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CMBH finds open doors to Haiti’s forgotten people

By Meredith Hays

May 21, 2010


Port-au-Prince (FBC)—An open door to Port-au-Prince’s deaf community has given Florida Baptist relief workers a vision to seek out clusters of forgotten people left stranded by the Jan. 12 earthquake.


As they have found ways to minister to the deaf, leaders of the Florida Baptist Convention’s Confraternité Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti “opened their eyes to a community of people that their eyes were blinded to,” said Dennis Wilbanks, associate director of the Partnership Missions Department. “We are now thinking about the other clusters of forgotten people.”


Approximately 1,000 deaf people in the Port-au-Prince area have had little food and no medical attention since the earthquake shook the capital city region.


Their schools, a source of networking as well as education, were all destroyed by the quake giving the deaf Haitians no place to meet to communicate with other deaf people.


“While there have been food distributions in their communities, they often learn of it too late due to their disability.” said Wilbanks.


By the time they could respond the distribution had been completed.


Wilbanks learned of these problems in a meeting with Marlene Jean Pierre, a representative of the deaf community in Haiti. He promised her a food distribution exclusively for the deaf. “Together we developed a plan,” he said.


The mission house was used Wednesday, April 28 through Saturday, May 1 for food distribution and as a medical clinic site; and Sunday, May 2 for worship for the deaf.


Prior to the distribution, leaders of the deaf community came to the mission house and put together bags of food to be distributed, which included beans, rice, oil and canned salmon.


The clinic was packed each day, Wilbanks reported, with the doctor seeing 40-50 patients a day. Each visit took quite some time as English was translated to Creole, then signed, and was translated back to Creole and then English.


On the days the food distribution and clinics were conducted, Wilbanks said, the deaf would arrive at the mission house at 6:30 a.m. and wait until it opened at 9 a.m. to be helped.


“You could see the joy on their faces as they waited to be seen,” he said.


Food distributions also were conducted for the deaf in Jacmel and Petit-Goave.


Wilbanks believes the experience will open doors of ministry for Florida Baptist churches with strong deaf ministries to start deaf churches. He is looking towards the future and working with churches in Florida to help build a school in Haiti for the hearing impaired for education, networking and vocational trade skills, he said.


“God has been doing so many miracles that I’ve witnessed in this ministry to the deaf,” Wilbanks said.


“I’ve been completely humbled to be on this journey and to witness something like this come together. These people don’t receive any help and God is allowing us to help them,” he added.


 “It fills my heart with joy to see how God is meeting physical and spiritual needs. I’m blown away with the awesomeness and compassion for people that God has.”

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