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200,000 homeless in Honduras; Baptists gear up relief effort

LA CEIBA, Honduras (BP)–Even as Hurricane Mitch weakened into a tropical storm, Southern Baptist missionaries and Honduran Baptists geared up to minister to thousands of people suffering from the storm.
More than 200,000 people have been left homeless along Honduras’ northern coast, said missionary Ken Cummins.
Honduras and Nicaragua bore the brunt of the storm, one of this century’s most destructive. As many as 7,000 people are feared dead from flooding and mudslides in Central America.
“The Honduras Baptist Mission and the Honduras Baptist Convention are joining to take food, clothing and medicine to La Ceiba, Trujillo, Tocoa and other areas along the northern coast,” Cummins said.
Ebenezer Baptist Church in La Ceiba was sheltering some 200 people left without food or shelter by Mitch.
At International Mission Board headquarters in Richmond, Va., $178,000 in relief aid was released for the Honduras project.
The area around the Ebenezer church was cut off when two bridges were destroyed by Mitch, Cummins said. Thousands were without communication as a result.
“Please pray for those left homeless due to Mitch,” the missionary said. “Pray for relief workers from the Honduras Baptist Mission and the Honduras Baptist Convention as they join hands with other Christians to reach out in the name of Jesus.”
At the Baptist World Alliance, BWAid grants of $5,000 each have been released for relief ministry through the Baptist conventions of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Further up the coast in Belize, missionary Jim McGriff gave thanks that a major disaster had been averted in that low-lying country.
McGriff, who lives in Belmopan, said only overcast skies and moderate rain had occurred there. Belmopan became the capital of Belize when it was moved inland after a disastrous hurricane in the 1960s.
“Your prayers have literally saved our lives! Two days ago Mitch [then, a category 5 hurricane] was on a due-west collision course with Belize … which would have probably destroyed most of Belize,” McGriff wrote prayer supporters. “As your prayers came before the Father’s throne, the storm halted its westward movement, turned south and began to lose strength.”
The McGriffs, who work with descendants of the Maya Indians in Belize, had sheltered many people in their home. Homer and Sharon Hawthorne in Corozal took in some 60 people fleeing from the storm’s path and another large number were housed at the Baptist camp near Belmopan.
Food supplies are running short in Belmopan, the McGriffs reported. The city’s population was swelled by refugees from Belize City, where high winds and flooding were reported.
“Please remember our Indian people who live in inadequate housing near rivers and streams that might flood and might not have sufficient food supplies,” the McGriffs requested.

Art Toalston contributed to this story.

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