Catastrophic Double Hurricanes
Hit Eastern Nicaragua
Within the first 17 days of November the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was slammed by two major hurricanes, Eta (Category 4) and Iota (Category 5). Never in recorded history have two tropical storms of such magnitude struck the same area twice in such quick succession.
The combined destructive force of Eta and Iota—and the dreadful hardship they left in their wake—is heart wrenching, with Casa Bernabé orphanage stationed in the center of the calamity.
Gather in and hear the story. Pass along to your network of friends and associates. Post on Facebook or Instagram. We want the people of Eastern Nicaragua to know they are not forgotten.
Mere days after Hurricane Eta hit, a group of missionaries from the capital of Managua loaded a convoy of trucks with 20,000 pounds of rice and beans and emergency supplies and made their way northeast to offer aid to the opposite coast of Nicaragua. The scene that opened before them was apocalyptic.
They all knew Earl Bowie, Director of Verbo Ministries in Nicaragua, who for 30 years has faithfully served from his base in Puerto Cabezas, a town of 60,000. Pastor Earl shepherds church plants throughout the country while overseeing Casa Bernabé, Verbo Church, Verbo Christian Schools and many local feeding and outreach programs.
On November 3 Hurricane Eta had pounded the land with 20-foot surges and 140mph winds, its eye passing over villages that dot the northeast coastal inlets. Karata and Wawa Bar, both inhabited by indigenous Miskito Indians, were among those flattened beyond recognition.
Thousands evacuated to the population center of Puerto Cabezas, finding shelter wherever there was a roof still intact. Pastor Earl housed 1000 displaced people in Verbo Church and its adjacent school and orphanage despite water damage to those structures. The town feeding centers, where Verbo Ministries typically feeds 500 children daily, swelled to 1000 children hungry for a meal morning and evening.
Fourteen days later, the Nicaraguans had witnessed the wild descent of Iota on November 14. A Category 5 hurricane, Iota’s sustained winds topped out at 160mph. Boats were pummeled and pushed hundreds of yards inland, buildings were razed, 100-year-old trees were uprooted and dragged. Flash floods and landslides wreaked untold damage. The smell of dead animals soon began to pollute the air.
Hurricane Iota’s eye also passed mere miles from Puerto Cabezas. Said missionary Brinson Buzbee, “The entire landscape was changed from our first visit a few days prior. As far as you could see were down trees and rubble. It was as if someone took a giant rake and pushed the entire town against the jungle limits.”
Emotional shock was as widespread as the physical devastation…blank stares on faces everywhere at the enormity of the loss…shoeless people walking through the wreckage, numb. Shaking oneself from such torpor takes a decided act of the will.
But these are people of strength, all too accustomed to the hardships and privations of poverty. There was no wailing, no self-pity. Just a unified resolve to regroup. Get moving. And begin again.
Adults and children alike set to work foraging, looking for usable plastic, wood—anything that could be serviceable. The Managua relief team devoted themselves to offering compassion and practical help, however modest. Said Brinson, “As we prayed with one person, others would line up behind for their own time of prayer.” The team came upon a man named Roberto with tears standing in his eyes. He sought to construct a box house for his family and had found a large piece of wood with nails protruding, but had no hammer for the task.
Armed with six mighty chain saws, the team began removing trees that had fallen directly on homes, homes that while crushed were at least in some sense salvageable. For many “tombo homes” (built on stout poles in tropical fashion) had been swept away entirely, leaving little trace of their existence. Henry was one of the volunteers wielding a chain saw. A man approached him, asking for nothing more than the removal of a few limbs that were dripping water on his hammock slung in a makeshift shelter. He was grateful for the chance to sleep in a dry place.
Amidst the chaos stood Pastor Earl. “I’m not sure if Earl ever sleeps,” laughs Brinson, “And yet I’ve never seen him exhausted. At least he doesn’t show it. People draw strength from that. He has an answer for every question, and meets every situation with a directed response. His drive and commitment are amazing to see.”
As in any natural disaster, a life-threatening consequence is the shortage of clean water for drinking and sanitation. The cisterns many use to catch rainwater had been contaminated by the sea surges. Few roofs remain by which to catch fresh rainwater. The fortunate ones have water filters (simple percolation over clay) but they are not designed to filter saltwater. Everywhere, if a shovel is to be had, people are attempting to dig fresh water wells.
Through Managua ministries like Brinson’s Ruby Ranch, Pastor Earl was gifted with a 85HP motor for his boat, as watercraft is the only way to reach villages like Karata and Wawa Bar. One major prayer request is for a second boat with a 150HP motor, which would enable far larger relief shipments to the southern villages at three times the speed.
The Red Cross is making its presence known, driving 16 trucks across the country’s rough roads to bring relief. While the government of Nicaragua is also sending some supplies, most of the country is unaware of the extent of the disaster and more relief efforts are needed. However, it is heartening to see Managua churches rallying to the cause.
The people of Eastern Nicaragua had little to begin with and now have far less. Please consider extending the compassionate love of God with a generous donation to the Casa Bernabe Hurricane Relief Fund. While there is an urgent need for food, clean water, clothing and bedding, restoration can begin in earnest only through procuring water filters, basic tools, roofing tin and construction material.
Give TODAY and be a part of the hope and restoration God is bringing to Eastern Nicaragua.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”