Hurricanes- wow. Our family is relieved to report that we are well and remarkably physically un-ruffled here in Santiago after Hurricanes Irma & Maria passed by. Having just witnessed the devastation in photo and story from Harvey and early accounts of Irma on the more eastern Caribbean islands, the uncertainty of the closeness of the storm paths to our city created a significant sense of stress in the several days leading especially up to Irma. Our own history of water entering our home from more minor rains did not help, along with a real concern about the overall level of emergency preparedness of our DR home.
Irma initiated us, and by Maria, we felt more prepared emotionally and practically. When radar predicted that Irma’s eye would pass near our closest beaches an hour away, the final 48 hours before her visit brought an endless list of small preparatory tasks. Food, drinking water, candles, matches, chlorine, tarps, tubs of water in the bathtubs, and cleaning the ever present trash on our streets from the gutters on our block. Then sand bags (below pic) at both doors, gas for the car and for cooking. God provided throughout, including with 6 bags of avocados from our tree for our church to distribute, equally relieving us of what our North American minds predicted would be green bullets pummeling our windows.
We urgently questioned each cashier, neighbor and pastor on their level of preparedness for the storm. While everyone was in agreement that people in low lying homes with zinc roofs should leave, only the wealthiest/most educated of our acquaintances seemed to purchase anything extra. Nick became frustrated encouraging people to prep, for the number of shrugs and laughs he received for his concern. The individual lack of preparation felt alarming, though we were thankful that the city was clearing brush and released water from the dam nearby.
On the other hand, we gathered some new clues about resilience in numerous hilarious memes that passed through our Dominican chat feeds throughout both storms. Check out this video of a popular song intoning “Maria, se fue,” if you are up for a good laugh. This humor combined with other forms of top-notch preparation could have been a decent model for how to cope with disaster.
Thankfully, the DR was spared the brunt of both storms. Both brought moderate wind and rain at our house, and power loss for about a day (Pic- play courtesy of the sunlight, with sand bag decor). Because the DR actually schedules power outages weekly already given poor infrastructure, this was an extra pain but not a new stressor to acquaint ourselves with. Maria brought more rain, and even broke a retaining wall on our block, pushing a foot of water continuously through our neighbor’s house into the already flooded street. Maria collapsed several bridges in our city, and certainly, the expected unequally heavy burden on those living in the low lying areas where no one willingly chooses to dwell did occur, and assistance is needed. Several Nazarene families in other cities sadly lost their homes. As a whole however, our island is overwhelmingly grateful and well compared to our Caribbean neighbors.
Our church leaders still cannot make contact with several churches in Puerto Rico, and your prayers and support for the region are requested. Certainly being an island significantly complicates aide. Pray for ease of legal and physical access so that neighboring countries like ours can easily help, and for the lifting of communication, gas and infrastructure barriers that are keeping for example some of our pastors from visiting their own churches and from reaching one another to coordinate and receive aide that is/could be arriving at the ports. Here is one very damaged Nazarene church (Cataño), and we’re glad to report that our denomination has gotten food, water and some supplies through as well as funds this week. Pray for wisdom and kindness for those coordinating services at all levels, and for the hospitals.
Please also pray for some friends in our own neighborhood who were vulnerable even before the storms. David actually showed up at our house in the middle of Maria, swathed in plastic, seeking food for his partner and 1 year old. We were reminded once again of how wealthy we are, that we could easily still hand over a candle and matches, a tarp, food and diapers from our supplies, even as we were supposed to be hoarding for the emergency. Thank you for your partnership that allows us this level of general stability!! Both this family and another migrant worker, Jean-Claude, have become more frequent solicitors of food as they simply cannot find enough gardening work to meet basic needs.
Teaching. Finally, on to non-crisis news. Nick started teaching an orthopedic physical therapy class 3 weeks ago, with a great group of 8 students. They have some very packed days of learning ahead, having lost 10 hours of class with the hurricanes. Yesterday one of their patient’s broke down while reporting the loss of her house in the storm. More news and pictures from teaching next time.
We are grateful. We are able to continue to be active agents in our own family’s wellness and in the health of those around us. What a gift! Mateo turned 1 in August, and wants to precariously scale couches, etc like his brother. We’re so glad that Laurie’s parents will visit in October! We also find ourselves praying, stewing and mourning regularly over international news of hateful speech and threats of war that feel thick and enveloping in a way our own US generation may not have experienced previously. Let us be firm in prayer and find ever new and additional ways to act in love collectively, dear ones!! Sending our love and care today.
Peace to you!