September 10, 2017

Early Irma Reports from Cuba

As Hurricane Irma, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, starts to hit Florida today, the Caribbean islands it already barreled over are still trying to figure out the damage and death toll. Early reports are trickling out of Cuba, where I've visited twice as Churchnet develops a partnership with Baptists on that island. According to news reports, the middle part of the island got hit the hardest, such as in the province of Ciego de Ávila (which I visited during my first trip in 2014).

While Florida will receive more attention in the United States, the islands will likely be in greater need of assistance - not only because they were hit harder, but also due to fewer resources available. The Convención Bautista de Cuba Oriental (Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba) is still assisting churches damaged by Hurricane Matthew last October. And in 2016, I visited the Baptist church in El Cristo that was still rebuilding its sanctuary after being hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


El Mensajero, the magazine of the CBCO, has some early reports about the storm, but does not yet know if any churches are damaged. Martian Marcel, director of El Mensajero, reported: "We have not yet visited affected areas, but the media informs us of the devastation. God will not abandon them, he will always remain faithful. We are praying for them and we invite all our brothers to do so. Sad experiences we have lived, but we repeat like the apostle Paul: 'we are all alive.'" Marcel added, "we appreciate the messages of encouragement."

Roinelvis Matos Pupo, pastor of the Baptist Church in Majagua and president of the missionary district of Ciego de Avila, told El Mensajero that "the devastation is great in that province." He added that he has "not yet been able to establish contact with the pastors and missionaries of the area" and that "Baptist churches, which know the conditions, have served as evacuation centers throughout the province." The pastor also asked for Christians around the world to pray for Cuba.

El Mensajero reported that other churches have also served as evacuation centers. For instance, Jorge Correa, pastor of the Baptist Church in Esmeralda, reported "strong winds and intense rains affected the territory, so the temple served as an evacuation center to more than 20 people." José Ramón, a Baptist pastor in Cayo Mambí, similarly noted "the church serves as an evacuation center for more than 50 people, [and] to serve them, the authorities and the congregation work hand in hand."

Josué Rodríguez Legrá, president of the CBCO, told El Mensajero that leaders will leave Monday morning to travel to the areas impacted by Hurricane Irma. He added that the group will go "to encourage the brothers, bring the first aid resources, [and] quantify damage to design a recovery strategy." Josué, who I met in Cuba last year and again when he traveled to Missouri this year, also asked "Christians to continue to pray to God to provide, according to his mercy, both to the victims and those awaiting the battering of the powerful hurricane."

Let us pray for the Baptists in Cuba as they seek ways to minister in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.


Josué, me, and another Cuban Baptist pastor, Diorlis (Joey) Hernández

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