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  • A woman cries amid the rubble of her home, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, Cuba, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. The hurricane rolled across the sparsely populated tip of Cuba overnight, destroying dozens of homes in Cuba's easternmost city, Baracoa, leaving hundreds of others damaged. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Thursday, October 06, 2016 10:34 am

Hurricane apparently misses area ministries

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Two area Christian ministries with longstanding ties to Haiti learned Wednesday that their outposts apparently had been spared the brunt of Hurricane Matthew.

However, one group has not yet made contact with a hospital relatively near the passage of the storm, which briefly reached Category 5 status, the strongest for a hurricane, before hitting Haiti’s southernmost coast.

Ben Tobias, director of Cross-Cultural Ministries, an arm of the Churches of God, General Conference, headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, said people affiliated with the ministry in Borel, Haiti, reported Matthew did not do severe damage in that area.

Borel is the headquarters of Project Help Haiti, directed by Steve Mossburg of Columbia City. He was reported in the U.S. on Wednesday but could not be reached. The organization works with schools, orphanages, a well-drilling group, a guest house and a hospital.

Borel lies in a mountainous area northeast of the southern coast.

The hurricane "hit the mountains and kind of lost some steam. They had some winds and rain because the mountains kept the storm away," Tobias said.

However, he said, a hospital in Pierre Payen, northwest of Port-au-Prince and closer to the southern coast, had not been heard from.

"I’m getting a little bit worried, but we were told that the communications would be down at least temporarily, so we’re hoping no news is good news," he said late Wednesday morning.

Tobias said the hospital could likely be pressed into service for hurricane victims, as it was during the devastating earthquake in 2009.

Project Help Haiti is supported by members of several area Church of God congregations, First Church of God in Columbia City and the Anthony Wayne, Trier Ridge and Parkwood congregations in Fort Wayne. 

Amy Obringer, a biology professor at the University of Saint Francis who, with a group of volunteers, has for several years worked to build and fund Our Lady of Perpetual Help orphanage and school in Cap-Haïtien along Haiti’s northeastern coast, said that facility also weathered the storm.

The priest in charge, the Rev. Andre Sylvestre, told Obringer on Wednesday that the hurricane’s center moved far to the west of Cap-Haïtien, she said. The recently completed facility was built to new earthquake standards, she added.

However, Cap-Haïtien residents were required to stay at home because of continued rain and expected flooding of low-lying areas Wednesday and today, Obringer said.

The priest said he was seeking funds for the orphanage’s 36 children because he expected food prices to spike as a result of transportation difficulties.

Obringer has raised money for the project and improvements in infant and child nutrition there through Formula for Life 5K runs and other fundraisers. She hopes soon to be able to take USF students to Haiti for clinical experience.