Churches ignore own misfortune for other storm victims
BY NADINE WILSON Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
ALTHOUGH a number of churches were extensively damaged during the passage of Hurricane Sandy last Wednesday, their membership have chosen to focus their recovery efforts on Jamaicans who have lost homes, livelihoods and personal belongings to the late-season category one storm.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) said it will be doing its own national assessment so it can render assistance to anyone in need.
"We could especially assist with housing repairs, roofing repairs and all of that, but it would depend on what the needs are," explained ADRA director Wenford Henry, who said the agency has already contacted its overseas partners who are ready to offer whatever help is necessary.
Henry said he was still awaiting the assessment of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), to see where the greatest areas of needs are.
"We have experience in house repairs and construction and all of that, and of course we can give relief items," he said.
Hurricane Sandy completely destroyed the Boston Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, which had about 130 members.
Arlington Woodburn, director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists North-East region, also reported that some of the faith's other church buildings in Portland, St Thomas, and St Mary will need extensive repairs.
But of immediate concern for the pastors in these parishes, said Woodburn, was the well-being of their members and non-members, most of whom are farmers. He said he knew of at least two families, so far, that have lost their homes.
"A lot of them need assistance, and that is where we are going to be investing a lot of our time and energy, in terms of getting back these farmers into production," he said.
"The pastors are going to be doing some foot patrol; they are going to be going from house to house and see what they can do. We are trying not to duplicate the work of, like, the Red Cross and other government agencies, so that there may be no confusion in how grants are given," he said.
Members of the Salvation Army are also awaiting the assessment of the ODPEM to see where the greatest need exists, so that they can act accordingly.
"We are preparing to get involved, as far as providing food and clothes, and so on," said Major Stanley Griffin of the Eastern Jamaica Division of the Salvation Army who met with representatives of ODPEM on Friday.
Members of the charity group were kept busy during the passage of Hurricane Sandy, feeding and clothing street persons housed at a shelter they had established in downtown Kingston.
"In Kintyre, we served hot meals during the passing of the hurricane and we also gave out tarpaulin, raincoats, flashlights and candles and things like that," said Major Griffin.
The Father Richard Ho Lung-led Missionaries of the Poor was also called upon to help during the passage of the hurricane.
"We distributed food and we sheltered people in our homes during the hurricane," explained Tulalian Roche, who works alongside Ho Lung.
He said that another 600 families were fed cooked meals by the group on Thursday morning and others were given food baskets comprising tin products, rice and biscuits.
Father Frank Power, who pastors three churches in St Thomas, said he, too, has been approached by members within and outside the church community following the devastation caused by the hurricane in that parish. He said he has been issuing rice and beans to those who have come for help.
"They have lost houses, they have lost roofs, they are looking for zinc, they are looking for clothing, they are looking for food, they are looking for everything and anything. Some people have lost everything," he said.
General secretary for the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), Rev Karl Johnson, said communication challenges have made it difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage to the church community in the north-eastern section of the island. However, preliminary investigation suggests that at least nine Baptist churches and manses have suffered extensive damage overall. He said the JBU Missions Agency would be offering assistance as soon as they get a better picture of the damage.