More than five years after a massive earthquake struck Haiti, missionary teams from Calvary Chapel continue their outreach in the impoverished nation. The quake measuring 7.0 struck on January 12, 2010 and killed over 250,000 people, leveling most of the buildings in the Port-au-Prince area, the Capital city which was home to over 1 million before the earthquake. The epicenter of this disastrous quake was near the Léogâne area, between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, on the south coast of Haiti.
After the earthquake, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (CCFL), teamed with Calvary Chapels in Costa Mesa, California, and Old Bridge, New Jersey, to create the Haiti Initiative, focused on church plants, reconstruction and ministry in the Jacmel area, which also was devastated by the earthquake; however, most of the international aid and assistance has been in the Port-au-Prince area. Pastors Sam Felix and Genor Zamor grew up in the poorest slum in Port-au-Prince, Cité Soleil (City of the Sun), and Pastor Sam was on staff at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale at the time of the earthquake, having received his university education in Florida. After the earthquake, Pastor Sam said there was no doubt in his mind that God had called him to minister in Jacmel.
Since that time, two Calvary Chapel churches have been planted in the area, one in Jacmel and one in Beaudouin, near the regional airport north of the city. Beaudouin has several square miles of unpaved streets and temporary housing built by USAID and other international relief and development agencies and is essentially a new city carved out of the wilderness to create shelter for the thousands in the Jacmel area who had lost their homes. CCFL has been sending teams to Jacmel since the earthquake to help with the restoration and relief effort and for ministry.
I went on a short-term missions trip in late July of this year, led by Pastor Brian of the CCFL North Lauderdale campus. Eleven of us went for one week, including a roofing contractor and former general contractor, a high school teacher, and three 17-year-old girls who will be high school seniors, a pharmaceutical worker, and me, a former surveyor and civil engineer. None of the other team members had ever been to Haiti on a missions trip, although one of the women was born in Haiti and spoke fluent Creole, and another was second generation Haitian. These two team members did most of the interpretation and translation for the team.
Our plan for the week was to work in the poorest areas of Jacmel and Beaudouin, where the needs were greatest, and build beds for the elderly, many of whom have been sleeping on a mat on the ground for over six years now. We all planned to go into the villages and minister from house to house, focusing on the elderly, many of whom are widows over 60 years old, and one was 106 years old and “ready to go home,” as we asked her what her present needs were. We all restricted our luggage for the week to one carryon and a backpack, as we were permitted one checked bag of up to 50 pounds by Jet Blue, which now has direct service from Fort Lauderdale to Port-au-Prince. The luggage restriction was easier for some of us than others, but even the high school seniors willingly complied, as this allowed us to pack eleven large suitcases and duffel bags with good quality clothing and shoes, which were received with great joy.
The house to house ministry was very effective, as it allowed us to “give a cup of cold water” along with the gospel message and personal ministry, praying for the elderly and their families by household with the native Creole speakers interpreting for the Anglophones, or in many cases praying directly for them in Creole with team members laying on hands as the people gladly received our prayers.
After a day of ministering in the hot sun on Monday, we regrouped in the large guest house that has been set up for teams coming in to minister. Sitting around the dinner table in the evening over a delicious meal of rice and red beans, goat meat sauce and fried plantains, we compared notes. Most of the guys had built beds for the elderly while the women painted two of the pastors’ houses and ministered in the villages and at the ongoing VBS. The girls were moved by an elderly woman they met named Christina, who had been sleeping in a pup tent on the ground for over two years. In an incredible series of circumstances, it turns out that the tent had been purchased for her over two years ago by the wife of one of our team members, who in turn had been on a short term missions trip to Jacmel.
We tried to think of what we could do to get Christina out of that now worn-out tent and into better housing. We decided the most effective way to help was to pool our resources and buy materials so the church members in Jacmel could build her something after we left, due to the limited time we would be there. We brainstormed a small weatherproof structure we could build while we were there, as we corporately had the skills and knowledge to do some minor building construction. Finally, we decided we could preconstruct a small basic home, building and assembling the modular pieces on a concrete slab at the church property where we had electricity and power tools available.
The vision progressed from a pipe dream to a reality, by the grace of God and with his leading and guidance. After purchasing $700 worth of lumber and $200 in paint, nails and screws, we assembled and painted the modular pieces, tacking them together temporarily on the concrete slab to ensure they fit. The foundation was prepared near the pup tent on Wednesday and the disassembled home loaded in pieces on a flatbed truck for delivery. After assembling the home on its foundation, we completed its galvanized metal roof on Thursday and fastened a large cross near the front door.
The look of happiness on Christina’s face as she moved into her new home with her new bed was priceless!
God’s hand of protection and guidance was on us for the week, as we accomplished all we had set out to do and more.
To learn more about the mission in Haiti, visit calvarychapelhaitiinitiative.org.
Bob Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and HBC Engineering, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].