PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–Despite roadblocks in Haiti — both figurative and physical — the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assessment team has gathered valuable information to shape a strategic response to the Jan. 12 earthquake and has already provided help for some of the island’s struggling people.
On Jan. 22, the five-member team began their work by trying to gain access to the Port-au-Prince airport in order to meet with other non-government organizational leaders. But the location is in high demand and access was limited. After waiting for more than an hour, team member Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response, sent out a prayer request about conditions at the airport.
“God literally sent us an angel,” Brown said.
Earlier, the team had received the name of a ministry partner with Mission Aviation Fellowship, a nongovernmental organization that facilitates air travel in times of disaster, but Brown had been unable to make contact.
“He just showed up next to our car on the very busy public road, asked who we were, got in the vehicle with us and then said to follow him,” Brown said. “We got right into the airport — a real miracle!”
Once inside, the team was able to make valuable contacts for logistics, supplies and airport status information. They are concerned, however, that the volume of traffic necessary to begin rebuilding the country will cause use of the airport to be more restricted in the future.
Another possible work location in Port-au-Prince is a medical clinic operated by several organizations BGR has partnered with in the past that is set up next to Haiti’s presidential palace. The strategically placed clinic is a hub of caregivers, displaced people, Haitian authorities and United Nations troops.
“This will most probably be one of our initial work sites,” Brown said. “We feel this place will be a strategic door for us to enter with the purpose of developing relationships with other partners.”
While at the clinic, the team had the opportunity to share food, medical supplies and prayer with the workers. But the clinic, which cares for thousands of people, is in dire need of baby formula and electrolyte solution.
“Babies are dying because of lack of this!” Brown said in a Jan. 21 e-mail. “They haven’t had anything but canned milk in over a week.”
The team planned to purchase and deliver approximately $12,000 worth of baby nutritional needs. Mark Rutledge, an International Mission Board missionary in Haiti who is traveling with the assessment team, has connections in Port-au-Prince where the supplies can be purchased.
“I know this will be a real blessing, just like our food and medicine delivery today,” Brown said.
The team also provided $10,000 to leadership of one Haitian Baptist convention. The money will be used to distribute food, mainly rice and beans, in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, a key city to the north.
Baptist Global Response was able to meet those needs because of Southern Baptists’ gifts to their hunger and disaster relief funds.
“We are hearing more and more reports about displaced people relocating in the Cap Haitien area,” Brown said. “There may be another emergency medical need up there.”
On Jan. 22, the team planned to survey the needs of Haitian Baptist churches. A meeting was arranged with a pastor who has already done a preliminary assessment of churches to the south and southwest of Port-au-Prince.
“Mark Rutledge and I feel certain this will uncover other locations for emergency food purchase plus possible other sites for initial medical teams with Haitian Baptist Convention,” Brown said.
On Jan. 24, the team is scheduled to meet with Dominican Republic leaders to discuss future ministry possibilities along the border.
“We think this will be another “front” for us,” Brown said.
A four-member Florida Baptist Convention assessment team also is in Haiti exploring avenues for disaster relief response. The state convention has had a 15-year partnership with Haiti Baptists, during which nearly 900 churches have been started there. The convention has seven Haitian employees in the island country and a guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, which remains usable after the earthquake.
Jack Caulfield is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at gobgr.org.
Southern Baptists can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board (www.imb.org) or the International Mission Board (www.namb.net):
— Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board’s disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online, www.imb.org, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
— The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti. Donations may be made online, www.NAMB.net, by phone, 1-866-407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to “Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB.”
Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.