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A family in Chimanimani digs, March 22, 2019, without protective clothing, for their missing 17-year-old nephew after Cyclone Idai hit the area. The body was found late Friday a week after he was trapped in his bedroom while asleep.
A family searches for their missing loved one, Photo from Columbus Mavhunga, Voice Of America

Africa’s ‘double tragedy’

A killer typhoon, coupled with crippling drought, could mean starvation in the southeastern part of the continent. Churches of Christ respond.

Cyclone Idai killed an estimated 1,000-plus people as it struck the southeastern coast of Africa in mid-March.

Brighton Madhuba, left, was lost in the flooding in eastern Zimbabwe.

Brighton Madhuba, left, was lost in the flooding in eastern Zimbabwe.

But the number of casualties from the storm could rise dramatically in the months to come as the impacted nations cope with cholera and food shortages, said Christians serving in areas hit hardest by the storm.

At least one member of a Church of Christ in Zimbabwe is among the missing. Brighton Madhuba, who worshiped with a congregation in the town of Chimanimani, swept away by rapid floodwaters.

“We have been looking for him for a week and half now, but to no avail,” said minister Edgar Mushati. “Hopefully, we are going to recover his remains and give him a decent burial.

Displaced people in the Bangula evacuation camp in Nsanje, Malawi, after Cyclone Idai.

Displaced people in the Bangula evacuation camp in Nsanje, Malawi, after Cyclone Idai.

“Keep on praying for us,” the minister told The Christian Chronicle. “We are still traumatized by the situation.”

More trauma is ahead, said another Zimbabwean Christian, John Dube.

“This is just a double tragedy. I foresee the worst drought ever.”

As a result of the storm, “the crops were swept away, and the animals drowned,” said Dube, an agricultural trainer for Healing Hands International, a relief and development ministry associated with Churches of Christ. “In less than 24 hours, the areas within Chimanimani recorded 600mm (23.6 inches) of rainfall.

“This is just a double tragedy. I foresee the worst drought ever.”

The cyclone is one of the worst weather disasters ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, according to the United Nations. Mozambique-based UNICEF spokesman Daniel Timme told Voice of America that the nonprofit is asking for $20 million in donations to support its response in the three affected countries — Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The cyclone made landfall just north of the coastal city of Beira, Mozambique, where missionaries from Churches of Christ planted a new congregation late last year. Among the evangelists working with the young church is Luiz Pereira Santos, a church member from Brazil. (Both Mozambique and Brazil are Portuguese-speaking nations.)

The church plans to distribute food, medicine, cooking charcoal and mattresses to those in need, Santos said in a message from Mozambique.

Healing Hands is collecting donations and preparing a container of food relief to send to Zimbabwe in partnership with Feed My Starving Children, said Alisa Van Dyke, director of marketing for Healing Hands. (The ministry also is collecting funds for the people of Venezuela in the midst of their country’s ongoing economic crisis.)

Another ministry associated with Churches of Christ, Christian Relief Fund, is collecting funds for southern Africa relief.

“CRF is funding the immediate need for emergency food, clean water and temporary shelter through our partners in the region,” the ministry reported. “As the situation continues to develop, we will be helping families rebuild as well as working to mitigate the serious concerns about cholera outbreaks which are common in the impacted areas.”

In Brazil, members of Churches of Christ are collecting funds to help their brethren in Mozambique.

“Let’s remember the Macedonians who helped the brothers in Judea in a time of famine. They did it by their own initiative,” wrote church member Nilton Contreiras Barretto Jr. in an appeal to fellow Brazilian Christians. He referenced Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 8: “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.”

“We call on the brothers of Brazil,” Barretto said, “to unite and send money to help our brothers in Mozambique.”

Are you in an area affected by the cyclone? Is your congregation involved in relief work? Send updates to [email protected].

Chimanimani, Zimbabwe

Filed under: Africa churches respond to cyclone idai cyclone cyclone idai disaster assistance disaster recovery disaster relief International natural disaster Partners southern Africa Top Stories

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