BELIZE CITY, Belize (BP)–Southern Baptist missionaries are working alongside Belize Baptists to rebuild homes and churches destroyed by an Oct. 8 hurricane.
Belize government officials estimate that more than 13,000 people – including 40 Baptist families — have been left homeless. Three Baptist churches have been destroyed and others badly damaged in southern Belize where Hurricane Iris cut its 30-mile-wide path. Officials anticipate damage in the region could reach $250 million.
Missionaries in the country have assessed the situation and determined that the most pressing needs are food, water and shelter for the affected citizens.
“That area got hammered pretty hard,” said International Mission Board missionary Ken Moore, who lives in Belize. “These folks are very poor banana/citrus workers or subsistence farmers. … They had little to start with and practically no means to recover — as their only means of income has been destroyed for at least a year.”
Nearly all the houses in southern Belize are roofed with thatch from kahun trees. Not only were hundreds of homes leveled, but the trees that provide the materials for the roofs also were destroyed.
In the wake of the hurricane, Baptists from the United States and other areas have stepped up to help the people of southern Belize. Moore immediately distributed food to the area, and the International Mission Board released $5,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. A $60,000 board grant will help with general relief — including temporary shelter and reconstruction — for a number of families, Baptist and non-Baptist, who lost their homes.
“We have determined that we can put these families in temporary dwellings for about $1,500 each that will provide them emergency shelters and a basis from which they can work toward a more permanent solution later,” Moore said.
The board, along with Belize Baptists and other friends, has continued to ship food and water to the people of the affected villages. Workers used materials from destroyed and damaged churches to reconstruct the church at Bella Vista as a temporary shelter for eight families left homeless there.
Belize Baptists are raising funds to help provide building materials for shelters and church repairs. They also are collecting food, clothing and other needed supplies, as well as forming work teams. Baptists across the border in Chetumal, Mexico, are helping through mission board families working there.
“It truly is a blessing to see everyone working together,” Moore said.
Additionally, missionaries are encouraging those directly affected by the disaster to help with the recovery efforts and use the opportunity to minister to their fellow Belizeans.
“We want to involve those needing the help as much as we can in their own recovery and encourage their witness among their own people groups while we come along side to help them,” Moore said.
Contributions toward the relief efforts can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief fund — Belize/Hurricane Iris, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
Roten is a journalism intern at the International Mission Board.