Faith and hope rise to meet storm’s challenge

Deborah Froese
November 13, 2012
Mennonite Church Canada
 Daylins Rufin Pardo, a Baptist pastor and seminary professor in Cuba
Winnipeg, MAN.

Consider the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy and you’re likely to picture crushed homes, uprooted trees, massive flooding, power outages, food shortages and commuter disruption.

You’re also likely to picture Manhattan or Atlantic City. But Sandy struck other places too, places with fewer resources to cope with devastating loss. Before the super-storm pummelled North America, it hammered Latin America and the Caribbean, causing widespread damage to infrastructure, crops and livestock.

Daylins Rufin Pardo, a Baptist pastor and seminary professor in Cuba, and a 2009 guest on Mennonite Church Canada’s radio podcast, Church Matters, reports that roofs, trees, and gardens have been torn away, “but not the strength and the faith of Cuban people.” She says that even the poorest of neighbours are reaching out to help each other in this time of difficulty.

Mennonite Church Canada’s partner in Cuba, the Cuba Council of Churches, responded quickly to the crisis. President Joel Ortega Dopico and other council members visited those who were most impacted by the storm, which struck eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces. After assessing damages, an emergency committee was struck and proceeded to connect with other ecumenical movements and agencies to raise funds and encourage others to collect food, clothing, and tools for reconstruction.

Santiago city is home to some of the Anabaptist leaders in Cuba. Mennonite Church Canada is in contact with Cuban Anabaptist Church leaders and Mennonite Central Committee to discern how best to help. Engaging in international disaster response to Cuba is a complicated process that is difficult to accomplish quickly.

“Other non-governmental organizations such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, The Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas together with its Institute of Religious Sciences (ISECRE) in Havana, Kairós Center in Matanzas among others, had also joined this ‘love crusade’ since the very beginning,” Pardo reported.

She also said that the Fraternity of Baptist Churches (FIBAC) had planned an annual gathering for Nov. 2-4. The gathering was cancelled and the budget for the event was directed toward aid for Sandy survivors.

A Nov. 1 BBC news story made note of a United Nations report stating that Sandy destroyed almost 100,000 hectares (245,000 acres) of crops in eastern Cuba. It also said that one of the biggest problems facing the government was guaranteeing food supplies for the people in the affected areas in the coming months.

“Prayers and hands together had shown the possibility of communion among all the believers and the human family,” Pardo wrote. “It’s been more than a week since this devastating hurricane passed through Cuba. However, families have begun to rise up together, step by step, to re-build, lifting up their lives in solidarity, with faith and hope.”

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