NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Seneque Saintil, pastor of an Atlanta-area Haitian congregation and a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student, is readying a team from his church to travel to the devastated island nation.
“Now more than ever, Haiti needs every possible hand to help those who lost what little they had,” Saintil said. The six-member team from Mitspa Haitian Baptist Church will include “some of the family members of those directly affected by the earthquake…. The objective of the trip is to minister to their family members and to others in the community by helping them financially, emotionally and spiritually.”
For Saintil’s Norcross, Ga., congregation, the ties to Haiti are deep.
“In my church alone, more than half of my congregation has at least one family member who has died in the earthquake,” Saintil said. A 65-year-old former member of the church also died in the Haitian disaster.
“This tragedy is devastating to my church,” Saintil said.
Saintil is but one example of New Orleans Seminary’s connection to Haiti. Working in tandem with the Florida Baptist Convention, the seminary provides ministerial training at centers in Port de Paix and Port-au-Prince. Last year, the seminary awarded ministry certificates to 107 Haitian pastors. Some 159 Haitian ministers have received training through the initiative.
“New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has a direct connection to the island of Haiti,” said David Lema, director of the seminary’s Center for the Americas, where at least 100 Haitian students — including many on the island itself — are enrolled in ministry preparation coursework. For many, there is still no word on their fate.
“At this time we are unaware of any casualties among that group of students in Haiti nor of specific details as to damage to NOBTS students’ homes or churches,” Lema said.
Many of NOBTS’ Haitian students in Miami, meanwhile, have relatives in Haiti who are unaccounted for.
“Many of our students are pastors or church leaders in Florida and, through their congregations, share many points of personal contact in Haiti,” Lema said. “Our students are being challenged to minister in many ways as a result of this disaster. Communications are difficult and the churches and their leaders in Haiti are working to set up viable ties.”
Pastor Wadler Jules, a doctoral student at NOBTS, serves on the staff at Emanuel Haitian Baptist Church in Miami. Emanuel, one of the oldest and largest Haitian congregations in Florida, is serving as one of three donation centers for earthquake relief. Emanuel also works with some 40 Baptist churches in Haiti in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention.
As for Saintil’s church, after their initial journey to Haiti, he and his team intend to return later with a 24-foot trailer filled with much-needed supplies.
“We need almost everything,” Saintil said, listing such supplies as non-perishable food items (rice, beans, flour, sugar, cooking oil, etc.), clothing, medications, bandages and other health care items and school supplies.
Lema, voicing a call to prayer, said, “We ask for prayers for our NOBTS Haitian students, and their families and churches, who have been affected by the disaster both in Haiti and in Florida.”
Saintil, as he prepares to return to the island of his birth, remains unshaken in his faith.
“It’s hard,” he said. “But God is in control.”
Paul F. South is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Contributions for 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, 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.”
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.