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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Our life is very interesting right now as we prepare for Hurricane Matthew. As we have all week, we continue to monitor the progress of the storm whenever we have Internet or cable available. We've also been in close communication with local Church leaders and the Area Authorities in the Dominican Republic. 

We are as prepared as we can be. Our main concerns are of course water, food, shelter, and physical safety. There was water storage already here in the apartment, and we have purchased more. We've filled every water jug and continue to fill juice or soda bottles as we finish them. We have a camping stove and a propane tank for cooking. We may be a little warm in our apartment with no AC or fans, but we'll manage. I told Buddy, we'll just stay out in the pool (we swim almost every morning) until it gets too gross from no filtering. 
Buddy spoke with the apartment owner/manager next door who assured us the building is hurricane ready including the windows.  That is good news, although we're not sure what that means. I was emailing with my sister, Vickie, yesterday getting her advice since they went through these types of storms when they lived in Corpus Christi.  She told us to fill the tub with water; I'd already thought of that.  She also recommended duct taping the freezer door closed and cooking anything we can that won't last. We think we'll be fine, but it's still a little disconcerting thinking about all the what ifs. 

We did pick up some of our favorite comfort food. 

Early Friday morning, we received a phone call from a representative of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) inviting us to attend a meeting in the afternoon.  We rearranged our schedule quickly so we could attend. Wow! What an event.

The Minister started by saying how worried the government is because only 3 out of 10 Jamaicans will take the warnings seriously and get prepared.  The others just won't believe it will happen. They think the storm will turn and miss the island as other storms have in the past. Well, we certainly hope that happens, but in the likely case it doesn't, we have to do what we can ahead of time. In the worst case scenario, the government anticipates the displacement of 100s of thousands of people.  The Minister ordered the "gathering in" of all homeless starting Friday night to get them into shelters before the storm.  They started the evacuation of residents from low lying areas on Saturday using buses to do so.  These are huge undertakings. We've observed workers throughout the city trimming trees away from power lines, collecting garbage, and clearing the drainage ditches of debris. 

When asked for our part in the disaster preparedness and relief management, Buddy reported that LDS Charities' position is for relief after a disaster occurs and that we will primarily partner with the other relief agencies who have the logistical infrastructure for distribution of supplies. The media was at the meeting, and a press conference was held afterwards. This all is definitely a first for us.  

We and representatives from the other relief agencies assembled again on Saturday for a follow-up meeting with one of the ODPEM Chairmen and reps from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to coordinate preparedness and relief efforts. The main needs are food, water, hygiene kits, bedding, tarps, and lighting.

By Saturday afternoon, the store shelves were getting bare. There is a large, nicely-stocked lumber yard/hardware store close by where we've shopped before. It was absolutely crazy there on Friday and Saturday; so a lot of people are taking this seriously. I wanted to take a video, but it didn't seem appropriate. People were buying cases of water, plywood by the pallets, masking tape, mosquito repellent and nets, oil lanterns, rope, flashlights, batteries, cases of water, buckets, tarps, etc. 

We wish we had a battery operated or hand crank radio and some rain gear and boots. Unfortunately, we have ALL those things at home, but we think we'll be fine. We can use the radio in the truck, and we may just get a little wet. A satellite phone would be awesome; luckily, the mission president has one. 

All of the young sister missionaries throughout the island are staying at senior missionary couples' homes in Mandeville or at the Mission Home here in Kingston. The elders are staying in place except for some companionships who were in the low lying areas.  There are also young missionaries spread out over the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos; we of course are praying for their safety.

We are terribly concerned about Haiti.  Admittedly Jamaica is a poor country, and the storm will have great impact, but Haiti is absolutely impoverished. They depend on charcoal and have harvested so many trees to make the charcoal the land is prime for landslides from heavy rains.  It will be very bad for them.  

As THE Welfare Services Missionaries in Jamaica, we feel the weight of our responsibility in providing humanitarian assistance.  We are the custodians of the emergency supplies kept in a huge shipping container at a meetinghouse in Spanish Town about 30 minutes west of us. Yesterday, we went there, and with the help of some strapping young elders loaded some tarps, hygiene kits, and a couple of generators for use later here in Kingston. These supplies are mostly intended for humanitarian efforts in communities. The members' needs are primarily addressed through priesthood leaders' access to Church funds as needed.

Later in the day, we attended another meeting at the ODPEM to participate in the continuing planning efforts here in Kingston. So much depends on what the situation is like after the storm. We really won't be able to assess the needs for at least a couple of days. There is another meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Today between General Conference sessions, we participated in a conference call with Church leaders here in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic. It was very reassuring to hear of the temporal and especially the spiritual support for one another and from the whole Church. The Area Welfare Manager relayed a message from a member of the Area Presidency who is in Salt Lake for Conference. We were told the First Presidency and Apostles are watching the situation closely. It is comforting knowing we are in their prayers.

At the moment, the forecasts project the eye of the storm will go east of us. That's good news for us, but not for Haiti. It is such a huge storm, we will still probably have torrential rain, but hopefully the winds won't be too bad. 

We are very thankful for the prayers and support of all our family and friends. We know we are in the Lord's hands and trust that as long as we do what we can, everything will be okay no matter what happens. We will stay in touch as long as we have electricity and Internet.  

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog. Keep em coming as it is great to hear it right from the front lines. I passed along Buddy's e-mail to the ones on our Friday shift. Lots of neat comments. Stay in touch.. Furqueron's