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In Haiti, WMU team helps calm fears

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–Six months after Haiti was devastated by a magnitude-7 earthquake, relief efforts are ongoing — and Haitians whose lives were upended by the disaster are curious about the faith that has sent so many Christians to help them.

To help satisfy that growing curiosity about Jesus, a group of men and women with Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union ministered to women and children in Haiti’s mountains, June 26 – July 3.

“After the earthquake, we were told many people came to the churches because they were scared,” said Susan Bartholomew, WMU director for Baldwin Baptist Association in Silverhill, Ala. “The pastors were overwhelmed at first by all the people, but now they’re working to do all they can to minister to everyone.”

The nine-member WMU team traveled to Haiti to help with some of those outreach efforts. The team took Bible studies and activities based on Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Traditionally, most Haitians practice Voodoo, so their fear of evil is strong. In fact, the prayer request most often heard from women was to sleep well through the night without worrying about evil spirits. Initially, the children were cautious about accepting candy from the volunteers because the suckers made their tongues change colors — which they feared might be black magic.

Bartholomew said being able to alleviate those fears by bringing the hope of Jesus was a remarkable experience.

“One day, we saw 32 children accept Christ,” Bartholomew said. “To be able to pray with those little children, who say to you, ‘I want Jesus to come live in my heart,’ was such a blessing.”

Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU, enjoyed seeing “true from-the-gut laughter” from children as they “did the hokey pokey.”

“How wonderful it was to see that joy expressed,” McIntosh said. “When we left that day, the pastor’s wife said, ‘You will never know what you have done for us today.'”

That sentiment was expressed at each of the eight churches the WMU team visited, McIntosh said. Many of the churches didn’t even have complete roofs, yet locals filled the makeshift pews to worship. The time at the churches consisted of games, songs and Bible stories with the children as well as Bible studies and sharing times with the women.

“It was important to us that the women knew they were valued, were loved and had hope,” McIntosh said. “The unique thing for us was that we had Marie [Toussaint] with us, so we could understand the culture of the people and the church.”

Toussaint is a Haiti native who has lived in the United States for 20 years.

“To see how much courage they have after what happened to them, I can’t even describe it,” said Toussaint, who serves on the Haitian women’s team with the Florida Baptist Convention’s women’s missions and ministry department. “They ministered to me.

“I learned so much from my own people,” Toussaint said. “There was so much faith even though there was so much poverty. After five days there, we could see hope, joy and smiles on their faces.”
Anna Swindle writes for The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. A video from the ministry trip is available at www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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  • Anna Swindle