On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 there was a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. The Family International had teams on the scene about a week later. The conditions in Haiti were devastating, but miraculously the teams found places to stay and food supplies. The majority of the team had a lot of experience in war torn countries in Africa, which were very similar to Haiti's needs at the time, as well as that of the care givers from all over the world who had come to help the Haitians.
Following are accounts of the experiences different volunteers of The Family International had in Haiti.
Entry into Haiti
We landed in the Dominican Republic with no real certainty as to how we were going to get to Haiti. I saw two ladies getting into a car, so I ran up and I asked them, “Are you going into town and could you give us a ride?” They asked what we were doing and when we explained that we were on our way to Haiti, they immediately drove us to the bus station.
While we were trying to organize our bus tickets a young man heard us talking, and when he asked what we did, I explained we were full-time missionaries. He said, “You’re not doctors?”
I said, “No, I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I can’t fix people’s bodies, but I can definitely pray for them.”
He said, “I like that. Listen, I’m part of an organization that’s traveling into Haiti tomorrow, and we would love to have you on board. So if you’d like, why don’t you just come with us. We’ll take care of you.”
This turned out to be an incredible help because instead of us having to wait in line and go through all the rigmarole and red tape at the border and customs, they were able to speed us through. They did all the translating and what would have taken about an hour to cross the border, took only about 10 minutes.
We were going to the general hospital in Port-au-Prince every day, comforting and talking to the different patients. One day we got a ride to the hospital from a lady who was bringing in teams of doctors and medical personnel and doing mobile clinics for rural areas. This lady was a Christian and she said, “You know what? The need here is so much more than just the physical. The need here is actually to be able to heal people’s hearts so they can go on and rebuild their lives and do more in the future.”
We teamed up with her team of doctors and every day we’d go to places that weren’t getting any medical care. We would set up a clinic early in the morning, and we’d get hundreds of people, sometimes 300-400 people a day. Each person would get a prescription card––they would say what their medical problem was, the doctor would give them a checkup, and a lot of people who were traumatized or that needed help spiritually, the doctor would write on the prescription card, “Needs spiritual counseling,” and they would then send them over to us. The patients would pick up their medication and their food and then come to us and we would talk to them, pray for them and sometimes just listen to their stories. A lot of them had a lot they wanted to say, but they had no one to talk to. We wound up talking to hundreds of people a day.
There Is a Purpose for Your Life
I approached an older man who had had his leg amputated and asked if I could pray for him and he said, “Sure, no problem.” When I finished praying, I saw he was struggling not to cry. He said, “It’s so difficult for me. It’s my job to take care of my family, and I’m lying here and my wife is taking care of me and she’s sick. She has a cold. I can’t do anything for my family.” Before I could say anything, the man said, “You know what? My life has just been one struggle after another. I don’t know what to do.”
I said, “I know there’s a purpose for your life. Just the fact that you’re alive shows that there’s a purpose.”
He was quiet for a bit and then he said, “There’s a purpose for me being in this bed. I thank You, God, because there is a purpose, and I trust You.” He said it with such beautiful peace and confidence. It was a very powerful moment.
A lady that was across from him who was listening to our whole conversation called me over. She said, “When the earthquake struck, I was in the house with eight other people, and when the house fell down, all of the people around me died, but I didn’t. There was no reason why I shouldn’t have died. I was buried under the rubble, but somehow I was able to pull myself through the rubble and I got out and I was okay. I have a broken arm and there were a few wounds, but I’m okay. When you told that man that there was a reason why he lived, I could hear that same voice in my heart telling me there’s a reason for me as well. And you know what? I’m thankful. I know something good is going to come from it.”
Against all Odds
I met a young man who had just been here for about a week. This was his first time overseas. He started telling me a story about a young boy he had found in the clinic, and he asked if I could come over and see this boy and spend a bit of time with him. So I walked over to the tent and there was this little boy sitting on his father’s lap, and he was missing an arm.
Apparently this father had eight children and he had lost seven of his children and his wife in the earthquake. He had thought his little boy was dead as well, but when they were moving the rubble his hand had started to move, so the father immediately strapped this little boy on his back and hiked 41 kilometers from his house to where the general hospital was. He walked all night with this little boy who had lost his arm to get him to the hospital.
Through an absolute miracle—the doctors didn’t even know how it happened—the little boy survived and they were able to take good care of him.
A whole bunch of children throughout the States had cut out little red paper hearts and then had translated a small message which said, “We love you and are praying for you and Jesus loves you,” in Creole. So many of these kids, when we first started talking with them, they wouldn’t interact, they wouldn’t really look at you, wouldn’t smile. And then you’d give them these little hearts and they’d read the message and kind of look at you shyly and then they’d give a big smile.
