Jamaica, Caribbean, and Mexico
Deal With Powerful Hurricane Dean
BY LIBNA STEVENS
, Inter American Divison, with Nadia McGill, ADRA and Adventist Review
s Hurricane Dean moves into central Mexico after leaving its destructive mark on several eastern Caribbean islands, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America are concerned for the thousands of church members who may be affected by the dangerous storm.
At the same time, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is responding to the storm’s effects, with ADRA offices throughout Central America and the Caribbean having initiated preparations well before the June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane Dean, the first official hurricane of the season, transformed into a category five storm with winds reaching speeds of up to 165 miles per hour as it made landfall in Mexico early on August 21.
SCENE OF DEVASTATION: Wreckage after Hurricane Dean struck homes in the city of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico. [Photo: Rafael Garcia/ADRA Mexico]
Dean entered the eastern Caribbean on Friday, August 17, bringing torrential downpours and intense winds to the islands of St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, and Guadalupe. Over the weekend the steadily intensifying hurricane hit southern Haiti, as well as the southern coast of Jamaica, damaging rooftops and flooding streets as it tore its way through the Caribbean. At least 10 people are known to have died.
A month-long state of emergency was issued in Jamaica after the onslaught to help survivors recover from their loss. Jamaican authorities are estimating that 300,000 people have been displaced by the hurricane, which caused mudslides, blocked several major roads, and affected digital telecommunications on the island.
In Jamaica, the government has selected ADRA to be in charge of the registration of hurricane-affected families and to coordinate the distribution of goods in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean.
On the island of Saint Lucia, ADRA is assessing the needs of survivors whose livelihoods will suffer dramatically from the devastation of the banana crops and other long-lasting effects of Hurricane Dean.
ADRA’s initial response to Hurricane Dean in Mexico will include a distribution of 400 food baskets in Quintana Roo and 400 additional food baskets in Campeche and Ciudad del Carmen. More than 4,000 people will benefit from ADRA Mexico’s preparedness and response activities, which may be increased as assessments determine the full scope of the hurricane’s impact on the local communities.
“This is the type of intervention most needed after hurricanes,” comments Rafael García Valderrábano, country director for ADRA Mexico. “Once the hurricane has left, affected families don’t normally move from their homes to shelters, as they want to stay watching over their property.”
The eye of Hurricane Dean passed just south of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on August 19 and 20, but not without lashing the islands with its powerful winds and drenching rain.
"We are extremely concerned," said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church Inter-America. "I'm following the news of the storm all the time. All the places this hurricane hit represent areas of great member density. We are very concerned for the public in general, but especially the members and the church infrastructure."
Pastor Leito said he has tried to contact church leaders in the Caribbean with little success. Initial damage reports have been coming in slowly.
According to Pastor Leito, church structures in Martinique did not suffer much damage. The southwest region of the Dominican Republic was affected by the winds and rain of Hurricane Dean, but the island's Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is in the process of assessing the damages, said Wally Amundson, ADRA director for Inter-America.
No official estimates on the damage to members and church buildings in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are available yet.
ADRA Inter-America is prepared to aid those affected by the storm, said Amundson.
"Previous disasters and responses have created a readiness among our ADRA offices and different administrative offices in Inter-America," Amundson said. "So we have some experience on how to work with the community and its leaders."
"Each year we refine and modify our disaster response plan where we have trained individuals and resources ready to respond," he added. "In the case of Inter-America, we have committed in advance the funding required to make a first response."
In the case of Mexico, said Amundson, ADRA organizers there purchased and prepared family food baskets and water for those who could be affected in anticipation of the damage.
Pastor Leito urged fellow Inter-Americans and Seventh-day Adventist Church members worldwide to continue praying for God's protection as Hurricane Dean continues to pound Mexico.
Approximately one quarter of a million Seventh-day Adventist Christians live in Jamaica; of the nearly 600,000 Adventists in Mexico, approximately 50,000 are in the Yucatan, according to the latest available statistics.
Romanian Inmate Trades Parole for Prison Witness
A Romanian criminal, once labeled the country's fourth most dangerous, is electing to forgo parole after becoming a Seventh-day Adventist—he would rather stay in prison to share his new-found faith.
Valeriu Curin, age 33, was a household name in the southeastern European country 11 years ago for his involvement in organized crime.
Curin was one of eight life-term inmates to step into a portable baptismal tank July 21 in a prison in the city of Craiova and declare commitment to a Christian life.
George Uba, who oversees personal ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Romania, said Curin, an avid reader, finally picked up a Bible in his cell after years of neglecting it. Curin gradually immersed himself in the power of God's Word, Uba said.
‘LIFER’ GETS NEW LIFE: Valeriu Curin, once Romania's fourth most dangerous criminal, is baptized July 21 in a portable baptismal tank in prison. Now a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he is choosing to forgo parole to better witness to his fellow prison inmates. [Photo: Romanian Adventist News]
And it changed his life.
His life sentence in prison allows him to request parole after 20 years, but good behavior has given him the option to apply after 11 years. Instead, Curin is choosing to waive his right, remain in prison and lead others to Christ, Uba said.
Romanian Adventists organized a prison outreach program immediately after the fall of communism in 1989, said Teodor Hutanu, president of the church in Romania. He said it gradually became evident that as a Christian minority denomination, Adventists faced increasing difficulties with the country's prison outreach.
After Romania joined the European Union, however, the situation changed. The Orthodox Church still dominates prison chaplaincies, but Adventists are also allowed to work, Hutanu said.
Among Romania's Protestant denominations, Adventists were among the first to begin prison ministries, he said.
The General Directorate of Penitentiaries authorizes Romania's churches to work in the country's prisons on a yearly basis. A church is required to sign a collaboration protocol listing moral and spiritual programs it will offer prison inmates.
Uba said most Bible studies in prisons are conducted by local church volunteers. Currently, 32 inmates are being prepared for baptism. There are no official Adventist prison chaplains in Romania, but Hutanu says the church is working with prison leadership to establish such a ministry.
Adventist evangelists have now established programs in 42 of the country's 46 prisons, Uba said. As of 2006, more than 70,000 Adventists worship weekly in nearly 1,100 congregations across Romania.
— by Rajmund Dabrowski/Adventist News Network, with AR Staff
Robert Osborn, 85, Former GC Associate Treasurer, Dies
Elder Robert Osborn [Photo: GC Archives and Statistics]
Elder Robert Osborn, who for nearly 30 years served as an associate treasurer of the General Conference passed away August 24, following a brief illness. Born in Los Angeles, California, he served 54 years in denominational employment and was an ordained Seventh-day Adventist pastor.
Beginning as a bookkeeper at the Loma Linda Food Company and then at Glendale Adventist Hospital, Osborn worked for the Central California Conference before moving to the then-Middle East Division of Seventh-day Adventists in 1956. He then was treasurer of the church’s South American Division from 1959 to 1962, and came to the world church headquarters in 1966 after four years as corporation secretary for Loma Linda University, his alma mater. He was a trombone player who performed with the U.S. Army Band and the Oakland, Calif., Symphony Orchestra.
Osborn was the father of Richard Osborn, president of Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, and Kenneth Osborn, North American Division associate treasurer. His wife, Evelyn, and his sons survive him. A memorial service will be held Aug. 30 at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.
-- AR Staff