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Bringing water to Haiti, God’s way

PORT-AU-PRINCE,Haiti—Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma disaster relief director Sam Porter hoped to bring fresh water to thirsty Haitians by drilling new wells.

God had other plans.

After Oklahoma volunteers—joined by others from Alabama and Georgia— spent four days Feb. 9-12 hand drilling to a depth around 21 feet at the Eglise Chretienne de Brache (Christian Church of Brache ) at Leogane west of this capital city, God revealed that He has another mission in mind for volunteers in the future.

“Joshua told Israel they harvested from fields and vineyards they did not plant,” Porter said Feb. 15 after he and Rusty Gilbert and Jim Gay, both from Bethany, First, had installed a pump on an existing well at another church. “We will pump water from scores of wells that we did not dig.”

The three Oklahomans successfully drew water from the well at The Baptist Spirit Church of Carrefour, where an Oklahoma medical team had held a clinic. The well, which was about 60 feet deep, was estimated to be holding about six feet of water in it, but the church didn’t have a pump to reach it. Gilbert and Gay, water purification specialists, installed the pump and necessary PVC pipe and had water flowing from the well at 3:30 that afternoon.

“This is a God thing,” Porter said. “We can set these well pumps much faster than we can dig a new well, of course. God took our plan and tweaked it to make the most good out of it.”

The work at the well at Leogane was frustrating, even though the site had been recommended by Florida Baptist officials and geological surveys indicated chances were good for success. The site was also just a short distance from a river.

Joining the Oklahoma well drilling team were disaster relief volunteers David Mulkey and John Hayes of Alabama and Ron Brent and Julian Spence of Georgia.

The initial day of digging went well, with the team reaching a depth of about 16 feet as pastor Francois Jean Milot and curious onlookers watched the progress.

From there, however, the dig only gained two feet the second day as the ground became stony, and the team eventually had to cap the well several days later as the stones broke their tools.

The church, which had a membership of around 120 before the Jan. 12 earthquake, now has some 180 people attending services, said Milot, who celebrated his 25th anniversary as pastor there last Nov. 29.
Mid-week, Milot distributed 1-pound jars of peanut butter to residents in the area as the work on the well continued. Initial takers of the jars were children, who chattered excitedly as they raced away with the prize in their hand.

Word soon spread and the crowd grew. The hunger in the faces of the Haitians was evident as they crowded close to the doorway of a shed from which Milot was handing out the jars. Voices were raised and bodies surged forward several times as the crowd neared a frenzy to grab the food.

One young boy grabbed two jars and was chased by several adult males, who shouted angrily at him. Other adults came to his defense, however, and he eventually scooted away with both jars clutched securely in his fists.

The scene reinforced the truth that many Haitians are still hungry more than a month after the earthquake, despite relief efforts. While many vendors line the tattered streets of the city selling food, it was evident many Haitians simply don’t have any money to buy it. Near the harbor, people in long lines—mostly women—could be seen waiting to receive a bag of rice from relief agencies.

Meanwhile, as the rainy season approaches, it is estimated that more than 1.2 million Haitians are living outside in makeshift shelters because their homes were destroyed or they are afraid to sleep indoors. Tent cities abound in clusters along the major highway, along city streets and encircling the destroyed Presidential Palace.

As the highway stretches west, resourceful Haitians have built “homes” from anything they can salvage—wood, bamboo, corrugated metal, plastic, linen sheets, canvas—in the small median that separates the lanes of traffic. These residences stretch for blocks, side-by-side, without a break in the line.

Children peek from behind a flap of plastic to watch the trucks, buses, “tap taps” (local taxis) and a myriad of other vehicles pass by, inches away, dust swirling in their wake.

Livestock runs rampant. Pigs, goats, ducks and chickens have free rein, fearless of the few skinny dogs also running wild.

The children are the hope and future of Haiti, as they are everywhere. Grab a camera and they bashfully smile back at you or flash a “peace” sign with two skinny fingers. As their world lives in turmoil, a young boy pulls a toy car he has made out of discarded plastic water bottles and tied a string to behind him on the sidewalk. Along the highway inside the tent cities, an occasional kite can been seen climbing into the sky on a mid-afternoon breeze. And, despite the hunger which rumbles in their stomachs, they are quick to flash a smile and return a wave of greeting.

Bob Nigh

Author: Bob Nigh

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