Villahermosa has a population of more than 600,000 and is the capital of Tabasco, a Mexican state that borders Guatemala.
The Grivalja and Carrizal Rivers surround Villahermosa, and levees protect the city from floods; but the rivers aren’t the only threat. Villahermosa rests 33 feet above sea level and receives an average monthly rainfall of 9.5 inches between June and November–that’s almost twice the precipitation in Seattle, Washington, a city notorious for its constant rain.
Residents of Villahermosa are accustomed to floods, and many have built their homes on stilts. All the same, this past October, no one suspected that the heavy rains from a tropical storm would cause the Grivalja River to overflow.
Yet the rain continued and floodwaters rushed into Villahermosa, turning the city into a lake and chasing more than one million people from their homes.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s (BGEA) office in Villahermosa was flooded also–an office there to plan the June 2008 Franklin Graham Festival of Hope. But now it seemed unlikely that the Festival would even happen.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon declared the entire state of Tabasco a national disaster, the worst Mexican flood in more than 50 years; all the crops were ruined, historical landmarks were damaged, and tens of thousands of people were forced to leave the area to find shelter.
Weeks after the initial floods, waters still had not receded, and Villahermosa faced an urgent need for food, hygiene supplies and doctors. Residents reported respiratory problems, dengue fever, and cholera, which spread rapidly in the standing water.
In response, BGEA’s sister ministry Samaritan’s Purse reached 40,000 people with food and hygiene packets, delivered 70 tons of food, installed community-wide water filters, and used a military boat to bring emergency medical supplies and a team of doctors to the area.
Church and community leaders involved in the Villahermosa Festival organized volunteer teams to clean the mud and mold from homes and buildings.
While physical reconstruction progressed, more than 710 churches persevered with their plans for the June 6–8, 2008 Festival of Hope; and this weekend, the Festival will take place without delay.
The weather forecast predicts more rain this weekend, but the people of Villahermosa are expecting a different kind of downpour: the overflow of God’s grace and mercy on their city.
The outlook is beautiful as tens of thousands will gather in Villahermosa’s Tabasco Park to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Along with nightly messages of hope from Franklin Graham, Spanish artists Marcos Witt and Marcos Vidal will perform at the three evening services, and the Festival choir will sing 1,300 voices strong. A children’s event called Festininos will be held Saturday morning.
Please pray that Villahermosa and the entire state of Tabasco will continue their physical restoration. Also pray that many this weekend will find a solid foundation of hope in Jesus Christ–one that the floods of life will never shake.