years to come. The women visited door-to-door to help raise funds for their June 2nd Confirmation ceremony, in which 212 parishioners were confirmed and 2,000 villagers attended. They were everywhere on that day, guiding visitors and helping the Confirmation ceremony go smoothly.

He sees the Dalit or "untouchable" women in the villages uplifted as the are "encouraged to step forward," says Fr. Varghese. The Mariadalem women continue volunteering countless hours to upkeep the mission and its grounds, and participate in the Mass by singing in the choir and stepping up to the podium to do the Scripture readings...but most importantly, they faithfully live out their calling in life day to day and they gather to pray.

This past year, they donned blue sarees to show their devotion to the Blessed Mother and their dedication to help keep the Faith strong in their church. They are mothers, wives, and sisters who are strong role models in their church and neighborhoods. A community thrives when its people are willing to step forward and serve. God bless these faithful women and all they do! Holy Family couldn't get along without them.

Text by M. Bartholomew
Photos by Fr. Varghese