Hurricanes wreak havoc in Central America

Climate impacts

What resources on creation care would be most useful? The recently formed Creation Care Task Force (CCTF) of Mennonite World Conference asked this in a survey of Anabaptists around the world. Many respondents wanted to learn more about how climate change affects people around the world.

Vulnerable coasts

In early November, Hurricane Eta tore through Central America followed by Hurricane Iota several weeks later. These storms, categories 4 and 5 respectively, caused enormous destruction including the deaths of hundreds of people, billions of dollars in damage, and the loss of agricultural and business resources.

Unfortunately for MWC churches in Central America, this area of the world is likely to experience the worst aspects of climate change and also has fewer financial resources to deal with these changes.

In the survey, Karen Flores Vindel, a member of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Central de La Ceiba in Honduras, wrote about her climate-threatened home city. “The church building is flooded with every heavy rain,” she reported.

Other impacts of the changing environment include power outages, overflowing rivers, landslides, flooding, destroyed infrastructure and the rising sea level which eats into the coast. These, in turn, cause economic crises, disrupt trade and the distribution of products, increase the cost of living and migration pressure and lead to social violence.

Migration and recovery

broken musical instrument
Damaged instruments from the music program at Bezaleel,
Kekchi Mennonite Church’s middle and high school in
San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala.
This damaged marimba is a traditional Guatemalan
instrument handcrafted of wood of a special tree.
Photo:Ted Smoker

Migration is one of the direct results of climate change’s greater effects on those who are poor and marginalized. After the recent hurricanes, many people are choosing to leave their homes to meet their basic needs.

In Honduras, Mennonite church committees are organizing recovery work from November’s storms. In December, Karen Flores Vindel reported that José Fernández (national president of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña and local pastor of Vida en Abundancia and Central de San Pedro Sula) is cleaning up and helping people in the heavily affected area. Several church buildings serve as temporary housing for people who have lost homes and resources.

Karen Flores Vindel feels, “frustrated, discouraged, powerless because of all the destruction that happened and all the death, pain and suffering it caused. I have cried many times during my prayers.” Yet she is encouraged by people who are working to effect change for future generations.

Human factors

According to James P. Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “It’s very likely that human-caused climate change contributed to that anomalously warm ocean,” and along with other scientists, he says this is “absolutely responsible for the hyperactive season.”

Because of warmer ocean temperatures, storms are developing higher wind speeds, more rain, and wider ranges of occurrence. Additionally, storms are becoming slower and more volatile. All these factors contribute to an increase in wind and flood damage.

Prayer for change

Prayer is an important way to act for change and find “the strength to confront this and the means to survive,” says Karen Martinez.

Martinez, a student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, USA, is worried about her family who lives on the coast of Honduras. She is a part of the immigrant communities of Garifuna people (some Garifuna churches in Central America and the USA are part of a network with LMC).

“Many people live under the poverty line and have lost the little they have,” Martinez says.

She, along with other Garifuna immigrants in the USA, sends support back to their families, especially in times of need. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has also responded to the crisis by sending emergency relief in food and supplies and will continue to do ongoing recovery work.

Task force response

As the CCTF collects final results from the Creation Care Survey, they will offer more resources for the longer-term work of addressing climate change in the world.

Stay tuned for more information and resources from the CCTF!

—A Mennonite World Conference release by Kristen Swartley, a member of Joy Mennonite church in Oklahoma City, USA. She is an MDiv student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, USA, and is serving as an intern for the Creation Care Task Force.

Read also

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Sources (in English):

Click here to watch the Mennonite church in Honduras worshipping amid the flood waters

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