The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

Responding to Cyclone Idai

Posted on by The Rev. Jonathan Folts

Responding to Cyclone Idai

By the Rev. Jonathan Folts, Rector, St. John's Episcopal Church, Essex

Photo: The Ven. Narciso Langa, Archdeacon of Pungue, the Rt. Rev. Carlos Matsinhe, Bishop of Lebombo and Mr. Leonardo Cossa, Treasurer of the Archdeaconry, visit the parish of St. George in Beira, Mozambique. Courtesy Episcopal Relief & Development

On March 14 and 15, a vicious and destructive cyclone (Cyclone Idai) made landfall and struck Mozambique as a Category 2 storm with winds exceeding 105 mph. It has been rated as the most devastating climate disaster to hit the southern hemisphere. The area that received the brunt of the cyclone’s force was the city of Beira, the fourth largest city in Mozambique, population 530,604, and situated in the Anglican Diocese of Lebombo. Ninety percent of Beira was destroyed by Cyclone Idai with the death toll nearing a thousand souls.

St. John’s, Essex, has had a long partnership with the Diocese of Lebombo through the years and has participated with them in God’s mission in many different areas.

Most recently, the congregation of St. John’s began to sponsor José Filipe, a seminarian, and entered into a partnership with St. Bernard’s Anglican Church in Liberdade and with the Rev. David Geraldo, their priest. Although thankfully José and Fr. David were not in danger, Fr. David shared that his wife’s sister and mother were both in Beira when Cyclone Idai struck. Fr. David was on the phone with his sister-in-law who was screaming that the wind was blowing the roof off of their house and then the phone line went dead. It took over two days to learn that both women were all right with minimal injuries. Their home had been destroyed, but their lives had been spared.

Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of the Diocese of Lebombo reported on March 22 that Beira was “devastated and destroyed” with “no sufficient food and medical” supplies in town. The main road connecting Beira to the rest of Mozambique was cut off in four sections which meant that trucks with emergency supplies could not reach the neediest among them. However, Bishop Carlos also reported that much was being done to re-establish these connections and hopes were high that supplies would reach Beira soon.

In the Diocese of Lebombo, Bishop Carlos states that a brand-new church in Beira was crushed down, that the rectory had lost its roof, and that the roof of the congregation's former old and small church was also partially destroyed. St. Mary Mutua in Dondo was also damaged and, at the time of the bishop’s letter, no news was known about the status of All Saints of Nhamatanda as well as others. They could do nothing but pray for the best until communications with these churches and their clergy were restored. Since most of Beira’s outstation churches are made of local bricks and mud and are roofed either with grass or zinc sheets (like the houses of the population), they knew that the chances of their being wholly destroyed were high.

Bishop Carlos also provided in his report what our response, as Anglicans, could be for this disaster and listed eleven different options. The option that St. John’s chose to respond to was to donate funds to rebuild the destroyed church buildings as these churches are both vital and central to Beira's community life. Indeed, one small Anglican Church structure that weathered the storm served as a shelter for many people. We chose to help in this particular way because whereas we believe that many organizations will respond to help with food and livestock, we are also convinced that very few organizations will meet the need of repairing of the damaged churches.

The congregation of St. John’s has contributed, through parishioner donations, $6,725. Additionally, the Vestry of St. John’s approved $2500 to be donated from the parish’s World Mission Fund, and Fr. Benjamin Straley and I requested that $775 be allocated from our respective Discretionary Funds to make it an even $10,000. As an added gift, Bishops Douglas and Ahrens, on behalf of Episcopal Church of Connecticut, have contributed $5,000 from the Emergency Reserve Fund. So a total of $15,000 has been collected and wired to Mozambique to assist in the rebuilding of the damaged houses of worship.

St. John’s expresses its most profound appreciation to both Bishop Ian and to Bishop Laura for their support on behalf of ECCT, as well as our gratitude to our parishioners who continue to live deeply into this partnership with our friends in Mozambique. Through the sharing of this news, we invite you to join us in prayer for Beira's continued healing — and if you or your congregation is interested in discerning whether the Holy Spirit is calling you into a partnership relationship with the Diocese of Lebombo, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to introduce you to these fully committed, faith-filled Christians!