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“It is with confidence in our God, gratitude for the Church and a request for continued prayer and relief ministry that I write,” said General Superintendent Wayne Schmidt. “The Wesleyan Church has been an ‘immediate responder’ in the many ways you have cared for the homeless, the hurting, the scared and the scattered impacted by recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.
“Rejoice with me, church family, that Global Partners missionary, Nicky Pena, as well as Pastor Alejandro Sicilia and the Senda de Vida church family in Mexico are safe,” Schmidt added. “Please continue to include in your prayers all pastors, churches and Wesleyans in the path of Hurricane Maria including National District Superintendent of Puerto Rico Dr. Benjamin Galarce and Pastor Irving Figueroa of Iglesia Wesleyana de Guaynabo.
“I have been reading many accounts from members of our movement sharing how they mobilized through prayer, giving and going. Thank you for bringing glory to our God by caring for His flock,” Schmidt said. “Following is a report from Pastor Kevin Barnsdale, Countryside Wesleyan Church in Alva, Florida, that will bless and inform you. Needs are great in disaster-impacted areas and reports of significant damage continue to surface. Please seek God’s leading in how you can help.”
On Sunday, September 10, Hurricane Irma roared into South Florida! The storm trekked further inland than expected and the eye of the storm passed through Alva, Florida, and the neighboring communities of Lehigh Acres and Labelle. As was reported by news outlets, communities south of us, from the Florida Keys through the Everglades and into the Naples area, were hard hit.
When the storm was three days out, we were still believing that Irma would travel up the East Coast. The course changed and Irma became a serious storm for Southwest Florida. Bottled water became practically unobtainable. Fuel ran out quickly. Resources were scarce and in many cases nonexistent. This storm impacted the availability of water due to a large percentage of the population obtaining their water from wells. As the storm roared in and electricity was lost, water was not available and people became desperate. The needed resources were unable to arrive before Irma.
It is 10 days post Irma and many of our congregation and friends are not able to return to their homes due to flooding. The community three miles from Countryside Wesleyan church is devastated. The flooding was so extreme that caskets lifted out of graves in the cemetery. Many are still unable to return to their homes.
Praise the Lord, our congregation at Countryside suffered no injuries or loss of life! Several in our church family have flooded homes, yards and neighborhoods. As we are still without power on September 19 in the parsonage, it has been difficult to make a complete assessment of the damage. We just received phone service today. Cell phone reception has been in and out.
Through home visits and reports from our church family and friends, we do know that the needs are many in our community. Massive trees have been uprooted and tossed upon roads and roofs. D. and M., members of our congregation, have 11 trees down in their yard. They need to make frequent trips to the hospital and medical facilities for health issues and are not physically able to remove the trees. G., a widow on a fixed income, has many trees down. The root system of a large tree lifted her culvert out of her driveway. Mr. L., a friend of the church, has a large tree on his roof. He is wheelchair bound. A couple in their eighties needs their home made habitable to hold them until insurers can make an assessment of their situation. There is such a desperate need for assistance in cleaning up debris and clearing out flood damage! We have members that are doing what they can to assist others, but the task seems too great and overwhelming.
Discouragement was a constant companion last week. The work needing to be done seemed overwhelming. We couldn’t check on parishioners as cell phone service was down for three days. Travel was restricted and a curfew was enforced. At our lowest point, District Superintendent Rev. Patrick Styers called and said we were not alone in this disaster and that The Wesleyan Church was sending a response. I was overcome with thanksgiving for our leader’s compassionate response.
This past Saturday, September 9, Steve Adams from Poured Out called and said they would be with us that evening! They have setup a base of operations at the church. There is a large NASCAR-style trailer with tools, disaster recovery equipment, logging loaders, Bobcats, generators, drying fans and etc.–the specific equipment needed for cleanup in our community!
We are so grateful for the response from our district, The Wesleyan Church, World Hope and Poured Out. I shared in my sermon this past Sunday that we are blessed to have leaders that encourage us and offer hope–hope amidst the storm and aftermath!
There are great needs here as we begin to recover from Irma’s destruction. I am sure that we will be made aware of more once schools resume on September 25. We have a great God that will support, uplift and guide us as we work in our communities.
Jesus still calms the winds and waves and stills our troubled hearts.
Pastor Kevin Barnsdale
Countryside Wesleyan Church
Make WERF donations here.
Poured Out and World Hope are coordinating volunteers and donated goods for South Florida and Texas.
Check Wesleyan.org/news for relief updates.