Monday, August 17, 2009

Yearbook Experiences -A Volcano & Hurricane Hits Guadeloupe

(the following experiences are taken from pgs 159-161 of the 1995 Yearbook)

Intro about Guadeloupe (on pgs 118 & 119)
Island of Beautiful Waters - Karukera - as the Carib Indians called it - was the name of Guadeloupe long before Columbus reached here in 1493. No doubt the Indians had in mind the refreshment of Guadeloupe's many waterfalls and the beauty of the water surrounding Guadeloupe ... which is, in reality, two islands, with a number of smaller dependencies (Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Désirade, Îles de la Petite-Terre, Saint-Barthélemy, and part of Saint Martin). On a map, the two principal islands look like a butterfly with outspread wings. In the west is Basse-Terre with its mountainous volcanic range; in the east is Grande-Terre, a tableland with a mosaic of hillocks. Their beauty is enhanced by beaches with turquoise water, green countryside, and tropical forest with numerous waterfalls...
People here usually have respect for the Bible. They believe that it is God's Word...The mixture of various cultures - African, European, and Asian - has given birth to a way of life in which gentleness and kindness are prevalent. These good qualities make many of the people pleasant to talk with and receptive to the Kingdom message.

A Volcano Threatens
In 1976, Soufriere, a volcano that had long been dormant, came to life again. Early in the year, tremors became more and more frequent. About nine o'clock in the morning on July 8, a fault ripped open on the side of the mountain, releasing a big cloud of gas and vapor. Volcanic ash began to fall on Basse-Terre and neighboring villages. People as well as the land became coated with gray dust. On August 15, because of intensifying seismo-volcanic activities, the authorities ordered the complete and immediate evacuation of 72,000 persons. It was not until five months later that they were permitted to return to their homes. Seven congregations were evacuated. Immediate help was provided to see that our brothers had lodging during this time of distress. Publishers who had formerly met and worked together were now scattered here and there. In order to provide needed spiritual help, a special meeting was held with the elders and the ministerial servants. They were all urged to seek out and find the publishers from their respective congregations and to keep in close contact with them. Special arrangements were made to keep the flock from scattering. They would attend the congregation meetings in the area where they were housed, but arrangements were also made for them to attend a Congregation Book Study specially established for them and to be presided over by an elder or a ministerial servant from their original congregation. This proved to be a real blessing. Not one of the sheep got lost!

Hurricane Hugo - A Nightmare Night
Thirteen years later, another crisis struck. On Saturday, September 16, 1989, Hurricane Hugo mercilessly pounded Guadeloupe. This was not the first time the island had been ravaged by a hurricane. In 1966, Hurricane Ines had ripped the roofs off most of the wooden houses, and the electrical power was shut down for a month. But what happened in 1989 was far more devastating. Wind gusts, some of them reaching over 160 miles per hour, pounded the island for hours. It seemed that the night would never end. When dawn at last came, the sight was staggering. The streets looked like battlefields littered with debris. Some 30,000 were homeless. Among the Witnesses, 117 houses were destroyed, and 300 others were seriously damaged. Eight Kingdom Halls were partly destroyed, and 14 others were damaged. When Hurricane Ines had brought ruin back in 1966, Jehovah's Witnesses from Puerto Rico, Martinique, French Guiana, and Saint Croix had brought in relief supplies. But when Hurricane Hugo ravaged Guadeloupe in 1989, the Governing Body quickly made relief funds available. Then the brothers from Martinique, France, and elsewhere rushed in needed food, clothing, and materials for rebuilding. Some came personally to offer help. The brothers and sisters in Guadeloupe were deeply touched by this outpouring of love. They have not forgotten what was done in their behalf.