RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The devastating earthquake that shook Haiti Jan. 12 has claimed the life of a leading Haitian Baptist pastor in Port-au-Prince, according to reports received from the vice president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, located in the northern Haiti city of Cap-Haitien.
Bienne Lamerique, 56-year-old pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince, died of injuries sustained when his house collapsed. Several Haitian Baptist pastors buried him without a coffin — because none was available — Jan. 14, according to e-mails received by Mark Rutledge, International Mission Board (IMB) missionary on stateside assignment in Richmond, Va. He and his wife, Peggy, work among the Haitian people and served within Haiti for 26 years.
He was “one of our best pastors,” Pastor Gedeon Eugene, vice president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, wrote in an e-mail to Rutledge, who is from Murfreesboro, Tenn.
“Haiti lost a godly man,” Peggy, from Glendale, Calif., said in a Jan. 15 interview from the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va. “Pastor Bienne did everything with his whole heart…. He had a heart for people and for reaching people. He planted more churches than any other pastor I know in the convention. We loved him dearly.”
When the Rutledges became career missionaries in Haiti in 1987, they were part of Lamerique’s first church-start in a small house in a Port-au-Prince slum.
“To me personally … he was a real encouragement,” added Mark, who traveled to Port-au-Prince Jan. 17 to translate for a Southern Baptist team. “He was one who raised up and grew leaders and started new churches. He also was one to take churches that had stagnated and begin to work with them to renew them and get them on course again. He had a tremendous impact on multiplication of churches like no other pastor I’ve experienced since we’ve been in Haiti.”
Lamerique’s congregation met in a building that once was a vehicle-repair garage for the United Nations, Peggy said. It is located about a mile from the U.N. building that collapsed in the quake.
IMB missionary Dawn Goodwin, who works with Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, visited Lamerique’s church Jan. 16 with Dominican Baptist leaders who traveled to Port-au-Prince to assess needs of quake survivors. The sanctuary sustained significant damages but was still standing. Some church members were living in the churchyard, Goodwin — who earlier served 17 years in Haiti — said in a Jan. 17 phone interview.
“We prayed with and encouraged them and their associate pastor,” said Goodwin, who is from Jefferson City, Tenn. The team also left supplies, including tarps that church members planned to use to shade themselves from the sun during worship services.
First Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince, located downtown near Haiti’s collapsed presidential palace, also sustained damage but was still standing, Goodwin said. She and the Dominican delegation — which included Carlos Llambes, an IMB missionary in the Dominican Republic — also visited Concord Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince, which escaped damage. Llambes is a native of Cuba from Hialeah, Fla. The pastor’s wife, a nurse, is treating patients in her home and soon will be setting up a first-aid clinic at the church, Goodwin said.
In other developments, on Jan. 17 Goodwin and IMB missionaries Sam and Delores York, from Midwest City, Okla., and Abilene, Texas, respectively, began helping at a medical clinic in Jimani, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti. Delores, a nurse, is caring for patients who have undergone amputations at the clinic. The Yorks served nine years in Haiti before moving last year to work with Haitian immigrants.
In addition, a team of Haitian Baptists and a missionary from another organization traveled Jan. 15 from Cap-Haitien to the capital city of Port-au-Prince to deliver supplies to the disaster zone and to minister to Haitians.
“A lot of [Haitian Baptists] are now homeless,” Eugene wrote. “They spend [the] night in the streets. They are starving. The pastors want us to come very quickly.”
Former IMB missionaries to Haiti and their colleagues are grieving the death of Pastor Lamerique — and they fear there will be more grief to come as reports of more casualties trickle in.
“There has just been so much devastation in Haiti,” Peggy said. “It’s going to take God to bring people through. Just pray that God will open the doors to reach people and to be able to help people, because this is beyond what any one organization can do.”
While Haitians have been physically devastated by the quake, “they have been equally devastated spiritually and emotionally,” she said. “Pray that God will bring the right people in to minister to Haitians in more than just material ways.”
Maria Elena Baseler is a writer for the International Mission Board.