As all of you know, Haiti was struck by Category 4 Hurricane Matthew on Tuesday morning. The landfall location was about 40 miles west of La Croix (pronounced lah krwah), a community that Faith Promise sponsors through an organization called 410 Bridge. Tonja (Dave) and I have made four trips to visit the La Croix community, one as a vision trip, and three leading teams. Our fifth trip to the area was scheduled for tomorrow, October 7th, but it has been cancelled.
Right now it is hard to get information about the areas in the South and West that were hit hardest by the hurricane. Most communications are down due to the loss of one of the major cell phone providers in the area. The major road that connects this area to the capital of Port-au-Prince was struck hard, and the main bridge near Petit-Goâve was washed out, making travel to the area nearly impossible. Further efforts have been hampered by washed out roads and mudslides. Past dictators and regimes that controlled Haiti had allowed massive deforestation to gain money from logging companies without proper re-planting, and this has led to massive erosion and mudslide issues during minor storms, which is just made worse by reported 145 mph winds and 30+ inches of rain from this hurricane.
While we still don’t know a lot, I will tell you what we do know. As of yesterday, Les Cayes, the closest major city that is where we usually stay while in Haiti, was reportedly still flooded. This area includes one of the schools that we spend time with while visiting the local communities. We were told that the mayor of Les Cayes was holding a meeting with other officials to discuss rescue plans when the house they were meeting in collapsed during the storm.
The nearby community of La Croix that we partner with is on the coast near Les Cayes, and is primarily made up of fishermen and farmers (mostly rice). Reports are that most of the local houses have been destroyed and the area is flooded. During the storm, even the shelter that was set up to get people to higher ground ended up under water. They also report that most of the fishermen have lost their boats, kayaks, and fishing equipment. Since most of their livelihood is through fishing and farming, the effects of this storm will be felt for some time after it has been cleaned up.
The full extent of the damage will not be known for a while. Besides the loss of livelihood, the major concern with a disaster of this type is the contamination of clean water sources. Clean water sources were hard to come by in Haiti before the storm. There were over 26000 cases of cholera reported in Haiti already this year. New outbreaks of cholera are already being reported along the coast. 410 Bridge has a partner in Haiti that helps with water projects called Water Missions, and they were already in Haiti with water treatment systems near the Port-au-Prince area. Efforts are now underway to get those water treatment systems to the areas that are in need. It is about 125 miles from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes, but even without the storm damage, it usually takes 4.5 hours to make the drive. Many communities that are a part of the 410 Bridge system are even further past Les Cayes. Storm damage is currently preventing the water treatment systems from being deployed, but we hope they will arrive soon. They are high-capacity systems that can produce up to 500 gallons per hour.
While we have concentrated our relationship with the village of La Croix on development since it began, we now find ourselves in a relief situation, and hopefully soon will shift to rehabilitation. Our goal will be to get them back on their feet and restored to where they were before the storm, and then we will shift back to a healthier relationship of development. 410 Bridge is working through the local church, helping to build them up and encourage them through this situation, as well as providing relief through them so that in the end, God’s church in Haiti is the hero, not a foreign entity. We know that through this, and with all of your prayers, La Croix and the entire country of Haiti will come out stronger, and God’s glory will be evident through the mobilization of His people to help each other.
Please keep praying for Haiti, for all of the 410 Bridge communities, and for the La Croix community in particular.
410 Bridge has set up a page for donations. They are working very closely with Leadership Councils to mobilize funds this week. Support received will be used for the most urgent needs as prioritized by local church leaders and their in-country staff. https://www.410bridge.org/HaitiRelief/ . You may also follow 410 Bridge on Instagram for current coverage of the Relief efforts.
Tonja and Dave