Churches in the Caribbean and Central America get ready for a more intense hurricane season in 2024

By Carolina Luciano Burgos |
Hurricane Beryl in the Caribbean satellite image
Hurricane Beryl as it passes through the Caribbean in satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) | NOAA

In the wake of Hurricane Beryl, churches in the Caribbean and Central America are set to embrace what is expected to be a historic hurricane season, with an 85% chance of experiencing a more active and intense season than normal. Beryl was the first "major" hurricane in July, something unprecedented at the start of the hurricane season. It became the first of its kind to make landfall at a severe category so early.

The storm reached 165 miles (155 km) and became a dangerous category five hurricane with a direct path across the Caribbean Sea. It affected several of the Virgin Islands and surrounding islands, Jamaica and southern Mexico.

The Reverend Pedro Uh Bote, Bishop of the International Pentecostal Church of God Movement (IDPMI) in southern Mexico, prepared his leaders to be available to their congregations in every possible way. His church also prepared to serve as a shelter for those whose homes were no longer safe. Anticipating the hurricane heading towards the Cancun area as a category one, the churches prepared themselves with food and basic necessities to support the affected families.

IDPMI's English Caribbean supervisor, currently based in Jamaica, Pastor Rohan Pellington, was on the island when Beryl hit the Jamaican coast as a Category 4 storm. Churches in Jamaica were set up to serve as shelters in case of severe flooding.

“As Christian leaders, our intention is to reach out to every member of our churches,” Pellington said, “to foster calm in times of crisis like this.” The Jamaican pastor also worked with Roxhall Secondary School in Kingston to provide a shelter.

The most important thing for Pellington is that people stay close to God in times of peace so that in times of trouble they can also have their security in God. “I hope this motivates Jamaicans to pay attention,” he said. “It is time to get serious and seek God now. That is my hope, that people will get closer to God.”

Despite the difficulty, Pellington's church held a thanksgiving service this Sunday, June 7. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “We can say that God protected us… Despite how things look, the obstacles and challenges, we can say that God has been good, so we should give thanks despite how we have been affected.”

The Association of Pentecostal Social Services (ASSPEN) of the IDPMI has been in contact with southern Mexico and Jamaica to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid to nearby churches and communities.

Hurricane damage on Grenada
The hurricane devastated many communities as it passed through the island of Grenada. | Samaritan's Purse

The director of the Missions Department of the IDPMI International Headquarters, Rev. Wilfredo Martínez, stated that he wants to provide emotional help during these difficult times. “[At the IDPMI] we have chaplains and many are specialized and have this profile, but we have to coordinate that work for when [these atmospheric events] occur.” The director also mentioned that on past occasions the chaplains were mobilized to provide counseling to those affected by the earthquakes that hit Puerto Rico in early 2020.

The Bishop of the IDPMI Region of Puerto Rico, Reverend Hernán Rivera Rivera, expressed that in past experiences in crisis situations (such as Hurricane Maria in 2017) the Church mobilized more quickly than first response teams when distributing essential items.

IDPMI in Puerto Rico is preparing with aid centers in each municipality of the island so that the necessary aid reaches the towns in need more quickly. “We are preparing to be good [first response teams], the first in the middle of any crisis that occurs,” said Rivera.

During this 2024 hurricane season, the pastors also urge people to pray for Central America and the Caribbean. “More than anything, so that we don’t lose faith, we don’t lose hope,” said Pastor Uh Bote.

Bishop Rivera encourages to remain calm and to rely on God’s peace. “If we all fall, who is going to come and lift others up?” Rivera said. “That is where we are as believers, as leaders, to instill peace in others and to remain calm enough to be able to get up.”

He also encouraged people to pray that these atmospheric events will dissolve in the open sea and not affect anyone . “I want to say that our prayer is that [God’s] protection will be in all countries,” the Bishop added. “That people take care of themselves, protect themselves and that all these events have the least possible negative effect on any country. In other words, prayer is not only a selfish prayer, but a prayer for the good of all.”

Pellington, for his part, encourages younger generations who may have never experienced a major hurricane to turn to God now. “If the storm comes, even when you do everything to prepare, your mind has to be fixed on the Lord,” he said. “Your faith has to be firm in Him. We have to have the conviction that our God will carry us through the storm. Our God is sovereign over the storm.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said this Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be more active and intense than normal. NOAA's report suggests a possibility of 17 to 25 named storms, 8 to 13 hurricanes, and 4 to 7 major hurricanes.

First published by Diario Cristiano, Christian Daily International's Spanish edition.