Earthquake hits Methodist churches, ministry

Methodists are among those affected by and responding to the earthquake that struck south central Mexico on Sept. 19, killing at least 245 people.

The Rev. Raquel Balbuena, a superintendent in the Methodist Church of Mexico’s Southeast Annual Conference, said she has had reports from pastors of deaths among Methodist church families in the state of Morelos, near the earthquake’s epicenter.

Some church buildings of the Methodist Church of Mexico were damaged, as were some parsonages and homes of church members and ministry staff.

The Give Ye Them to Eat ministry, founded by longtime United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionaries Terry and Muriel Henderson, saw damage to its Tree of Life Training Center in the village of Tlancualpican, in Mexico’s state of Puebla.

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Donate to International Disaster Response Advance #982450 of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. 

Give Ye Them to Eat is supported by United Methodists through Advance #07629A

The center teaches sustainable agriculture and other strategies for improving the lives of impoverished people in the area.

Muriel Henderson said all of the center’s employees and extended family have been accounted for, but many will be repairing their homes.

Tile roofs, plaster walls and windows at the center sustained damage. The buildings can be repaired.

“It will take time and money, but it will be done,” she said.

The Hendersons are retired from both Global Ministries and Give Ye Them to Eat, and live in Keller, Texas, after four decades in Mexico. But they remain close to the ministry.

Give Ye Them to Eat is supported by United Methodists through Advance #07629A, and mission teams from United Methodist churches and conferences in the U.S. have long done work there.

When the earthquake struck, the Hendersons were hosting two pastors from the Methodist Church of Mexico, including Balbuena.

Henderson said they all had been trying to call friends and colleagues in Mexico, and that Balbuena had learned from pastors of deaths among Methodist church families and of damage to church buildings in her conference.

Bishop Cruz Hernandez of that conference has compiled a list of several churches and parsonages that had cracked walls, confirmed the Rev. Edgar Avitia, global area liaison for Global Ministries.

The mission agency’s missionary personnel in Mexico were reported safe after the earthquake.

“Because I was home without a phone or internet and the buildings immediately surrounding mine seemed to be fine, I wasn't made aware of the scale of the earthquake or of the damages until later,” said Amanda Cherry, a global mission fellow in Mexico City.

Cherry, interviewed by email, said she would be joining in relief work. She added that the Rev. Hector Laporta, a United Methodist missionary in Mexico City, has been working with the local Seminario Metodista Dr. Gonzalo Báez Camargo to provide food for relief workers.

Universidad Madero, a Methodist school in Puebla, Mexico, which earlier this year hosted a major meeting of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities, has been collecting supplies for earthquake victims.

Some Methodist Church of Mexico churches and ministries have become collection centers for relief, a task that began with a deadly earthquake that hit Sept. 7 off the coast of the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief said it expects to be providing short-term support, with a focus on food supply, hygiene kits and bedding, and long-term support for rebuilding. 

Searches continue in Mexico City for survivors of the Sept. 19 earthquake. It occurred on the anniversary of a 1985 earthquake in Mexico City that killed thousands.

Sam Hodges, a writer for United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or

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