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UPDATE — Waiting for a word from Haiti

EDITOR’S NOTE (Jan. 16): Scott Nelson, director of Haitian Ministries for the Miami Baptist Association, reported Jan. 15 Jules Fritzer has found his wife and children and they are uninjured. Nelson said churches throughout the association are very involved in relief efforts and have set up “drop” sites for tents, shoes, non-perishable goods and other supplies to fill containers to send to Haiti. Miami Baptists are also collecting money for postage to send the supplies. For more information, go to: http://www.miami-baptistassociation.org/miamibaptistchurches/haitian_needs_our_help.

Watch BPNews.net for continuing updates.

MIAMI (BP)–Jules Fritzer, pastor of Premier Haitian Baptist Church in Miami, has been waiting on news of his wife, “Madame Fritzer” and several of their children.

In Haiti for the Christmas holiday to visit relatives, she would have been staying in a guesthouse operated by the Florida Baptist Convention when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Tuesday, Jan. 12. The home in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince is only about 13 miles from the epicenter of the quake, according to Scott Nelson, director of Haitian ministries for the Miami Baptist Association.

“It’s not easy on him at all,” Nelson said of Fritzer. “Just not knowing is the hardest part.”

After hearing news of the mass destruction and loss of life, Fritzer has been doing what others like him do. They wait and hope. They pray.

Haitian Memorial (Evangelical) Baptist Church in Miami is scheduled to hold a prayer service from 7-9 p.m. tonight, Jan. 15, Nelson said, with pastor David Eugene leading.

“All of our pastors have family in Haiti,” Nelson said of the 84 Haitian churches affiliated with the Miami Baptist Association, representing about a third of the association’s churches. Another 890 Baptist churches in Haiti were started with assistance from the Florida Baptist Convention.

“The churches are all working together on disaster relief and everything,” Nelson said.

Referencing Florida Baptists’ involvement with disaster relief during the historic hurricane seasons of the 1990s, Nelson said he takes some comfort in the fact that authorities in Miami-Dade County and the Southern Command have already indicated they will rely on established networks like Florida Baptist disaster relief to assist in Haiti.

“It’s a lot bigger than the last time,” Nelson said, however. “This is going to be years.”

And even while he helps, Nelson cringes from the images coming back from a country where he served for 14 years.

Missionaries to Haiti from 1977-91, Nelson and his wife Dori are not immune to the pain of knowing tens of thousands were injured or killed in the quake.

“I spent the whole night crying and in prayer the first night,” Nelson said, after the quake hit. He soon learned that his best friend, president of a communication’s company, and other friends were accounted for.

A Bible school where he taught has collapsed, however, and two of the workers were killed. Nelson said he has yet to know the identity of those killed.

“It’s sad,” Nelson said. “But people will need to be patient.”

Knowing firsthand what it’s like to live and work in a country with little to no infrastructure, Nelson said volunteers won’t be able to go in right away and that people might be “more of a problem than of a help.”

Officials at the Florida Baptist Convention agree.

Craig Culbreth, director of Florida Baptists’ partnership mission department, who has traveled to Haiti for the past 11 years, will lead an assessment team of convention staff members to Port-au-Prince this weekend to learn the condition of Florida Baptists’ guesthouse and employees who serve as missions leaders and guesthouse staff.

They also will begin preliminary plans in coordinating the delivery of disaster relief aid to the hurting nation, checking logistics and the availability of transportation of food and medical supplies into the damaged neighborhoods.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

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).
Online, donations to Florida Baptists’ efforts for Haiti earthquake relief can be made at www.flbaptist.org, or to Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32257. Designate checks for “Haitian Earthquake Relief.” For more information, call 1-800-226-8584, ext. 3135, or 904-596-3135.

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.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan