CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A local church group has returned home safely after weathering Hurricane Matthew on a small Haitian island.
“I mean, it was just constant blowing, blowing, blowing, blowing,” Debbie Jones, a member of the group from Cascade Christian Church, described the storm.
On the night of Oct. 3, she and six others from her church hunkered down with locals in a schoolhouse on the island of Île-à-Vache as the hurricane hurtled closer.
“Water was just blowing in and it was getting so bad that it was moving the glass and one of the windows actually, the frame of the window, started to come out of the cement,” Jones told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.
The group’s service trip to Île-à-Vache was supposed to last a week. Instead, they spent it sheltering from the Hurricane and then spending four days trying to get back to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince so they could catch their flight home.
“We didn’t know when we were going to be able to leave the island, and then once we left the island we didn’t know when we would be able to make it back to Port-au-Prince,” Jones said.
The group’s first goal was to get back to the main island, but they weren’t sure if the boat was damaged and there was so much debris in the water there was concern the propeller might stop working. But they made it. Then, to get to Port-au-Prince, they had to drive through a river.
Despite all of that, they miraculously made their original flight on time Saturday.
Cascade Christian Church Pastor Jill Forton was all hugs Wednesday afternoon as she Jones for the first time since the trip.
While it was a relief to be home and see friends and family, it was difficult to leave after witnessing trees toppled onto buildings, cracked roads and people who lost everything.
“I was sitting here in church this past Sunday and knowing that they were sitting in their church, many of them having lost their homes or had damage to their homes, and they were still praising God for what they had,” Jones said.
The group was able to help kids with vitamins and help the community with some medical issues on the trip despite the storm.
The Associated Press reports that the death toll in Haiti was 473 as of Tuesday but that it could still rise. Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of aid. The U.S. Navy has a vessel filled with personnel and supplies headed toward Haiti to help with the relief effort.