PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–After languishing in the Port-au-Prince port for more than a month, the first shipping container filled with Buckets of Hope was released by the Haitian government June 2. The container, owned by the Florida Baptist Convention, carried buckets of various necessities donated by Southern Baptists across the country.
A second container owned by the Florida convention and filled with 41,200 pounds of rice also was released June 2 from the port in Saint Marc, located north of the capital city.
Dennis Wilbanks of the Florida convention’s partnership missions department reported that the two containers will be delivered to their location Thursday, June 3.
“I shouted for joy,” said Wilbanks, who is serving on-site in Haiti. “From another disappointing day of it not happening, to the good news that our first container of Buckets of Hope being released, I am flooded with emotion. I am humbled to experience the joy of this day.”
The containers cannot be opened without a Haitian inspector present, Wilbanks said, lamenting that Thursday, June 3, is a Haitian holiday. “So we may not be able to open them until Friday.”
Wilbanks asked for prayers that even though it is holiday in Haiti “we can find an inspector to be present so that we can open the container and begin the distribution.”
“Before Sunday they will all be distributed,” Wilbanks said.
There is urgency to delivering the buckets to Haitian pastors and distributing the contents to their communities as soon as possible, Wilbanks said. “We must give the distribution report to the government officials in order to get more released.”
During the months of February and March, more than 152,000 Buckets of Hope were packed with rice, flour, beans, oil and other food by Florida and Southern Baptists as they sought to alleviate some of the hunger after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. The foodstuffs were placed in utility buckets, sealed and labeled with the Gospel message.
After being collected and sent to locations in Florida and Shreveport. La., the buckets were placed in shipping containers before being sent to Haiti. Only a portion of the containers were sent to Haiti initially, but these have been backlogged for weeks by government bureaucracy.
Wilbanks and other Florida convention staff members had been working their way through the highest Haitian government channels in requesting the release of the containers.
On Wednesday morning, June 2, Wilbanks was prepared to continue fighting the red tape when he realized some papers he needed were missing. Although he said he had been singing, ‘This is the day …’ all morning, he said he began to believe that it would be a day with no news.
While Wilbanks cautioned, “The battle is not over; this is just the first one,” he is resolute that the other containers will be released soon.
“Most of all, I am thankful that by Sunday 41,200 pounds of rice and the contents of almost 1,400 Buckets of Hope will be on the table of so many who are hungry,” Wilbanks said.
Fritz Wilson, Florida’s Disaster Relief director, said another 14-16 containers are awaiting release from the Haitian ports.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.