One year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Cleveland-based church-related agencies are still hard at work with relief efforts aimed at improving the life conditions of those affected by the quake and subsequent disasters.
“This has been a year of tragedy for Haiti, and the Church of God has been there since the first day,” said Douglas LeRoy, general director of World Missions. “While the earthquake is what people have heard most about, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation was also hit by Hurricane Tomas, plus an outbreak of cholera that has hospitalized nearly 100,000 and killed more than 3,000, and political upheaval that has practically brought the nation to a standstill.”
Church representatives from Cleveland were in Port-au-Prince the day of the quake. Retired missions leaders Lovell and Ginny Cary, with former missionary Lloyd Frazier, were in a vehicle driven by Haitian church leader Elysee Joseph when a wall alongside the road toppled onto the car, resulting in the death of Joseph and injuries to the others.
Since the early days of relief efforts, a construction missionary and his wife, Jim and Gina Hudson, have coordinated the work of visiting teams, using the church’s national office and Bible school property as a base of operations.
“The open spaces of the campus attracted hundreds of refugees living in tents and makeshift structures,” Hudson reported. “Our first efforts focused on feeding and caring for this huge homeless population. Later, we helped most of them relocate to camps set up to offer additional services, and we concentrated on preparing facilities to accommodate the U.S.-based teams that have been coming week after week to help with continuing relief.”
Within weeks of the earthquake, churches throughout the nation responded with more than $1 million to help finance food and water purchases, rebuilding projects, and related expenses. Operation Compassion, a sister organization to Church of God World Missions, immediately shipped numerous containers filled with food, water, and building materials.
Unfortunately, the turmoil that affected governmental operations and the endemic corruption that managed to survive the earthquake have stymied customs functions, resulting in unusual delays in delivering many of the supplies.
Efforts have been made to send prefabricated houses that can be erected on pre-prepared concrete slabs. These are planned primarily for widows and those least able to care for themselves.
Visiting teams have also worked on rubble removal and repair and rebuilding projects. The Church of God lost 74 church buildings that were completely destroyed or damaged to the point they were unusable, and many others suffered less damage. Teams sent by local churches stay at the campus at night, and they move into the city during the day for their work projects.
“Thankfully, our three orphanages were far enough from the center of the quake that they experienced little or no damage,” Dr. LeRoy indicated. “The principal clinic and our nurses school in Port-au-Prince were completely destroyed; however, they plan to resume training soon.”
In a related relief and recovery effort, the Church of God Chaplains Commission has been sending teams of counselors during the past year for the dual purpose of training pastors to deal with the stress people have experienced and offering counsel to the people themselves. Local church pastors from the U.S. have accompanied the teams to assist with counseling efforts and also to see firsthand the great needs in the nation. Returning to their congregations, they inspire their people to continue giving to help the Haitian situation.
An upcoming February trip by the chaplains will take along a group of farmers from Iowa who will deliver seeds, arrange for sending small farm implements, and assist the Haitian growers in basic practical farming.
“We have not viewed the Haitian challenge as a ‘quick fix,’ but we plan to be there a long time,” LeRoy added. “We’ve been in Haiti since 1933 and we are committed to remain, offering as much assistance as we can, with the help of God.”