Last night we had the craziest church service that I have ever been a part of. In general it has been incredibly hot in Iquitos these past few days. Right before our service was supposed to start I could see lightning in the distance, and was immediately grateful that we would finally have some rain to cool things down a little bit! Around 8:30pm... about an hour into the service... we heard the thunder getting closer, and it finally began to rain.
What happened next took everyone by surprise. The storm passed directly over Belen. On top of the house where we have church services is a billboard. Lightning struck the billboard and other houses and electrical poles within a matter of minutes. It was easily the loudest sound that I have ever heard. We couldn't see what was going on outside as the wind and rain picked up and turned into a crazy blitz-like storm. In our service people started majorly freaking out, some yelling that we needed to get out of the house and others saying it was safer to be inside. At the time I really didn't understand why people were so afraid. Everything was up in commotion. Juliana, Dalila, and I worked on trying to calm people down. Some of the ladies were crying and praying. One of the 12 year old girls had freaked out and ran out of the house as soon as the storm hit. None of us could find her and her mom was crying and praying as well.
Within 10 minutes the thunder and lightning had passed. And within 10 more minutes the rain stopped. The people that had ran outside came back. It took awhile to get everyone relatively calmed down. The electricity never did come back on (in fact it was still out today), but luckily we had a couple of cell phones with flash lights. We ended our service just praying and singing. Thanking God that we were all safe and okay. We had a couple of new people accept Christ during this time. It was intense but our little church came together like a true family. And to me that was beautiful.
Once we left I finally realized why people were so afraid. In the poorest part of the city houses are often not constructed very well. Full houses had fallen. Roofs of houses had been ripped off. Motorcycles and Mototaxis had flipped over from the wind. There were electrical cables hanging all over the streets. No one could drive because the streets were full of debris. To add to what was already sad and scary, there were many robberies taking place. Belen is already one of the most dangerous areas of Iquitos. And with no electricity the streets were nearly pitch black. Sadly robbers took advantage of destroyed houses to loot what little was left.
As we went out to work today we could better see in the light the damage that had been done. There was a solemn mood in Belen. People were working to try to salvage what they had to start to rebuild. We learned from the newspaper that 50 houses had fallen. I believe that includes the houses that had roofs taken off, or parts of the houses damaged. We heard from people spreading word on the streets that at least 2 people had died when their houses had fallen. I can imagine there are quite a number of injuries as well.
Pray for Belen as people work to pick up their lives in the next few days or weeks. We don't yet know the extent to which all of our contacts have been affected. We know so far that one has lost their roof. Pray as they work to rebuild and keep going.