Haiti response drawing to close
PORT-AU-PRINCE,Haiti—Sainvilma Junior had sat quietly through the evening devotion time, listening to the Americans and his fellow Haitians talk about the work that had gone on during the week. When he finally voiced carefully chosen words, they spoke volumes about the connection that has been forged between hundreds of Oklahoma Baptist volunteers and their Haitian counterparts since a 7.0 earthquake ravaged this impoverished Caribbean capital city almost a year ago.
Scanning the room with dark eyes, the whites of which beamed from his ebony-hued face, the young translator unintentionally preached a sermon in 20 words: “Although you have white skin, you have black hearts, and even though I have black skin, I have a white heart.”
The solemnity of the moment wasn’t lost on the Oklahoma disaster relief volunteers, who, almost in unison, uttered “Amen.”
While the Jan. 12 earthquake virtually turned this capital of the western nation of the island of Hispaniola into shambles and killed an estimated 230,000 people, God has done a mighty work here in its aftermath, said Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Jordan, who visited Haiti on Dec. 1, said, “It looked very much like a war zone. It was one of the most devastated areas I have ever seen. At the same time, it was very evident that the spirit of the people of Haiti is very strong, and they are very appreciative of all of the help they have received.
“Oklahoma Baptists have done a remarkable work there. We have made a major impact, both in the physical lives of the people and the churches, but also an incredible impact spiritually.”
As the end of the year approaches, Sam Porter, BGCO disaster relief director, reports that Oklahoma Baptists have given $630,381.91 for earthquake relief this year. As of Dec. 1, $543,737.25 of that had been spent, with the balance earmarked for some specific projects.
“The remainder will go pretty much for church buildings and a few more homes and possibly an evangelism project involving simultaneous revivals at four or five churches shortly after the first of the year,” Porter said.
Oklahoma Baptists also put together and donated almost 3,600 “Buckets of Hope” for Haiti. The buckets contained enough food to feed a family of five for a week.
Oklahoma has dispatched 34 earthquake response teams since the first week of February; 32 to Haiti and two to Chile—one building temporary housing and one feeding team.
Approximately 230 disaster relief volunteers have served in Haiti, and some have gone more than once.
“We have paid for construction of 66 houses; including six for pastors and one for a pastor’s widow in Haiti,” Porter said.
The average cost of those homes was between $1,500-$2,000.
Another major focus for Oklahoma volunteers has been providing clean water, a desperate need.
“As of last week, we had put 115 wells into operation, so we’ll have put in between 115-125 wells when we’re done,” Porter said. “We had six wells hand-dug and one drilled.”
Original plans called for Oklahoma teams to hand-drill wells using technology developed by Water Four of Edmond.
An initial attempt in February proved that the Haitian terrain wouldn’t accommodate that drilling process, and Porter turned to installing pumps on existing wells, instead.
“As a result, God opened the door to water for thousands of people, rather than for hundreds,” Porter said. “When we realized that there were existing wells, that opened the door for us to go in and purify a well and provide truly pure water for the community. And then especially when Cholera came along, those wells proved to be even more valuable in preventing the spread of the disease.”
Water in Haiti continues to be a critical issue. Porter said he heard that 80 percent of the population of Port-au-Prince still drinks water that is delivered by trucks coming to tent cities.
The wells/pumps completed by Oklahoma Baptists are mainly at church sites, while some are at homes.
“The intent was to be in pastor’s homes or church sites,” Porter said. “We also put wells in six orphanages.
“The most valuable thing we have done is provide the fresh water, even more than the housing. Several thousand people can drink the fresh water each week and in those critical locations, they’re going to hear about the living water every time they draw water from that well. So, the opportunity to share the Gospel will be there until Jesus comes.”
Oklahoma also conducted two medical clinics at Baptist Spirit Church in Carrefour, where they treated 1,600-plus patients, and performed more than 30 surgical procedures.”
In addition to addressing the physical needs, the spiritual condition of the Haitian people has been addressed, too, of course.
“There has been a huge revival in Haiti since the earthquake hit,” Porter said. “The last figure I saw was 162,000 salvations since Jan. 12 just in Baptist churches alone.”
That revival has been led mostly by faithful Haitian pastors, who are among the victims of the quake themselves.
Jordan said the heart of the Haitian pastors for sharing the Gospel is evident.
“It was clear to me that the pastors have experienced much personal loss, but they have turned their focus and energy on ministering not only to their people, but also to their city. And because of that spirit, it’s become infectious in their own people in their ability to present the Gospel in multiple ways,” he said.
One of those pastors, Marc Fabien Zius, leads a church in Cite Soleil, a seaside suburb of Port-au-Prince, which has been called “one of the most dangerous areas of the Western Hemisphere.” Most of the 3,000 convicts who escaped from the destroyed Haitian prison settled there after the earthquake.
“Zius has personally led 155 people to the Lord since the earthquake in a heavily voodoo area and gang neighborhood,” Porter said. “He hopes to build six churches. One recently started church with a well now has 49 members. He began with five people, and now averages 250 in his services, which are held on top of the slab of the church, which was destroyed by the earthquake.
Porter said some of the remaining funds given by Oklahoma Baptists will go to help rebuild Zius’ church.
“Oklahoma Baptists are helping to restore a church in one of the most violent, dangerous neighborhoods in the hemisphere. To me, that’s a wow deal,” he exclaimed.
Zius, who stands under five feet tall, is a huge man in the Lord.
“He went into the dark places and confronted the gang leaders and a couple got saved,” Porter explained. “Then the church had a surge, God blessed, and people realized God was in it, and the church grew quickly.”
Porter said Oklahoma Baptists also are investing in those who have helped them over the past 11 months. They include translators, drivers and cooks, who invested their lives in the “Oklahoma mission.” Porter is helping five of them to build new homes, including Midelyn and Errin, who cooked and cleaned for the Oklahoma teams at the “Oklahoma House” in Carrefour, and driver, Franky Durojene.
In an act of “teaching a man to fish,” Porter has intentionally helped translators Petit Homme Saint Luc (Louko) and Junior to learn the well business so they will have a means of income when the Oklahomans stop coming to Haiti. Another translator, Edras Dormestoire, has expressed hopes of becoming a doctor one day, and Jordan and Porter have agreed to help him with his education along the way.
“These young people have helped us tremendously, and we cannot thank them enough for what they have done for our volunteers,” Porter said.
“To see the pain and suffering that these people have gone through and are still a part of . . . living in tent cities with no running water, things that we take for granted every day, the abject poverty you see, it says that we have another great burden and there is much more to be done here in Haiti,” Jordan agreed. “I am thankful to Oklahoma Baptists for their generosity and their faithfulness in being willing to volunteer to go and be the hands and feet of Jesus there.
“God has blessed what we have done beyond measure. Oklahoma Baptists will never know both the temporal and eternal difference they have made in the lives of the people of Haiti.
“There will be work to be done in Haiti for multiplied years to come, and Oklahoma Baptists have been and will be involved in the days ahead of trying to relieve the suffering of the Haitian people and to have an impact on their lives spiritually.”