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Two years after Haiti quake, churches struggle to solve ‘the most complex humanitarian crisis of modern times’


A battered office chair sits among the remains of the Delmas 28 Church of Christ in Port-au-Prince after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. A class of nursing students was studying in the building when the quake hit. A doctor who cared for members of the congregation died, as did 36 nursing students, minister Jean T. Elmera said. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake. The Christian Science Monitor reports on the progress and work that remains as Haitians rebuild their shattered country.

Two years after a devastating earthquake in Haiti — an event some have dubbed the most complex humanitarian crisis of modern times — fresh signs of progress are offering hope.
Two-thirds of displaced Haitians have been moved out of camps. More than half of some 10 million cubic meters of rubble strewn across Port-au-Prince has been cleared. Schools are being repaired and rebuilt. Some 430 kilometers (about 270 miles) of roadway have been constructed or rehabilitated.
But the sense lingers that a comprehensive, long-term plan is sorely missing — even with an investment of $2.38 billion to rebuild from a disaster that killed up to 300,000 people and left 1.5 million people homeless. Many say the “build back better” mantra championed by former President Bill Clinton is nowhere near reflective of today’s reality of an often-chaotic reconstruction process.

One church-supported ministry, Hope for Haiti’s Children, sent a message to its e-mail list acknowledging the grim anniversary.

In the two years since the earthquake, our Haitian staff, principals, and church members have done truly inspirational work — from administering to the immediate needs of their people after the earthquake and during a cholera epidemic to managing construction projects as they attempt to rebuild schools, build homes and strengthen what was lost.

The ministry also sent a photo collage of the Delmas 28 Church of Christ in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

I visited the church building twice — once in 2010 when it was a pile or rubble (see related story) and again in 2011 when the rebuilding efforts were underway (see related story). Lord willing, I will return to Haiti next month to see some of the ongoing work in the northern Haitian city of Cap Haitien.

There are almost too many church-supported ministries working in Haiti to list — Healing Hands International, White’s Ferry Road Relief and Global Samaritan Resources to name just a few. If your congregation is involved in Haiti work, please post a note below.

Also, I would love to get your thoughts on ministry in Haiti. What should be the goal of churches working in this Caribbean nation? What does a good outcome look like? Do you suffer from “compassion fatigue” when you think about Haiti? In short, is there hope for this country’s future?

  • Feedback
    If you are preaching Christ and showing Him to the people there, there is Hope! A good outcome is more Christians because of the work being done. Preach the Word brother in word and deed! And Thank you. God’s blessings on you and all who teach God’s Word.
    Lola Brownlee
    January, 12 2012

    We, Pegram church of Christ, support Arnold Garcon on a monthly basis. He is a preacher at the North Haiti Church of Christ. He sends reports to us sporadically on the conditions there and what is being restored and rebuilt. They have a new location in downtown Cap Haitien. The recovery there seems overwhelming to us in the U.S. And I fear that it has been forgotten, perhaps assumed that things are back to normal. But reports like this one, and Arnold’s, keep us reminded of the huge task ahead that will take years to complete. Thank you for your work there and your reports to us in the U.S. churches. God Bless!
    Cindy Vick
    January, 12 2012

    I went to Haiti last summer, part of a 20 member mission team with Hope for Haiti’s Children, to present a Youth Conference in Port-au-Prince. Yes, the country is still far from being rebuilt. Yes, it is riddled with poverty and filth, the likes I have never witnessed before. But when working and worshiping with the brethren there, I was filled with hope and love and the Spirit. These are an amazing people; strong in their faith and love for each other. We must continue to work WITH them and teach them and show them the love of God in our actions. I, personally, hope to return many times.
    Teresa Lewis
    January, 12 2012

    Erik, I met you in Port-au-Prince in 2011. I am planning my 9th trip to Haiti. I plan on returning there Feb. 9th. Most of my time is in Port-au-Prince. I worked for a week or so in LaVictorie.
    Many of the reports I see about Haiti seem to be misleading to me. They are showing many in tent cities, and I think that is under-reported. Many of the people in tent cities now previously lived in rusty tin buildings about the size of their tents now and their food supply now is many times better than it was before the earthquake. It would appear to me that the lives now of many is not different than before the earthquake, it was bad, little food and no opportunity.
    Much work needs to be done there still � humanitarian and spiritual. Two examples of spiritual work are, the Ganthier Church of Christ about 45 minutes out of Port-au-Prince on Nation Highway 3 had over 50 baptisms in 2011. Their Sunday attendance has been about 300-400 each Sunday, Jean Claubert Belton is the preacher.
    The Santo Church of Christ is in a new church building, and I am not sure but think they had over 25 baptisms in 2011. It would appear that the relief effort to provide food is drying up and many NGOs are leaving. There is some light there … working there is challenging but much needs to be done thru humanitarian efforts and the work of the Church must continue.
    Joe Holley
    January, 12 2012

    I just left a memorial service in The Delmas 28 Church of Christ building. It started about 5 PM and I left about 8:30. It was so unnerving sitting in the total masonry building knowing that exactly 2 years ago 38 young nurses and the medical director were killed in this very building.
    There was singing and individuals would get up and tell about their experience or the losing of a loved one, or in some cases an entire family. Individuals were proud to sing a solo or just share.
    When I left I was told the event would go on all night.
    The power went out a few times and every one either opened their cell phone or had a flash light, looked like concerts in the 1960’s.
    I have been blessed to have the opportunity to be here for the past 2 years and have come to love the Haitian people.
    Please continue to pray for the Haitian children who have so little and we in the US have so much.
    Harry Hames
    January, 12 2012

    Joe and Harry, great to hear from you both. Thanks for the updates. Keep doing the Lord’s work in Haiti.
    Erik Tryggestad
    January, 13 2012

    Christian Relief Fund out of Amarillo is partnering with a church in Cap Haitien and doing a great work. Students from Rebels for Christ in Oxford, Mississippi partnered with them last May and we hope to go again this May!
    Casey Coston
    January, 18 2012

    I have many friends that have been traveling to Cap Haitien on medical missions for many years and I am always touched by the stories they tell about the strength and joy these Christians portray to the rest of Haiti. When great events happen, whether they be happy or tragic, it is hard to maintain that emotionally commitment as time goes on. Extreme emotions wear us out and leave us feeling ragged. This is in part why I believe miracles were never intended for use in the gospel, because physical events pass away from our mind too easily. But as Christians we can separate ourselves from the world by showing that our compassion was not brought on by the quake, but is just who we are. I don’t remember what charity said it, but I remember a commercial early on after the quake that said something to the effect of “We were here before the quake, and we will be here long after”. I thought to myself that many of the churches groups that were down there needed to say the same thing. “We cared about you before, we cared about you after, and we will never stop caring about you!” This is how we achieve a hope for the future, to keep on keeping on. The seeds have been planted, God will give the increase, we need to help with the reaping.
    Thank Erik for keeping this in our minds so that we may also keep it in our prayers.
    David Millican
    January, 19 2012

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