International Ministries

Reflecting On the Haiti Earthquake 2010: You stood by my side

January 11, 2012 Journal
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On January 10, 2010 a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Port-au-Prince area at around 4:53pm; 5:53pm in La Romana, Dominican Republic, where I was living.  It was the beginning of a journey that would bring together Haitians, Dominicans, Americans and folks from all over the world.  It would forever change our lives and show all of us the counteracting magnitude of compassion and generosity that yet exists in our world today.

Within hours of the earthquake I began receiving communications about the destruction and offers from around the world to come and help.  From the beginning, churches, volunteers, friends and family expected that I and the Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana would be involved in the relief efforts.  Our hospital began getting calls and visits from local physicians and national health agencies asking us to spearhead a relief trip to Haiti as soon as possible.  The area hospitals would make donations of supplies and personnel if we would lead.  What a HUGE responsibility we would carry but one that many believed we could do because of our history of serving the Haitian poor in the surrounding sugarcane villages of La Romana.  We were versed in coordinating teams, working in difficult conditions, making do with what we had and doing all of it with caring and loving hearts.  It was a perfect combination to help a very devastating crisis.

International Ministries and the American Baptist Churches were the first to offer their support, both financially and with help in coordinating volunteers.  We could not have made the many, many trips without the generosity of so many faithful donors and prayer warriors.  I am forever thankful for the concern of so many for supplying for our needs. 

Five days after the earthquake we made our first trip…a caravan of two 45 passenger buses, ten supply trucks and many individual vehicles with senators, diplomats and representatives from Dominican news stations.  We drove through the night, starting the trip at 11pm and arriving to a very chaotic border crossing in Barahona around 7am.  There was no control at the border and thousands of people were crossing back and forth…mostly relief workers and supply trucks.  Much of what we saw was disorganized and without direction; reacting to a need but with little thought of anything beyond today.  Moises Sifren, hospital administrator of the Good Samaritan Hospital, chose to work with a long-term, organized plan and because of his intuitiveness, the cooperative work of International Ministries and the Good Samaritan Hospital continued longer than most agencies.

Signs were everywhere along the road leading to Port-au-Prince, asking for help in several languages.  There were still a few bodies along the side of the road, rolled up in carpets or cardboard boxes, waiting to be removed.  Some signs told of the number of people injured or needing help…others told of the loss of life and were memorials to their loved ones.  The closer we got to Port-au-Prince, the more destruction we saw.  It started with cracks in the walls and then one or two crumbled buildings until we came to a place where whole blocks were nothing more than rubble.  Despite our efforts to take a little time for organization when we arrived, patients began seeking help within minutes of seeing our vehicles enter the church compound, where we would sleep on hard pews for a few hours each night.  Some were carried by people or on pieces of plywood or in chairs.  Some hobbled in, still with open wounds and fractures that had never been treated.  Many had their hands out begging for any scrap of food or water we could offer. 

Our first day was a blur of activity, everyone working hard to meet the needs before us with ingenuity and a level of patience that I found amazing.  We transported several patients back to our hospital in La Romana that day because no local hospitals would take any further patients.  The next day we worked at a makeshift camp on a soccer field where a small group of Haitian medical students and one of their professors were trying to care for the many patients that arrived on a daily basis.  I began to realize the level of tragedy in their lives when after a particularly large aftershock the Haitian medical student that I was working with asked me if I was ok because we had a lot of work still to do.  No time to react to the aftershock anymore.  That day we helped deliver a baby because the woman was alone and had lost her whole family.  We became her family and no one wanted to leave her alone in her blanket tent that night, but we had no other choice.

The first week following the earthquake we helped hundreds, if not thousands of Haitians with medical care, prayers, kindness and food.  We returned to La Romana exhausted and spent but also planning for the next trip just two days later.  We had a long list of volunteers to organize and many emails to answer during those first few days.  In all, we made trips Haiti every Monday night for more than four months; returning on Saturday and preparing for another trip.  We could see upwards of 4-500 people a day with the medical staff and supplies that were bought and donated by monies received through International Ministries as well as the volunteers that came on the trips. 

Over the next four months we built relationships with churches and organizations in Haiti that we continue to work with to this day.  We saved lives through skilled medical personnel and desperately needed medications.  We donated hundreds of wheelchairs, crutches and walkers.  We filled hungry stomachs with food and hungry hearts and souls with God’s love.  We did it together…you and me…every step of the way.  You were there as I wrapped wounds and listened to stories of heartache.  You stood by my side as I had to tell people we ran out of food or tents or water.  And as I held the hands of those hurting, you cried with me for their loss and their suffering, sharing the call to care for one of the least of these.  You were there then and you can be there now as ministry continues in Haiti.  Please consider standing alongside those who continue to serve the poor in Haiti by a gift of your time or your money.  There are still so many waiting to know that they are not forgotten.  Will you remember them?

Donations are still being accepted and can be made on the IM website.  Go to www.internationalministries.org/items/80   or write a check made payable to “One Great Hour of Sharing – Haiti Earthquake Relief” and mail to: International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482, or make a check payable to your church and write “Haiti Earthquake Relief” in the memo section.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with eight out of ten people living in extreme poverty, is about the size of Maryland, and is located on the western half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.  The Dominican Republic is on the eastern half.  The northern portion of Haiti, where most of IM’s mission work has been located, is approximately 100 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.