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Storms ravage homes, churches in Caribbean

With little more than a cell phone and the clothes on his back, Gueston Pacius climbed onto to the roof of his house in Gonaives, Haiti. He watched as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Hanna swallowed his truck.
At 2 a.m. Pacius, development director for the Haiti Christian Development Project, called Dr. David Smith, a physician in Little Rock, Ark., who works with the nonprofit.
“Please pray that I can give him some helpful advice during these times,” Smith wrote in an early morning e-mail to fellow church members “With no resources, it is difficult to know what to say.”
Before Gustav, Hanna and Ike menaced the coastlines of America, the storms tore the roofs from homes and flooded cities across the islands of the Caribbean. Among the hardest hit were church members in impoverished communities.
Tony Fernandez, field officer for Abilene, Texas-based Herald of Truth ministries, traveled to Pinar del Rio, near the western tip of Cuba, after Hurricane Gustav to assess needs and deliver supplies donated by the church in the Cuban city of Matanzas. More than 300 Cuban church members suffered significant damage to their homes, said Tim Archer, Spanish-speaking ministries coordinator.
Ten days after Gustav, Hurricane Ike pounded the island nation, destroying buildings and disrupting power in Matanzas and the capital, Havana.
The storm also was expected to cause damage in the southern islands of the Bahamas. At press time, Archer and other church members were waiting for reports from congregations in the affected areas.
In Haiti, as the rains from Hanna subsided, Pacius was able to leave his roof and find shelter. The storm destroyed farmland purchased by the Haiti Christian Development Project, which sponsors a microloan program and other efforts to help Haitians support themselves.  
Even in cities that suffered less damage, the storms raised fuel prices dramatically, said Bob Valerius, a missionary with the Cap Haitien Children’s Home. Nonetheless, members of the Hertz church in Cap Haitien are organizing a relief effort for Gonaives.
The 160-member Poteau church, about 10 miles north of Gonaives, is evaluating needs and will help distribute relief.
“I anticipate that it will take food support for five to six months to help the people get back on their feet,” Smith said.

Filed under: International

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