Despite widespread community damages and dozens of confirmed deaths caused by the double impact of Hurricane Ian — first as a category 4 hurricane striking central west Florida and then making landfall again at a category 1 hurricane on the coast of South Carolina — to this point, no casualties in the Assemblies of God family have been reported and only three AG churches have called in significant damages.
The AG districts of South Carolina and North Carolina have not had any hurricane damage to churches reported to this point; the three damaged AG churches are all located in Florida.
Terry Raburn, superintendent for the Peninsular Florida district, says that two AG churches in Cape Coral, Skyline Church (formerly Cape Assembly) and Ocean Church (formerly King’s Way Christian Center) experienced significant damage while New Hope Church in Frostproof was flooded.
“Cape Coral is a peninsula that is not much above sea level,” Raburn says, “and when you get a 10- to 15-foot storm surge and 150 mph winds, you’re going to have damage.”
Raburn says that due to communication limitations and the two bridges between Fort Myers and Cape Coral being knocked out, the complete extent of the damage to the two churches in Cape Coral is not known. However, he believes by the end of the week, a more complete assessment of the damages will be possible.
New Hope Church, Raburn explains, is located by three large lakes, which help insulate Frostproof during cold weather and is the reason for its name — in its recorded history, there has never been a frost there.
“However, the winds blew water out of the lakes and New Hope was flooded,” Raburn says.
In addition to Convoy of Hope still having one of its points of distribution set up at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Raburn says that Florida churches have been responding by sending additional food and water into the area, as well as funds.
“We took a special offering yesterday, we asked everyone in our 350 churches to give $5 each and we’re going to do it again next weekend,” Raburn says. “We’ll use that money for building repair, clothes, medicine, water, and food especially for the Fort Myers area.”
Raburn asks that construction teams interested in assisting to briefly “hold on” until damage assessments can be done and then to connect with the district office later this week (863-683-5726) to help create an organized response so teams can be directed to where they are needed most.
“If a church team wants to bring food and water, please let us know right away,” Raburn says. “There is a still such a huge need for bottled clean water.”
Raburn expresses his appreciation for the church family, but also notes that continued prayer for the area will be coveted.
“We are tremendously grateful for the prayers of God’s people — it could have been much worse than it is,” Raburn says. “I do ask that the prayers continue at least to the end of the year. We’re looking at massive construction repair, not necessarily to our churches, but to our area, things like transportation and communication. It’s going to be a while.”