RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptist missionaries with long-term connections to Haiti, where the death toll from a Jan. 12 earthquake is still beyond counting, are anxiously waiting to hear from friends and former co-workers in the country. Currently, the International Mission Board does not have long-term personnel stationed in the country.
Mark Rutledge, who served with his wife Peggy in Haiti for 26 years, has been unable to contact anyone he knows in the country. The earthquake destroyed much of Haiti’s communications infrastructure, according to news reports, and telephone service is spotty at best.
Inadequate building codes may have multiplied the death toll, Rutledge observed.
“To me it’s pretty overwhelming,” said Rutledge, who was in the United States when the quake occurred. “The codes were sufficient in the 1800s, but they’re not now. The houses are very close together with multiple stories. There is a lot of potential for widespread devastation. There could easily be hundreds and hundreds of thousands dead or homeless.”
Dawn Goodwin, who worked in Haiti for nearly 17 years before transferring to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has been able to learn about conditions in Haiti through the Facebook social networking site. Although cell phones and land lines are not working, people with Internet access through satellite dishes have been able to communicate online, Goodwin said.
Through Facebook, Goodwin learned about friends Bruce and Cindy McMartin, who serve with another missionary organization, working into the night Jan. 12 to try to locate students at their Bible school who were missing after the earthquake.
“We’re all just still in shock I think … just too incredible to believe and to think about all the damage is overwhelming,” McMartin wrote on Facebook. “The noise around [the neighborhood] this morning is of people digging out and then the wails as they find their dead loved ones.”
Goodwin finds it hard to express the emotions she feels about the destruction in Haiti and her desire to help survivors. The Port-au-Prince neighborhood in which she used to live was just a few blocks from the United Nations building that was destroyed by the quake.
“The devastation is so overwhelming — there are no words for me to express what I see when I see the pictures,” Goodwin said. “I don’t know what I can do as one person, but I do feel like I should be there ministering and helping. I know that the missionaries [from other groups] who are there, many of them are out in the streets now trying to find people to help.
“Haiti is a place that had so many problems already; if the world will come in and help, Haiti can be rebuilt,” Goodwin added. “My heart is really heavy for the people who are suffering and can’t get anybody to come rescue them because there are probably thousands who are trapped, waiting for rescue.”
Haitian Christians will be giving themselves wholeheartedly in service to neighbors in need and would be grateful for prayer support, Rutledge added.
“We just ask Southern Baptists to pray for the many people impacted and for the [local] Christians to minister to communities at large,” Rutledge said. “Haitians are very caring people.”
Reported by the International Mission Board’s communications staff. 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.namb.net) or the International Mission Board (www.imb.org). 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, (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.” 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. Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.