PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–The Vallee de Bourdon neighborhood in Port-au-Prince was a beautiful place to live — before the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti Jan. 12.
An otherworldly light filled the hillside community when the setting sun angled its rays through the surrounding lush trees. Like stadium seats, houses were stair-stepped up from the riverbed below. Stairways leading from one level to the other functioned as sidewalks on slopes too steep for roads.
Now, “… the neighborhood is almost completely destroyed,” said Hubert Duchatelier, a Haitian Baptist and father of five who has lived in Vallee de Bourdon for 13 years.
When the earthquake started, Hubert was on his home’s flat rooftop. From there, he had a view of the whole valley and saw the houses of his neighborhood shake and fall. When the quake ended, all he could hear was wailing.
His family was unharmed. So were his mother’s and sister’s households nearby. But his brother’s house, only yards from his own, collapsed on the family inside. The bodies of his brother Edgar and four others are still buried beneath the rubble.
But Hubert is grateful that so many others have survived, given that most of the houses covering the hillside are only broken shells of concrete. Walls have collapsed, exposing empty interiors.
People continue to move along the stairways, but few stop at any houses. Some people sought shelter in other communities. Those who stayed have resettled along the riverbed in sheet-metal shacks that used to house their pigs. Though difficult to live in, these leaky huts pose less of a threat than the houses if another earthquake occurs.
“We live like pigs here. I can say that because it’s me,” said Hubert, pointing out the mud, burning trash and wandering pigs. “This is not a way to live.”
After saving money for two weeks, Hubert was able to move his wife Marie and their five children between the ages of 2 and 12 out of their sheet-metal shack to a one-room house in Marie’s hometown of Saint-Marc. Every day, Hubert uses public transportation to travel nearly 46 miles from Saint-Marc to Port-au-Prince, where he works at the Florida Baptist Convention’s Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti (CMBH) guesthouse.
Hubert recently received a theology degree from Haitian Baptist Theological Seminary after three years of study. Before the earthquake, he led Bible studies in his home, gave devotionals for his neighbors twice a day and shared the “JESUS” film along with International Mission Board missionaries Mark and Peggy Rutledge. Sometimes he stood in public and spoke against voodoo.
“I am not afraid of [voodoo],” Hubert says. “When [people] talk about that, I take out my Bible and read Psalm 91 to them and I tell them, ‘Don’t be afraid, because God is your shelter.'”
Hubert will have to make a new start — and find a bigger home — in Saint-Marc. But he has every intention of continuing his ministry. He plans to speak out about his faith and share devotions with his neighbors in his new community.
“You’re supposed to minister where you are. I plan to do the same thing in Saint-Marc,” Hubert says. “After this earthquake, if God saved your life, He saved it to continue His work.”
Haitians are interested in God’s Word right now, Hubert says. They believe God spared their lives and they will listen carefully to people who talk about Him.”
Hubert asks for people to pray that his family will stay close to God. “Tell the people in America to be praying, because I am going to start a new work for God where my family is now,” he says. “And for me to touch people’s hearts when they hear my teaching.
“And pray for me,” Hubert adds. “For God to give me strength to continue His work in good and bad times.”
Tristan Taylor is a writer for the International Mission Board in the Americas.