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Haiti worker prays people won’t forget

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–Carved into the concrete floor of a one-room house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, are the words “With God all things are possible.”

The family living there lost their home Jan. 12, 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Haiti, claiming 230,000 lives and leaving more than 1.5 million people homeless.

Now this family has a home to call their own again. It’s a simple 12-by-16-foot house of cinder blocks and wood with a tin roof.

But those words — written in the local Creole language — are a powerful reminder of how God has blessed them.

“Every time they step on that doorstep, there it is at their feet,” said Mark Rutledge, an International Mission Board missionary assisting with Haiti relief efforts. In recent months, Rutledge has visited more than 100 families who now have new homes.

“It’s hard to describe the thankfulness people have for what has been done for them,” added Rutledge, who currently is stateside but plans to return to Haiti with his family.

Through a collaborative effort called “Rebuild Haiti,” the International Mission Board, Baptist Global Response, the Florida Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Haitian Baptists plan to build 3,200 houses by the end of 2013. And that number could rise to as many as 6,200 houses, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of BGR.

Since the disaster, Southern Baptists have given more than $13 million to relief efforts.

In addition to building homes, these funds have helped provide temporary shelters, medical care, food, supplies and clean water to desperate Haitians. Now, the main focus is building homes at a cost of about $2,500 each.

“We like this transitional house we’re working with,” Palmer said. “It’s just one room, but it’s expandable. They can put another room on — or two rooms. It gives them something to start with that they can build on.”

A drive through the capital city of Port-au-Prince continues to reveal the magnitude of the damage from a year ago. Thousands of Haitians still live under tarps in cramped, unsanitary “tent cities.”

The few Haitians whose homes have been rebuilt are spreading their joy and appreciation by helping others in their communities. Haitians are picking up hammers, pushing wheelbarrows and working alongside volunteers and missionaries to help rebuild homes — and lives.

The rebuild also is helping the local economy and providing more jobs for people out of work.

“You’re not just building houses,” Palmer said. “You’re stimulating local industry as well.

“The houses are all built out of materials that are available [locally],” he said. “Doing things locally, you put local people to work.”

Teams of Haitians also are being trained to lead the work effort.

“Our goal is to have 10 to 20 Haitian teams that are out helping to build these houses,” Palmer said. “It gives them ownership, gets them involved, gives them income and a job.

“In the long run, it’s going to take Haitians to rebuild Haiti.”

Local churches also are joining the effort and reaching out to those in need.

One of those churches is Shiloh Baptist Church, located on one of the many Port-au-Prince streets hit hard by the earthquake.

A year ago, the disaster claimed the life of the church’s pastor, three church leaders and more than 20 other members and destroyed most of their facility. In the weeks following the earthquake, many of its 800 members were living outside the church building under blue tarps.

“All our strong leaders in the church who were spiritual giants were prepared to go to the Lord … were the ones who were taken,” said one member just days after the disaster.

“We don’t know where our future leaders will come from.”

Another church member added, “The same God that allowed this to happen can rebuild it.”

One year later, the congregation worships under the leadership of a new pastor in the lower, open-air portion of their facility, which remains damaged but usable. Children’s classes are now held under the blue tarps where church members once lived.

“Shiloh is doing fairly well,” said Rutledge, who had regularly attended the church years ago with his family.

“They are actively involved now in rebuilding homes in their area … redoing and helping people to repair houses.”

The Gospel also is spreading as congregations who lost their buildings relocate to areas where there weren’t any churches, Rutledge said.

“We have churches in places that never had churches before simply because of the earthquake bringing down the building,” Rutledge added.

“I think that’s been a huge positive … continuing to see people baptized and accepting Christ in the church congregations that continue on.”

Volunteer medical teams from the United States also continue to treat earthquake victims’ lingering health problems, including those affected by the recent cholera outbreak. More than 3,000 Haitians have died from the epidemic, according to recent missionary reports.

IMB missionary Delores York vividly remembers what the first few weeks after the earthquake were like when she and her husband Sam helped with a medical clinic along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic. The Texas native held the hands of the wounded and felt helpless around so many who needed help.

“If your head was still attached, you kind of went to the bottom of the list,” York said. “The most critical were seen first. Some people didn’t get much care.”

Today, Haitians still come into clinics with old earthquake wounds that were never treated. Some have indentions in their skulls; some complain of memory loss. Others have bones that did not heal correctly.

“There’s not much you can do for those things,” York said. “Sometimes it’s just somebody taking the time to care and take a look and sometimes pray for them.”

York believes the Haiti earthquake has been a spiritual wakeup call for many Haitians. But as time passes, she acknowledges that the power of the wakeup call will dwindle.

“All of this will die out … but people are willing to talk about God, people that normally wouldn’t do it,” she said, noting that some voodoo witch doctors have turned to God since the quake.

York said that as Haiti fades from front-page news, she prays that Southern Baptists won’t forget what happened there.

“You don’t see it on the news, but they need prayer,” she said. “If you couldn’t send money, if you couldn’t go and be there yourself and help with construction, everybody [can] pray.

“The crisis isn’t over,” she said. “It’s going to be a long haul.”
Alan James is a writer for the International Mission Board. For information on Southern Baptists’ “Rebuild Haiti” initiative, visit www.gobgr.org or www.flbaptist.org. To watch a video about the IMB’s work there, go to To watch a video about the IMB’s work there, go to http://www.imb.org/main/downloads/flashvideos.asp?filename=/files/121/12191/12191-67937.flv..

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  • Alan James