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Wilma and Beta bring more woes to waterlogged church members in Central America

Churches in Nicaragua plan aid for regions affected by Hurricane Beta and a ‘rat invasion’; Church members still without power in Mexico after Hurricane Wilma.

By Erik Tryggestad
The Christian Chronicle

November 1, 2005
As if the rats weren’t bad enough.
When Hurricane Beta struck the eastern coast of Nicaragua Sunday, itwas the second natural disaster to hit the Central American countrythis year, said missionary Benny Baker.
Before the Category 2 storm made landfall, Nicaragua had been “invadedby rats,” Baker said. A veritable plague of the vermin had destroyedcrops along the Rio Coco, the river that borders Honduras, leaving theregion “in a helpless situation.”
Nicaraguans in the affected areas “were struggling with thinking thatthe rats are a curse from God,” Baker said. “We are concerned now thatthe hurricane will only compound that idea.”
Beta was the third hurricane in less than a month to strike churchmembers in Central America. North of Nicaragua, Hurricane Stan causedwidespread flooding in Guatemala after it made landfall in Mexico Oct.3. Church members reported washed-out roads and missing bridges as theyattempted to reach remote congregations to assess needs.
Hurricane Wilma followed, striking Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Oct. 22.The storm caused widespread damage and stranded thousands of people inresort cities including Cancun and Cozumel.
More than 100 people — 40 of them children under age 13 — huddledinside the Cozumel church building for days, waiting for Wilma to pass.
“It seemed she would never move off of us,” said missionary NancyGardner, “and we had extraordinarily strong winds from the late hoursof Thursday night until the late hours of Saturday night — almostnon-stop.”
Gardner and her husband, Gary, oversee Ciudad de Angeles, a Christianhome for orphaned, abandoned and abused children in Cozumel.
“Our kids are all fine and healthy,” Gardner said in an Oct. 29 e-mailsent from his laptop computer running on battery power. “Each of ourthree houses is intact and only suffered minor, manageable damage. Thechildren are each back in their own houses.
“The houses have some gas to cook with, and some water left in ourtanks — but none has electricity. We are doing fine with minimalbathing and candlelight dinners.”
Phil Waldron, a former missionary to Mexico, planned to lead a group ofchurch members this week into the affected areas to deliver some reliefsupplies and assess needs for future trips.
Waldron, a member of the Campus View church, Athens, Ga., said thatairports on the Yucatan Peninsula are out of service, so the groupplanned to fly into neighboring Belize and work its way into theaffected areas.
Many church members in the region rely on the tourist industry fortheir livelihood and will feel the financial effects of Wilma for manymonths to come, Waldron told the Chronicle.
In Nicaragua, church members are working with government officials tohelp replant crops destroyed by rats or flooding, said Baker, whooversees Mision Para Cristo, a medical and evangelical ministry.
Porfirio Molina, the ministry’s former director, is now vice-mayor forJinotega, a city in the affected region. He directs the Jinotega RegionEmergency Management Team, and “we are looking to him for specificareas and times … to respond,” Baker said.

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