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Rebuild and Reach Out - Haiti

Rich and Jo Ann Davis on March 3, 2010

Mark Nikitin, Gary Crawford, Larry Willson and Rich at the MFI hanger in Ft. Pierce, FL just before take off to Haiti Mark Nikitin, Gary Crawford, Larry Willson and Rich at the MFI hanger in Ft. Pierce, FL just before take off to Haiti

The Haiti Report

The largest snow storm of the year was due to hit the east coast on the day that Mark Nikitin (ABWE) and I were to fly out of the Baltimore airport to Florida and then on to Haiti. All flights were canceled and if we were going to make the flight out of Florida, the best option was to rent a car and drive south.

Happy to have avoided being trapped by the snowstorm, we met Gary Crawford (ABWE) and forensic engineer, Larry Wilson to complete the ABWE point team for Haiti. Our task would be to connect with missionaries and nationals to determine ways that ABWE might be instrumental in contributing effective aid to the church and people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake that killed close to 220,000 people according to the Haitian government. The loss of life as a result of the earthquake in Haiti almost equals the magnitude of the loss of life from the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Asia in 2004. The difference in the case of Haiti is that all those killed came from a single small island country.

The Gibbs racing team plane that took us to Haiti The Gibbs racing team plane that took us to Haiti

NASCAR racing team owner, Joe Gibbs (please click to see Haiti photos) had generously loaned his teams' airplane to Missionary Flights International (MFI) based in Ft. Pierce, Florida in order to help with the transportation of many Christian organizations trying to get to Haiti. There were no commercial flights entering Port-au-Prince at that time which greatly taxed the resources of MFI. The ABWE team was privileged to be given seat assignments on the Gibb's plane for the flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

It was amazing to witness how those who claim the name of Christ are being used to combine their distinctive gifts and abilities to help Haiti. We met an independent orthopedic surgeon who saw the reports on TV about the devastation in Haiti and knew in his heart that he had to do something. He found a way to become a part of the medical team at the Baptist Haiti Hospital for a couple of weeks. We met a cook that specialized in Cagayan food, cooking for a small hospital outside of Port-au-Prince owned by a unique ministry called Double Harvest. Richard provided wonderful meals for the doctors, nurses, staff and visitors of the Double Harvest Hospital. From individual Christians to large multinational Christian organizations we were all there in Haiti to help those who were suffering and to provide the hope that only Christ can give through His death and resurrection.

Wallace and Elenor Turnbull with Rich Wallace and Elenor Turnbull with Rich

Faithful Servants

The names of Granny Holderman and the Turnbull's had long ago faded into the recesses of my mind, but the memories came flooding back. I quickly realized that Jo Ann and I had prayed faithfully for these dear missionaries back in the 70s, when we were students at Baptist Bible College and members of Rocky Mountain Baptist Church in Denver, CO. The Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) was started in 1943 by the Turnbull family, and today it is a tremendous testimony to the vision of men and the faithfulness of the Lord. Granny is buried on the property of the mission and we met the Turnbulls who had just returned to Haiti for a special event. They are now retired and in their mid eighties, but still as sharp as a tack. What a thrill as, with a sparkle in their eyes, they encourage our ABWE team to partner with the Haitian Baptist churches to rebuild and reach out for Christ.

Church building in the mountains affected by the quake Church building in the mountains affected by the quake


Our ABWE point team visited dozens of churches and other ministries (please click to see new Haiti photos) in the mountains, coast, and plains of Haiti connected with the BHM. The first ABWE medical team is scheduled to serve in Haiti from March 20-27. The medical outreach is a part of the ABWE International Healthcare Ministries (IHM) and there are other teams assembling now for short-term trips to Haiti in April, May and beyond. If you might be interested in becoming a part of such a team, you could begin the process by following this link to the ABWE Healthcare Ministries, or simply contact IHM by e-mail at IHM@abwe.org .

Larry Wilson, the forensic engineer who volunteers much time to ABWE projects around the globe, is working with the ABWE Project Office to determine how and where we might best be able to help restore the ministry related buildings that have been damaged or destroyed by the quake. Teams of individuals or teams from churches will be formed to implement the plans for reconstruction projects in Haiti. If you might be interested in becoming a part of such a team, you could begin the process by following this link to ABWE Haiti Construction Relief Projects or simply write an e-mail to Fred Seiferth fred@abwe.org (ABWE Project Office).

Rob Baker talking to villagers in the mountains Rob Baker talking to villagers in the mountains

Reach Out

The missionary families who are now carrying out the ministries once begun by the Turnbulls are doing a fantastic job. Rob and Patty Baker lead the BHM team supported by several other missionary families, individuals, and national Haitian leaders. There are approximately 350 Baptist churches which function in association with the BHM. Along with those churches are about 350 Christian schools which are now receiving some training from ACSI in Canada along with other training programs provided by the missionaries. As might be expected, I hit it off quite well with Chris Lieb who heads most of the BHM training programs for the teachers, pastors and other Christian leaders in this group of churches and schools.

Chris, Mark and I spent some time talking about the needs of the Haitian church beyond the present crisis. I couldn't refrain from showing Chris the Good Soil presentation that I had on my notebook computer and you should have seen his eyes light up! Then I shared with him how our ABWE team in Nicaragua is training church planters to do accelerated-multiple church planting.

Before we could blink, we found ourselves in a meeting with the Haitian pastor in charge of missions and church planting whose office was there on the BHM campus. Other meetings were scheduled and held to talk with the Haitian pastor who oversees all the Christian schools and also the President of the Association of Baptist Churches. You could see the hope and joy fill these leaders as we looked beyond the devastation to the future of the church in Haiti.

