By Barbara Denman
September 21, 2012
After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Frankel Gabriel, his pregnant girlfriend and sons lived under a makeshift tent in Gressier for months before Pastor Octavien Henriquez discovered their misery on a tropical raining night.
“We shared the gospel with them, telling them that Jesus loves them,” Henriquez recalled. “We asked them if they believed Jesus can do miracles. ‘Yes,’ they replied.”
“We offered them the gospel and they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”
Eight days later, the girlfriend gave birth to a girl and the family learned they would receive a home from the Florida Baptist Convention’s Rebuild Haiti. In the days that followed, the couple became involved in a church and married in an act of discipleship.
“Later, as he stood outside a cement block house near the earthquake’s epicenter, Gabriel proudly welcomed the pastor into his new home with baby Judeline in her father’s arms.
“Our job is to go out and make disciples,” said the pastor, who led 95 people to Christ during the time he served as a caseworker for Rebuild Haiti. “As we sow seeds, God gives the increase. Florida Baptists gave them an earthly house. We want to give them a heavenly one above.”
Stephanie Shermeta calls each home constructed by Rebuild Haiti “little lights for Christ. In some areas, we’ve built over 200 homes and each one is a testimony to what God can do and accomplish.”
For nearly two years, Shermeta, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, invested her life in Haiti as volunteer site coordinator in Rebuild Haiti. Resigning her job as an attorney, the young woman handled complex issues that arose in the organizational structure, working with families, workers and government agencies.
In the effort that constructed homes for 1,025 families, Rebuild Haiti employed 250 Haitians as construction teams, case workers, support staff, warehouse workers, drivers, translators and security teams. These Haitian received steady income for their families and were taught new skills to support the Haitian economy. All construction materials were purchased in the nation to further stimulate the fragile economy.
“I think the ministry of Florida Baptists in Haiti is amazing and crucial to the future of Haiti,” Shermeta said. “We have an organization that has come alongside and partnered with fellow believers—not just to put a band aid on the problems here but to help pastors and churches win Haiti to Christ and disciple new believers.”
The Florida Baptist Convention has partnered with churches in Haiti for the past 17 years. Beginning with 88 churches, the Convention gave structure and organization to the Confraternite Baptist Missionaire d’Haiti (CMBH), which grew to 900 churches before the earthquake and now has 1,500 congregations. When the quake struck, Florida Baptists were able to quickly respond to the immediate needs by working through the CMBH pastors and their churches.
The partnership is funded through gifts by Florida Baptists to the Maguire State Mission Offering, which has invested more than $2 million in the CMBH during the past 17 years.
Thirty months after the 7.0 earthquake, Florida Baptists paused to celebrate God’s increase since Jan. 10, 2010.
During the immediate response:
--2,000 volunteers responded to the medical, physical and spiritual needs of the Haitian people;
--40 medical teams treated 32,000 patients, making it the largest medical respond in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief history;
--158,000 Buckets of Hope with food products assembled by Southern Baptists were distributed by CMBH churches;
--140,000 pounds of rice and 40,000 pounds of beans purchased and distributed;
--200 home sites cleared of debris;
--1,200 temporary homes constructed;
--17, 000 Haitian baptized;
--272 new CMBH churches planted;
Through Rebuild Haiti:
--1,025 cement block homes, measuring 12’x 16’ constructed;
--250 Haitian trained and employed to build homes;
--1,975 addtional homes built through cooperative efforts of Florida Baptists, North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response;
--220 churches inspected and assisted in rebuild;
--$5.2 million additionally donated to Florida by Southern Baptists for Haiti relief, homes and church projects.