PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (Christian Examiner) – Hours after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti, the family of a Louisiana Baptist pastor stranded in the country was asking for prayers of safety for him and thousands of others in the path of the storm.
Steven Smithson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winnfield, Louisiana, is in Haiti on a mission trip. His wife, Stephanie, posted on her Facebook page that he experienced strong winds earlier this morning, Oct. 4, but by 8 a.m. CST was seeing only rain. His flight out of the country is delayed indefinitely.
Stephanie Smithson said God is answering prayers for protection and peace.
"We are forever grateful," she said. "Mudslides and third world housing will be the main cause in which lives are lost. Haiti needs our prayers. Steven needs to get home.
"But I want to say my fears are being set at ease because of your prayers," she continued. "Thank you for you all for praying, please continue them."
Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida also reported on its Facebook page that a mission team is onsite in the village of Bigarade which is home to a school the church supports.
At 6:30 a.m. today the church said the village had not experienced flooding, but that it was very windy.
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"The storm is not over, but we are praising God for His protection of this area through the night and praying for his continued mercies," Hillcrest Baptist Church wrote. "Some of their neighbors to the south also need our prayers for the peace that only Jesus gives, as their loss has already been great. ... Thank you church family for your continued prayers."
Hurricane Matthew made landfall near Les Anglais, Haiti, around 6 a.m. CST today. The Category 4 Hurricane was packing winds of 145 mph and is forecasted to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Wednesday evening, Oct. 5, as it moves through the Bahamas.
Tropical storm or hurricane watches are likely for portions of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys later today. Some paths are projected to take the storm to the edge of Florida and up the east coast.
The storm comes six years after Haiti experienced magnitude 7.0 earthquake that left more than 230,000 people dead.
(This article published by the Louisiana Baptist Message with reporting by Christian Examiner's Joni B. Hannigan.)