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Baptists in Jamaica assess Hurricane Dean’s damage

KINGSTON, Jamaica (BP)–Baptists in Jamaica still were accessing the damage from Hurricane Dean Monday, less than a day after it battered the southern coast with wind gusts reaching 138 mph.

Dean passed through Kingston and other coastal cities late in the afternoon and early evening Sunday, and residents woke up Monday morning to see trees toppled, roofs smashed and roads blocked. But, amazingly, no deaths had been reported as of early Monday afternoon, according to Reuters, although one man was missing. Dean passed Jamaica with sustained winds of at least 111 mph as a Category 4 storm, the Weather Channel reported, and could strengthen to Category 5 status — the highest level — before it reaches Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Southern Baptists have a missionary in Kingston, but she was okay as of late Sunday evening, after the worst part of the hurricane had passed, the International Mission Board’s Frank Drinkard reported.

“I called her on her cell phone last night after it had pretty much gone through. So, she did have cell phone contact,” said Drinkard, administrative associate with the IMB’s Middle America and Caribbean region. “… We do have a concern, obviously, about our missionaries in the Yucatan Peninsula, where it seems to be headed next. They have been gearing up for this, because they’ve had to deal with some others in past years.”

The latest projection by the National Hurricane Center has Dean striking the Yucatan late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, then possibly strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Mexico again, sometime Wednesday. That projection has Dean avoiding the southern U.S. altogether. Southern Baptists have missionaries in Merida, which is located on the northwestern portion of the Yucatan.

The Jamaica Baptist Union, encompassing 300 churches and 40,000 members, also was accessing the damage as of Monday afternoon, its general secretary, Karl B. Johnson, said. The union’s phones were down, although Johnson was able to send Baptist Press an e-mail from his BlackBerry.

Johnson said there were no reports of loss of life, but added, “There has been massive damage/loss though to possessions/properties of several members (including pastors). We have also received word that a number of churches have suffered extensive damage.”

Jamaica Baptist Union officials won’t have a “full picture,” he wrote, “until later this week or even early next week.” The Baptist union’s building, which houses offices in Kingston and was built last year, “held up very well,” Johnson said.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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