To assist stricken families and The Wesleyan Church of Haiti, a Wesleyan Emergency Relief Fund (WERF) response has been approved by General Superintendent Dr. Wayne Schmidt. The WERF site is here.

Hurricane Matthew, the first major hurricane to land on Haiti in 50 years, struck the southwestern coast hard this morning, with a 7-10 foot storm surge and sustained winds in the category 4 range (145 mph), according to the National Hurricane Center and media reports. Early indications are that many homes were destroyed and roofs removed from churches and other major buildings in the region. There are reports of flooding and mud slides, and heavy rain continues even while the wind is slowly subsiding. The worst of the flooding may be yet to come.

Thousands of people who fled their homes, mostly in the coastal area, are currently in government shelters or wherever they could find to be safer.

Haiti Wesleyan Mission Area Director Dan Irvine writes:

The storm shifted slightly to the west, but that slight deviation kept some of the storm’s rage centered over the windward passage. It seems obvious that God answered the prayers of his people for mercy. There is significant damage, but not as much loss of life as expected, given the size and intensity of this storm. There is great loss to people’s gardens, animals, and personal belongings.

On the island of La Gonave [where the Wesleyan hospital is located and several Global Partners missionaries are stationed] perhaps a third of the houses in the Saline community are standing full of water right now. In the Southwest District we have many rural mountain churches. I expect they will report significant losses. [Right now we know that] we have several churches in the south which will need roofs.

We want to begin by focusing on humanitarian distributions to families for basic needs. We also will need water filters and hygiene kits in the initial response. In time, we will also want to help with building repair costs for churches. It will be at least several days before dollar amounts for church repairs can be determined. The Bainet church roof alone may cost $40,000, because it’s an enormous building.

No doubt there will be many losses as we get reports from all areas after the storm passes. Our leaders are going to the southern region as soon as the road is open. There is a bridge washed out and it will be several days before the rivers are crossable.

Please continue praying for people in the path of this terrible storm, and continue to pray for Haitian families and churches as they struggle to recover. Jamaica and Cuba have largely been spared, and Haiti took the brunt. As God leads, please consider a contribution to the emergency relief fund for Haiti. The initial focus is on humanitarian response. Thank you!

Graphic is from National Hurricane Center