September 9, 2017 Update
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Click here to view the version of this updated emailed to congregations.
There is quite a lot happening at MDR. We are doing our best to monitor situations on several fronts. The update below will focus on the reports coming into the BWM from our partners and congregations. We realize the impact is much broader than areas where Moravian Churches are located, but cannot fit all of the information currently being covered by 24 news cycles into this update. Please do be in touch if you have any specific questions not addressed here by email Justin@MoravianMission.org.
As we begin disbursing funds to some areas, and still wait for the full impact in others, we thank the many generous donors who have given already, and provide the button below as a direct link to our online giving page.
Hurricane Irma & Jose
Eastern West Indies Province
Immediately below is a letter from Cortroy Jarvis Chairman of the EWI Province. In the letter he outlines what has been learned so far in terms of the damage to the Leeward Islands, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. I encourage you to read the whole letter, but the largest impact to Moravian areas appears to be on St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Additionally, the provincial office in Antigua is preparing to act as emergency housing for at least 4 families of the many, many people who have been evacuated from Barbuda, where nearly all homes and structures have received at least some damage.
The EWI Province has already allocated $5,000 for the rebuilding efforts in Barbuda, and the BWM is planning at least a matching amount from MDR funds to be sent to the EWI province to have ready and accessible in these early stages as needs become apparent.
Finally, this is just a summary of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in this region. Several of the islands already hit, are still in the path of Hurricane Jose passing through late Saturday. Please be in prayer for this region as it hopes to move on to the recovery stage following a very emotional and stressful week.
As of writing this update BWM has heard from Armando Rusindo Mission Foundation (ARMF) members currently in Cuba. Earlier this week they traveled more than 12 hours west by bus to try an avoid the area most deeply impacted by the storm.They are currently in Havana, and report the start of light rain about three hours before the storm was expected to pass through this area. Cuba was hit early Saturday near Camaguey where there are Moravian churches, but no report has yet been received by the BWM as to the impact in this area.
Assuming airports are open, and circumstances allow, further representatives of the BWM and ARMF will be traveling on Monday to join in the upcoming Synod of the Cuban Moravian Church, its first as a Mission Province of the Moravian Unity.
At least one congregation has cancelled all weekend activity including worship as members seek shelter from the storm. The BWM was in touch with congregations in the potential path of the storm, and as of writing are waiting for further updates later this weekend and early next week.
A delegation from the Unity of the Brethren (UOB) was able to visit with the Good Shepherd Moravian Fellowship in Port Arthur Texas. They have confirmed the severe flooding experienced by the church building, as well identifying 7 families of the congregation who have either experienced severe damage to their homes, or lost their homes completely. Additionally there are 4 homes of church members of the Unity of the Brethren Church in Crosby, Texas that have been damaged, and 2 more homes from the Westheimer congregation in west Houston.
The BWM spoke with representatives of the UOB on Saturday morning, and will be sending an initial round of funding to support this work. The first stage over the next few weeks will include arranging temporary housing for the individuals still in emergency shelters. The next phase will include work teams assisting with the rebuilding of the damaged and destroyed homes. The UOB has communicated they anticipate this to be at least a year long process, but do not yet have a start date when they will be ready to receive teams. The timeline will be dependent on finding temporary housing, and completing assessments of the overall need. The BWM is collecting names of those interested, and will share further information with those who have demonstrated interest when a timeline is put in place. A first step for the BWM will likely include dispatching one MDR trailer to be on site for use by both UOB and Moravian work teams.
Mexico Earthquake and Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia was downgraded from a Category 1 storm to a tropical storm as it made landfall in Mexico, but is expected to continue to drop rain in an area susceptible to deadly mudslides at flooding. The storm is expected to dissipate further throughout Saturday evening, with the damage from this storm better known by early next week.
Additionally, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Oaxaca and Chiapas. BWM has been in touch with missionaries Rob and Anne Thiessen who are serving in Oaxaca, and they have communicated that they felt the earthquake and it “made a mess” in their area, but they are doing well, but waiting to hear word from some of the outlying rural areas where they do work. Missionaries Phil and Eunice Raiford, who also work in the area impacted by the earthquake are currently back in the United States raising awareness about their ministry. More than 60 people have been killed by this disaster, and that number is expected to rise as the clean-up continues.