Hurricane Ike: From Haiti to Houston

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When Hurricane Ike slammed into Haiti on Sept. 7, it was the fourth hurricane to hit the island of Hispaniola in less than four weeks, leaving hundreds dead and thousands in desperate need.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee worked with church partners in Haiti to bring food and roofing supplies to the hardest-hit areas.

CRWRC, the Christian Reformed Church’s relief and development agency, focused efforts in Gonaïves, Haiti’s fourth largest city, with a population of almost 105,000, which had been engulfed by a 16-foot-high (4.9 meters) wall of water and mud.

A week later Ike swept ashore in Texas, passing directly over Houston’s Hope Christian Reformed Church. Rev. Roger De Young, Hope’s pastor, and his wife, Debra, found their home without power but intact, but the church building sustained extensive roof damage.

Within days a crew put a temporary cap on the roof. De Young said the congregation would worship at the church the following week, whether or not power was restored. “We will continue to minister,” he said.

The community was cleaning up debris and checking on all members of the congregation. “If they don’t answer their phones, we go looking for them,” De Young said. In Galveston the home of Joshua Bowman, Hope CRC’s youth minister, was completely devastated by 4 feet (1 meter) of water inside.

Two other Houston Christian Reformed church buildings, the homes of Peace Community CRC and New Life CRC, had little damage. However, the home of New Life’s worship director suffered significant damage from a falling tree.

Help came from CRWRC’s Disaster Response Services (DRS). The first priority was getting emergency workers—firefighters, police, and EMTs—back in their homes.

Assessing Ike’s effect in Port Arthur, Texas, and Lake Charles, La., project managers found that homes the agency rebuilt after Hurricane Rita were still sound, despite extensive damage to homes around them.  

“We rebuild according to specifications for hurricane mitigation,” said DRS Director Bill Adams. DRS response focuses on those who are indigent, disabled, elderly, without insurance, or otherwise ineligible for government assistance.

Adams said the big challenge will be to raise financial support. He estimates Hurricane Ike relief will cost CRWRC $1 million.

Donations designated “Hurricanes 2008” may be made online at www.crwrc.org or by calling 1-800-55-CRWRC.

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