MARY REICHARD, HOST: From member-supported WORLD Radio, this is The World and Everything in It for Wednesday, September 20th. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
KENT COVINGTON, HOST: And I’m Kent Covington. As you heard a few minutes ago, Hurricane Maria is ravaging many of the same Caribbean islands Irma hit only two weeks ago. Tomorrow we’ll have the latest on Maria’s impact, but first, a final report on the cleanup after Irma.
REICHARD: WORLD Radio’s Kristen Eicher traveled with Samaritan’s Purse to several islands this past weekend. Today she reports on how Christians in Barbuda are preparing to start over.
KRISTEN EICHER, REPORTER: Barbuda is a small Caribbean island where a population of less than 2-thousand used to live. With the exception of a few household pets and livestock, this 62-square-mile plot of land is uninhabited for the first time in 300 years.
Hurricane Irma left 95 percent of Barbuda’s structures either leveled or severely damaged. That includes the only hospital and the island’s few school buildings.
Despite being only 30 miles away, Barbuda’s sister island, Antigua, was almost completely untouched by Irma. Barbuda residents are now being housed there, in vacant rental properties, private homes, and even a cricket stadium.
HENRY: People are opening up themselves in turn. I can take families, I can take people. Come to my place, you can have it for 6 months, you can have it for whatever.
That’s Pastor Nigel Henry, the pastor of Barbuda Pentecostal Church. He, too, has relocated to Antigua.
Aid workers and government officials have visited Barbuda to survey the damage, and some residents have made supervised visits by way of ferries to evaluate what’s left of their possessions.
Samaritan’s Purse took Pastor Henry.
HENRY: Oh my goodness, this is horrible. We need to clean this place up.
The island is now swarming with mosquitos feared to be carrying diseases such as dengue and zika. Dead dogs decompose on the side of the street.
Henry waded through massive puddles in the hallways of what was left of a small office and educational building behind his church and house. Animal urine coated the floors and horse manure lined streets and driveways.
HENRY: The work that needs to be done will be done. The work will be done.
Henry walks into his sanctuary, stands at his pulpit, and looks at the back wall.
HENRY: Clock is working! (laughter)
Barbuda is predominantly Christian. The island only has two hotels and a handful of schools, but it has seven churches.
Although Henry isn’t sure what impact Irma will have on the faith of Barbudans, he says he’s encouraged. Only one person died in the storm.
HENRY: To know that God preserved people through this. We should have had a mass burial, and yet still we are concentrating on rebuilding. That is a miracle. A huge miracle.
Clifton Francois and his wife Michal also returned to Barbuda with Samaritan’s Purse. They operate a radio and television station on the island. That’s where they were with their 13-year-old son when the storm hit.
CLIFTON: 40 of us were in here. We were in this room, but the door blown open and so everybody had to run to the studio. We put the children on the counters and others of us were standing here full of water. For 3 and 1/2 hours were standing here. This was the safest place.
As Clifton and Michal walked down the abandoned streets, they were enthusiastically accompanied by the dog they left behind. His name is Chosen.
AUDIO: This isn’t your dog, right? It is.
Clifton had been back to the island once since evacuating, but it was Michal’s first time.
MICHAL: Seeing the way the place is and especially not hearing anyone. It’s really tough. But we thank God. Not much words. It’s really hard. This is where you grew up and (emotional) We hope for the better. Ya know?
For WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Eicher reporting from Barbuda.