By Sarah Schafer
LCMS partner churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic report property damage, injuries and widespread flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Isaac.
In Haiti, an already fragile country struggling to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake, four people lost their lives and thousands were evacuated Saturday, Aug. 25. The storm dumped 12-20 inches of rain across the country, with winds topping 60 mph.
The Rev. Willy Gaspar, a project manager for the LCMS in Haiti and a pastor in the Dominican Republic, said winds ripped off the roofs of several houses at the Lutheran village in Leogane. Other homes suffered damage as well.
In Jacmel, phones and Internet services are down, making communication with the Rev. Marky Kessa, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), difficult. However, early Sunday morning ELCH member Laurent Lophane made contact with Kessa to learn the situation there.
Kessa reported the tin roof of the guesthouse at the Lutheran village was blown off. Also, in the village, “many of those houses lost their roofs and those people are now homeless,” wrote Lophane. “The church in Jacmel has some damage; this is the reason why they couldn’t worship this morning.”
Kessa also reported many people in Port-au-Prince are homeless, including members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, where the Rev. Thomas Bernard serves as bishop. News sources report widespread flooding in the capital city.
The road between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel was closed early Sunday, preventing Kessa from surveying damages to ELCH properties and members homes in other areas of Haiti. He hoped the roads would be open early in the week.
At the Lutheran village in Beaudouin, an estimated 19 homes lost roofs, and others lost tin from roofs. “All these people are moving from their houses to the church,” reported Kessa. About 80 percent of the garden was destroyed and livestock was lost as well.
Some members of Kessa’s church were injured by wind-blown tin as they evacuated their homes. They were treated at local hospitals and released.
In neighboring Dominican Republic, the Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, reported high winds blew off many tin roofs, including the roof of a future seminary building. Trees are down and there is flooding in many areas with poor infrastructure.
Despite the blue skies and sunshine Sunday, Krey said many in the Dominican are under a 36-hour alert, mostly due to flooding, and must stay in their homes.
“Our roads in the south of the Dominican, that is to say, towards Haiti are flooded,” he wrote.
By Sunday afternoon, Krey planned to survey damaged homes and the seminary in Palmar Arriba.
“Disasters are a consequence of living in a fallen world. Nowhere is this more evident than in countries like Haiti, where Tropical Storm Isaac is wreaking havoc upon people’s lives,” said the Rev. Dr. Edward O. Grimenstein, manager of the LCMS’ Disaster Response ministry. “But in the midst of this tragedy, how wonderful to see the LCMS and her sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, stand together and speak the healing Word of the Gospel in her response.”
Even as the storm brewed Saturday, Lophane worked to help people living in a tent city in Leophane, Haiti, as well as members of his church. “Now the most important thing is to [assist] those people in food and water,” wrote Lophane. Grimenstein said Lophane has been instrumental in helping facilitate LCMS and ELCH works of mercy among the people of Haiti.
“The church is mobilizing right now to not only care for people’s immediate physical needs but to also provide the healing balm of the Gospel to a people who are all too familiar with suffering,” said Grimenstein. “It is this specific act of providing Christian mercy and pastoral care to people during a disaster that truly sets the LCMS’ response apart from other governmental or social-agency responses.”
Rain and wind continued early Sunday, making flooding and mudslides a persistent danger. A reignited cholera epidemic is a threat also, according to news sources.
“Flooding brings both standing and run-off water, which becomes contaminated with cholera bacteria. This can cause an epidemic of cholera when there are poor sanitary measures in place throughout the population,” said Maggie Karner, director of the LCMS’ Life and Health ministries. “Especially in emergencies like natural disasters, people are forced to find other housing and resettle in areas where there is very strained, or non-existent, clean water supplies and sanitation measures.”
“The good news is that most cases can be treated successfully through a relatively simple treatment protocol for rehydration. The work of the LCMS-sponsored primary-care clinics in Leogane and Jacmel will most certainly see an onslaught of patients with cholera symptoms in the days and weeks following Isaac. We must be ready with compassionate care,” said Karner.
The churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic ask for continued prayers as the situation unfolds.
Staff with the LCMS’ Disaster Response ministry continue to keep close watch on Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm is expected to reach hurricane strength as it strikes the Gulf Coast this week.
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift (click here).
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “Hurricane Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.
Posted Aug. 26, 2012