|Three months after earthquake, Haiti moves from tragedy to triumph in God’s hands
By Barbara Denman
April 28, 2010
Port-au-Prince (FBC)—With 152,000 Buckets of Hope en route, 85,000 professions of faiths and 64 new churches, John Sullivan has declared it’s “Hallelujah time in Haiti!”
“Only the Father knows the great impact for the gospel that is emerging out of this earthquake,” said Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
“He is allowing us to share in moving a nation from tragedy to triumph. Hallelujah in Haiti!”
In the three months since the earthquake devastated Haiti, Florida Baptists have worked alongside their Haitian brothers and sisters and Southern Baptists to distribute rice, staff medical clinics, provide counseling and fill countless physical and spiritual needs.
“Our feeding and food distribution continues at full speed,” explained Sullivan. “On an almost daily basis we are sending food supplies of rice, beans and pasta, having processed over 200,000 pounds of rice, 85,000 pounds of beans and 7,500 pounds of pasta.”
They have been able to accomplish this, Sullivan said, through the generosity of Florida Baptists, sister state conventions and Baptists across the nation. By April 22, nearly $4 million in contributions had been received.
At the request of the Haitian pastors, who yearned to reap a spiritual harvest while the hearts of the Haitians were open to the gospel, Florida Baptists have underwritten the cost of regional and local crusades throughout the country. These have resulted in 85,377 professions of faith as of April 8 and 64 new church starts since Jan. 12.
Jeff Howell, pastor of Church on the Rocks in Plant City, was an eye witness of God’s triumph in Haiti as he took a group from his church to Mirebalais to minister in the midst of the tragedy.
“The needs are all over that land, but God is bringing revival and people are getting saved. It is nothing short of phenomenal,” Howell recalled.
While the Plant City group was in Haiti March 27-Apri1 2, they were assigned to work alongside a church in Mirebalais, located two hours northwest of Port-au-Prince. They led Bible study conferences for leaders, deacon training, vacation Bible schools and crusades seeing dozens of Haitians indicate they were making professions of faith.
The team provided food for children and families in that church.
They have also helped to defeat Satan, Howell contends. Many of those who were led to Christ were from Voodoo backgrounds. The team helped several new believers destroy relics, vials and potions used in the practice of voodoo.
“God is working in Haiti, and He allowed us a place of service,” said Howell.
Craig Culbreth, director of the Convention’s Partnership Missions Department, expects to send a team each week to partner and minister with a specific Haitian congregation in a similar way, he said.
Culbreth reported that the Buckets of Hope sent from Southern Baptists across the nation with rice, beans and other food commodities have arrived in the Saint Marc Port Authority, waiting release from customs.
The group has tried to unclog the bureaucratic channel by several methods, including a meeting between high-ranking government officials and Delouis Labranch, director of ministry of the Confraternité Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti, Florida Baptists’ arm in Haiti.
Fritz Wilson, state disaster relief director and onsite SBC-DR coordinator, believes the buckets of hope will be released from customs in “God’s perfect timing,” he said.
At the end of April the rainy season will hit. “The people will be depressed and must determine whether it is safer to stay in their temporary housing or go back into their homes,” he said, adding that food on the ground will become wet and illnesses will breed.
“Then these dry containers with a supply of dry food will arrive in their communities. It will be huge for the Haitian people.”
Relief efforts, Wilson said “have gotten past urgency. There are still many and great needs throughout Haiti, but people have settled in and look to the long-term efforts.”
Medical teams which have served cities across the nation will subside in May, he said. Chaplaincy training for Haitian pastors to comfort their congregation, ministry and rebuilding teams will be increased. And a third wave of evangelistic crusades is expected.
Florida Baptists’ efforts in the aftermath of the storm have brought visibility to the CMBH leadership, said Wilson. “Their prominence has been elevated within the Haitian government. I believe that will help our relief efforts and their credibility in Haiti for years to come.”
Wilson said all of the relief work has been done “through the CMBH with the Haitian face in the forefront. That is the way it is supposed to be. They will be here to minister to their nation when the recovery is over.”
Also in the coming weeks, Florida Baptists will provide food to more than 1,000 deaf people living in the Port-au-Prince area, a group that has largely been ignored due to their disability, said Dennis Wilbanks. The partnership missions associate met with a delegation from the deaf community on April 15.
“Some are living with family and others in tent camps,” Wilbanks reported, adding that the evangelical deaf school, one of three schools in the region, was destroyed, scattering the students.
“They have struggled since the earthquake. When food is distributed in their communities, they learn of it after the distribution is completed.”
Wilbanks said other relief agencies had promised to provide supplies but never followed through. Among their needs are medical attention, schooling and jobs. They also need food, beds, tents, tarps, shoes, glasses and family hygiene kits, he reported.
Sullivan believes this type of targeted ministry to “an essentially unreached people group” will continue to bear fruit in the days ahead.
“Our Haitian pastors believe that at least 200 new churches will be planted this year. Each church will serve as a distribution center for the gospel, a distribution center for counseling and hope, and a distribution center for meeting humanitarian needs.”
He urged Florida Baptists “to get your heart around this and continue to pray for the harvest and for the conservation of the harvest through church planting.”
Three months after the most devastating disaster in modern history, a national tragedy turns to triumph in God’s hands.