EL SALVADOR – A group of Master Guides from Seventh-day Adventist churches in eastern El Salvador joined the effort to battle forest fires that spread across the mountainous region of Arambala in the northern part of Morazán state in March 2021. Hundreds of acres of forest terrain were destroyed by the fires.
A group of more than 20 young people made the journey to transport water to firefighters, national police, civil protection agents, and other volunteers who were working to weaken the fires.
Marvin Guzmán, youth ministries director for the Adventist Church in East El Salvador, heard the appeal from government officials for volunteers to assist in the firefighting efforts and called on three Master Guide leaders closest to the area to help.
“We found out that residents had been battling the flames alongside [professionals] and that the strong winds had complicated their efforts. After three straight days, they were exhausted,” Olid Rodriguez, a Master Guide from the San Miguel district, said. Rodríguez, along with fellow Master Guides Amadeo Flores, Jaime Canizales, and others, donned hard hats, leather gloves, and large sacks to fill with water.
“We had to climb about one kilometer [0.6 miles] over the mountain to where there was a brook to fill our water backpack and go on another 1.5 kilometers [0.9 miles] to where workers were putting out the fires,” Flores said. “Once there, we helped clean up and tried to prevent the fire from reigniting.”
Each Master Guide volunteer made the journey four times up and down the mountain, Flores added.
Through the combined efforts of the volunteers and government agencies, they managed to put out the fire, helping spare nearby communities. “Many praised our efforts along the way and gave us water and hot meals in gratitude,” Flores said. “They called us ‘heroes.’ ”
Salomón Bercián, a member of the Master Guides Club of Jocoro, said he was delighted to participate in the effort. “It was 6:30 in the morning when I had my devotional and gathered my tools. I got ready to answer the call from my church to team up and support those at the forefront,” Bercián said. “As we walked up the mountain, we could see the smoke. We got to where residents and other volunteers were waiting, and together we began to work.”
Working together as a youth movement is a unique experience and much more so when it fulfills the mission of serving God, the church, and fellow men, Bercián emphasized. “We give God the honor and glory for the faith and strength He gave us to serve the community during these efforts,” he said.