Member Swims Out of Church to Rescue Trapped Neighbors

Jamaican taxi driver was at his local church when he heard a call for help

When flash-flood waters rushed into Owen Taylor’s church, the Palmetto Gardens Seventh-day Adventist Church in Clarendon, Jamaica, he took swift action. He swam through the rising waters to the home next door, where Henry Blair and his adult son were trapped.

Taylor, a taxi driver, and Junior George Wilson, a member of the same church, carried out this rescue operation just after lunch on Sabbath, April 22.

“It rained all morning, and we saw the water rising, but we were not alarmed because, in the past, the water would simply go away after a time,” said Maynardo Fogah, church elder at Palmetto Gardens Church.

But in no time, water started pouring into the church. Soon after, the water had risen to his waist.

  • Henry Blair, second from left, shares his story of being rescued from the flood waters while church leaders from the Central Jamaica Conference Levi Johnson, president; Evereth Smith, community services director; Valbert Walker, Parish Coordinator, Clarendon, listen. [Photo: Damian Chambers, CJC]

  • Outside view of the Palmetto Gardens Church submerged in water. Members said that six cars in front of the church were all submerged. [Photo: Central Jamaica Conference]

  • View of the pulpit area of the Palmetto Gardens Church the morning after the flood. All furniture in the church was covered under water. [Photo: Damian Chambers, CJC]

All 20 members of the church, who were fellowshiping after lunch, had to take refuge in neighboring houses. Those who parked vehicles at the front of the church had no time to remove all six vehicles, which were submerged including Taylor’s taxi car.

Taylor heard Blair shouting for help from his home. After taking steps to secure himself, Taylor and Wilson swam across the 7-foot-high flood waters to open the gate of the house, went inside and found Blair and his son taking refuge in the attic.

“I had to tear down the ceiling to get them out of the house,” said Taylor. He gave them life jackets and used a rope to pull and guide them out of the water.

Community members reported that this was not the first time they were experiencing a flood, but it was the first time in more than 20 years that they had ever seen it hit so hard.

Response to Flooding

After learning of the situation in Palmetto Gardens, church administrators and leaders from the Central Jamaica Conference church region traveled there the following day to offer support to the church and surrounding community.

Church leaders talked and prayed with the residents who were most affected by the flood.

“We empathize with you and want the house of God to get back to normal as soon as possible,” said Levi Johnson, president of the Adventist Church in Central Jamaica. “The Conference will take on the expenses of cleaning up the church and the five most affected neighboring homes.”

Also, through the community services department and the Parish Development Action Committee, Johnson ordered 30 mattresses and other supplies to be distributed to persons in the affected homes.

Persons from other areas in Clarendon who were flooded out also received beds.

“We just want to address the immediate need of getting persons to at least sleep comfortably for the night,” Johnson said.

The conference administration is still monitoring the community in Palmetto Gardens and offering continual support.

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