Oklahoma teams ready to build permanent homes for Haitians
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)—Sixty-six-year-old Libien Lorniska, pastor of the Baptist Spirit Church of Carrefour, prays every day that his congregation’s building, demolished in the 7.0 earthquake that struck here Jan. 12, will be re-built “before the Lord takes me home to Heaven.”
He is confident now that his prayers will be answered, thanks to the generosity of Oklahoma Baptists and the willingness of state disaster relief volunteers to serve in this island nation.
The estimated pricetag of repairing the church building is $15,000 (U.S.), an amount beyond even the wildest imagination of any optimistic Haitian pastor. Sam Porter, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma disaster relief director, pledged to provide the funds necessary to purchase the materials to rebuild the church from donations made by Oklahoma Baptists to the Haiti relief fund. Lorniska’s job will be to find workers to finish the job, which actually has already begun.
“Oklahoma churches and individuals gave generously to allow us to be here and help you,” Porter told Lorniska June 3. “We have grown to love you, and we want to provide a safe and comfortable place for you to worship and minister to this community.”
The Baptist Spirit Church was one of the initial places Oklahoma disaster relief volunteers ministered in Haiti following the earthquake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people and left some 1.2 million homeless. A BGCO medical team held a clinic there Feb. 9-12, treating almost 700 patients.
“This church will be your home whenever you come to Haiti,” a grateful Lorniska told Porter and other volunteers present. “All the glory will be to the Lord, and may God bless you and Oklahoma Baptists.”
Porter explained to the pastor that there are more than 1,700 Southern Baptist churches affiliated with the BGCO.
“Now you have one more—the Baptist Spirit Church of Carrefour,” Lorniska grinned, spreading his arms wide. “May God bless the people of Oklahoma for spending money for God in a good way to bless the people of Haiti. Your money is going to a good cause.”
In addition to helping to repair the church building, Oklahoma Baptists will be providing secure, stable, solid housing for many families in the near future, including several of the pastors.
While Porter was in Haiti June 1-4, he met with several pastors, including, Lorniska, who identified families that lost their homes in the earthquake.
Porter’s goal is to build homes for 100 Haitian families over the next year. The homes, expected to cost $1,500 each to build, will be built on 12-foot-by-20-foot slabs, or foundations. The one-room, concrete block structures allow for a four-foot roof extension, providing for a shade porch for the occupants. Each structure will have a metal roof, a front and rear door and windows for ventilation. The homes’ floors will be left to the homeowner to be finished.
“It is imperative that the homes be built on property the recipients own and are not renting,” Porter stressed, “because as soon as we finish a home in that case, the landlord will just evict the families and take over. I have witnessed this in other rebuild situations.”
Priority will be given to widows with small children and the elderly who have no one to help them, Porter said.
“We will insist that the pastors of the churches select those to receive the homes,” he said.
Porter made arrangements with a local concrete block manufacturer to provide blocks at a discounted rate for the project. Each home is expected to require about 500 concrete blocks to complete, he said.
The home building projects will begin in late June, with volunteer teams rotating in and out on a weekly basis, Porter indicated. Also a team of 15 college students will serve in Haiti from July 4-17.
Since February, Oklahoma Baptist volunteers have either dug or installed pumps on 35 wells in the Carrefour area. Porter said he expects volunteers to provide pure drinking water at a total of 100 such sites across the area by the end of the year.
On June 3 he made arrangements with a pair of well diggers to hand dig a well at the Eglise Chretienne de Brache in Leogane, where the Oklahoma team had unsuccessfully tried to dig a well in February. When he left at the time, Porter promised Pastor Francois Jean Milot that he would return and either complete the failed well or provide another one for the church, which was demolished by the earthquake.
That vision soon will become a reality.