27th September 2017
When Hurricane Irma tore into the Turks and Caicos Islands in early September, its howling winds, rough seas, and steady rain ripped off roofs, flooded streets, snapped utility poles, and knocked out power.
Providenciales, known locally as Provo, and the most populous of the 40 islands of the Turks and Caicos, took a heavy hit from the Category 4 storm.
Samaritan’s Purse responded quickly in Irma’s aftermath and dispatched a disaster assistance response team to the islands. From the outset, we focused on partnering with local churches and training their members to take the lead role in being salt and light for their neighbours.
We met with pastors and dozens of church leaders on how to maximize evangelistic opportunities while providing relief within their communities.
Volunteers from more than 30 churches manned every stage of the distribution process at multiple locations – reaching 5,012 households.
Not only did they hand out the emergency relief supplies Samaritan’s Purse provided—blankets, hygiene kits, solar flashlights, insect repellent, and heavy-duty shelter tarp—they also prayed for each individual who received these critically needed materials. And, as God opened the door, they presented the hope found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A member from a local Harvest Bible Chapel thanked Samaritan’s Purse for coming: “You’ve helped us help our community. You’ve helped us become a blessing.”
Hurricane Irma levelled Richard’s home and left the 71-year-old owner in a daze, unsure about the future. When Richard arrived at one of our distribution centres, he was immediately struck by the love and care shown by the volunteers. These people are different, he thought.
The church partners we had trained patiently listened to his story and all he had been through. They gave him the supplies, and they prayed with him. But it didn’t stop there.
The church volunteers told Richard about Jesus and His love. Richard recognised his need for the Saviour and bowed his head, repenting and turning his life over to Christ.
Church members rejoiced with Richard and praised God for his salvation. Richard left encouraged, knowing he can trust His Heavenly Father for what lies ahead in the coming days and months.
That happened again and again at other distribution centres across Providenciales. People not only were helped physically, they were helped spiritually as well.
“The pastors and church members responded with vigour and worked together in unity to put everything in place to meet the critical needs of their neighbours,” said Chris Blackham, the Samaritan’s Purse staff member who coordinated our response in the Turks and Caicos.
“Believers actively sought to speak the words of Jesus into peoples’ lives, praying with love and compassion over people and situations, expecting God to answer in miraculous ways.”
Chris expressed gratitude to God for all He has accomplished and how Samaritan’s Purse was able to contribute not just relief supplies—as important as they are—but also to the cause of Jesus Christ on the Turks and Caicos. While our direct ministry there will end, the local church will continue to shine the light of the Gospel.
“What a great opportunity this has been to leave a lasting impact,” he said. “We helped equip the local church to be the hands and feet of Jesus—to be a light on the hill, a refuge in times of trouble, a place where answers can be found, and a people who care.”