Haitian congregation ministers despite own woes (Sept. 10, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Haitian congregation ministers despite own woes

Sept. 10, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0162}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht*

FORT PIERCE — The sanctuary at Fort Pierce Haitian United Methodist Church is nearly a total loss after Hurricane Frances, but the church's members know there are more pressing needs in the surrounding community, and they're working to meet those needs the best they can.
 

FORT PIERCE — Plaster, wood and light fixtures litter the chancel area of Fort Pierce Haitian United Methodist Church after Hurricane Frances blew through the community last week. The sanctuary also suffered broken windows and water damage to nearly everything inside. Despite the devastation of their worship space, members are finding ways they can minister to the community around them. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0092.

Nearly 10 hours of hurricane-force winds and torrential rains left the church's sanctuary unusable. The plaster ceiling over the chancel area collapsed from the weight of the water, spreading large chunks of plaster and wooden beams over nearly a third of the room. A window shattered by Frances' wind left glass shards up to 12 feet away and let water in that soaked the carpet and nearly all the pews.
 
The church's parsonage was also damaged, though not as extensively, according to Esquibel Duclona, the church's lay leader. The house lost shingles, and the kitchen ceiling was damaged, but it is still livable.
 
The community was also "pretty messed up" by the storm, Duclona said. "Everywhere you go you have people with needs and trouble. If it's not the house, it's the car. A lot of people's power is still out."
 
The church is finding ways it can help people in the midst of the devastation. "The church is reaching out, not just to talk about Jesus Christ, but when someone's in need, we help," Duclona said.
 
The church is serving hot meals during the day to anyone who stops by. "If you pass by, you can come in and get food," Duclona said. The church is paying for the food out of its budget, and the church's women have donated their time to cook. They have fed about 75 people in the past few days.
 
In addition to free food, the church is also offering local families a place to spend time. The fellowship hall, which was largely undamaged by the storm, has become a community recreation center, with games for children and adults, music or just a place to spend time with other people. "They have nowhere else to go, but here," Duclona said.
 
Duclona has been serving the community with his unique gifts. Since he is fluent in both English and French, he has been translating for families making insurance claims. "I went out before the storm and talked to people to tell them what they need to do to prepare," he said. "Now I'm helping people find out where they need to go for help. My phone hasn't stopped ringing…and it's not just church members, but any Haitians who need help."
 
The church's leaders have not defined a long-term recovery plan for their community yet, but plan to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss how the church can be of service to its community while it recovers from Hurricane Frances.

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Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Groups interested in forming a work team to assist with hurricane relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at StormRecovery@flumc.org.

Donations for relief may also be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can call 800-554-8583.

For conference news and storm updates go to http://www.flumc.org/hurricane_watch/.

This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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