It was really special to see at the end of the day all these children holding these little hearts with this message on it, reading it to themselves or reading it to others. It was inspiring to see how just a little message like that encouraged the children.
The Gift of Life
I was in the pediatric ward of the hospital and I was going from mother to mother, praying for their babies. I came upon one little baby who was only three days old and he was so small. I asked the mother if it was possible I could pray for the baby. I put my hand on the baby’s hand and said a little prayer for his life, that he would get the food and nourishment that he needed.
The mother told me that she had lost the baby’s father in the earthquake. Then she said, “You know, I really feel Jesus’ love, that even though there was so much death all around, He still blesses us with life, I can still have a baby, and He’s still giving life. In a country where we’ve lost so much, He’s giving me this gift of life. I will treasure it for as long as I live.”
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
There was a lady who came in with her little girl, and they’d been sleeping out in the streets for the past month because their house had been destroyed. She said, “I want you to pray for my daughter. She’s four years old and she’s very afraid. She doesn’t want to enter a house. Every time a truck goes by and the earth shakes a tiny bit she starts to cry and sometimes even scream because she’s so afraid after the earthquake.” I asked her if she was a Christian. She said, “Yes, I’m Christian. I love Jesus and I understand that Jesus will care for me and I haven’t been afraid. But my daughter doesn’t understand these things.”
I don’t speak Creole and I didn’t know what to say to the little girl. I thought of the verse, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and so I explained to the mom in a very simple way that she just needs to give her little girl a lot of love, to hug her, to touch her, to talk to her, because there’s a verse in the Bible that says that perfect love takes away fear. I said the only way that her daughter is going to be able to feel Jesus’ love is through her, the mother.
The mom said, “That’s so true. I have been so busy trying to find a place to stay and trying to stay out of the rain that I haven’t really taken time to love my daughter. But I know that what you’re saying is very true, that if Jesus’ love takes away fear, and I give her Jesus’ love, she won’t be afraid anymore.” She was smiling, almost like she had found the perfect solution for this problem, and it was so simple.
A Day at a Time
I was walking into a ward and passed a bed with a young teenager. He had his leg in a cast, and as I looked around and saw people with amputations and huge bandages I thought, “I’d better go over to those people because they look like they could use some comfort.” But first I decided to stop and talk with the young boy.
I asked him how his leg was. He said it was broken and they were fixing it now. Then I asked him how his family was. His mother was sitting right next to him and she started telling me, “There were six of us in the house and now there’s only us. I lost my husband and my three other children.” What looked to me like just a broken leg on the surface, turned out to be a mother and son who were mourning the loss of their family and were so discouraged.
I encouraged them that they had each other, to not worry about the past or fear the future, because both of those things will bring them despair and discouragement.—To just think about today and what they have today and how they have each other and they have Jesus. This will help them through today, and then when tomorrow comes, they can tackle that.
When I finished, the mother thanked me over and over and said, “Merci Jezi, merci Jezi,” which is “Thank You Jesus” in Creole.
A Personal Reflection
I went to Haiti to give, to be a blessing and because I felt the Lord wanted me to go. But I gained so much more than I ever would have imagined. You meet people who’ve just lost everything, or were hurt in the earthquake, but they can still smile. If I had been in that situation, I don’t know how I would have reacted. We had people in the hospital smiling and singing to us, after they’d just lost their house, their friends, their families, and even an arm or a leg.
For me, that was sobering, because I realized that faith really isn’t contingent on circumstances. These people are in the most difficult circumstances that they could ever be in, and they’re still managing to not only hold on to their faith, but smile through their tears. That’s an experience I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.
I talked to a girl who was 16 years old, six months pregnant, had no food, and was sleeping on the street. Her husband had been killed, as well as her whole family. When we spoke, she was weeping. It was the first time she had actually told anyone what she was going through, and all I could think of was, “Oh, Jesus, please, You have to do something to take care of her.” We went to get her some food, and we had run out of food. We went to get some medicine, and there was no more of the type she needed.
I told her that Jesus was going to do a special miracle for her and provide everything she needed and a place to have her baby. She looked at me as though saying, “Are you sure about that?” Just then a nurse who had been helping me translate came running up and she said, “I just talked to my cousins on the phone. They’re going to take care of this girl for the whole time she’s pregnant, and they’ll help her in her delivery.” Another doctor came over and gave her some money, and within the space of a few minutes everything had worked out. All that she needed was taken care of right before our eyes. This girl was hugging everyone and saying, “It’s my miracle! It’s my miracle!”
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These are just a few of the many people our team of volunteers had the opportunity to help, comfort and encourage during their stay in Haiti. It was a very life-changing experience for each one, and we continue to pray for the Haitian people and the reconstruction of their beautiful country.
Originally Published in 2010.