Along with the hope and joy, we could sense an unspoken question in the minds of the missionaries and national leaders. It is not difficult to TALK about what we would like to do, but the question that needs to be answered and proven is WILL WE ACTUALLY DO IT?

Will Christians pray fervently, give sacrificially and go willingly to rebuild and reach out in Haiti? Jo Ann and I are willing to be a part of this effort and we would love to team up with other ABWE missionaries in the CCAM region to help our brothers in Christ in Haiti. We would also love to team up with those of you who may be exposed to this communication to make an eternal impact in the country of Haiti.

Crowded church on the BHM campus. It was like this for 3 days all over Haiti Crowded church on the BHM campus. It was like this for 3 days all over Haiti

Life Out of the Ruins

One of the most amazing events that we have ever witnessed was the 3 days of prayer and fasting that the President of Haiti, Rene Preval, called for beginning on Friday, February 12. Traditionally, these dates marked the beginning of Mardi Gras with all the associated debauchery. However, not a single Voodoo Ra Ra band was to be heard in the capital of Port-au-Prince or anywhere else in Haiti that we know of. Rather than worshiping Satan, thousands of Haitians filled the Christian churches to overflowing for days praying, singing, preaching and worshiping the one and only God of the Universe.

As our ABWE point team traveled into the mountains of Haiti that weekend to inspect church buildings and encourage the families in the outlying areas, we continually saw groups of people streaming by foot along mountain trails and dirt roads carrying their Bibles to places of worship. The initial reports coming in to the BHM campus from the Association of Baptist Churches was that over 1,000 people had come to trust Christ among just those churches that weekend. While we do grieve over the tremendous destruction and loss of life in Haiti due to the earthquake, we must also rejoice with the angels over the new life that the Lord has formed from the ruins.

Haitian children living in the park Haitian children living in the park

Thank You With a Twist

Just before heading to Haiti along with the other members of the ABWE point team, Jo Ann and I sent out a letter asking for prayer for safety, wisdom and the funds to meet the expenses of the trip. It is evident that much prayer was backing this ABWE venture into Haiti. We want to thank those of you who prayed for us for your faithfulness during this experience. Someday I may get the chance to tell you about twisting my ankle or of being attacked by a large cactus, but the truth is that these incidents were mostly material for a few good laughs. The Lord did protect me and each of us on the ABWE team throughout the trip. Thank you for praying.

We also want to thank the Bible Baptist Church of Romeoville, IL for the very generous gift that provided about half of the funds for my trip. Other friends and churches were also able to respond in helping meet most of the expenses of the trip for which we are very grateful.

Another word of gratitude must be expressed to the South Baptist Church of Bay City, MI for graciously allowing us to be excused from the mission's conference in which we were scheduled to speak in order that I might be able to make the emergency trip to Haiti.

It wasn't just those who love us at home who shared their love with me however. The day before we were to return to the US, a group of us went to a park near Port-au-Prince that was smothered by Haitians living in tents and shelters made of rags, cardboard or any other material that could be used to protect them from the elements. More than half a million are homeless, most still lack electricity and are preoccupied about trying to get enough to eat. As we walked among the people who were in such dire circumstances, we listened to their stories and learned. But for God's grace, we could have been among those living in that park with so little hope and having lost almost everything including loved ones.

Because, obviously, we were not Haitian, there was an expectation that we might be able to provide for their needs or at least commit to helping them rebuild their lives. We would have loved to have shared Christ with them and the hope He brings of an eternal home that cannot be destroyed, but most could only focus on their present pain. I felt impotent in every sense and helpless to respond to such overwhelming physical and spiritual needs.

Soon I found myself sitting on the sidewalk behind a street vender just trying to get my heart and mind around the challenge before us. Then a couple of children came and sat by me. I said "Bon Joir" (which was about the extent of my Creole or French language ability) and they responded with smiles and greetings. Because conversation was difficult, we mostly just made signs and I learned about their family and took some pictures showing them the digital results in the screen of the camera. This seemed to cause no small stir among the children and all those nearby and we enjoyed each other's company as their daily life continued with the newfound American curiosity sitting with them.

It was then that I noticed that one of the children had disappeared only to return with a small piece of bread crust that was about the size and shape of a Chinese fortune cookie. She held out the crust with the obvious desire that I would take it and eat. How could I take food from a Haitian child when it was me who should be giving? I had $20 US dollars in my pocket, but what was that in the midst of such overwhelming need? I hesitated as many thoughts flooded my heart and mind, but at last I smiled, thanking her, taking the bread I began to eat. The faces of the children lit up to see me share their bread and before I could finish the crust, another of the children disappeared only to reappear with a bag of popcorn.

There I was sitting on the sidewalk in a park filled with destitute people sharing a snack of bread crust and popcorn with the children! My grief for their situation was overwhelmed by their simple love and generosity. (For those of our readers who are worriers, yes I did briefly consider the sanitary condition of the child's hand that held the bread and where that bread came from originally. With a quick prayer of thankfulness to the Lord, I ate it trusting in His loving care.)
Almost as if he knew what was going on in my heart, Mark Nikitin appeared handing me two large bags of beautiful tangerines to hand out. The children, of course, got 2 or 3 each, as many young people and adults reached out for the refreshing treat.

I don't know what the children were thinking that day as they accompanied me and shared with me. As I reflect on the experience, it almost seems that it was their way of saying thank you for just coming and being with them. The children may not have conscientiously thought that they were expressing gratitude for our being there and offering some sort of hope, however small it might be, but that is how I prefer to see it.

Many Haitians and missionaries thanked us repeatedly for our ministry there to offer hope and encouragement. Jo Ann and I also extend our thanks to the Lord for the privilege of serving Him, and to each of you for your part in making that possible. Please continue to pray for the many projects and needs that we have mentioned above for Haiti. Please also continue to pray for Jo Ann and me as we develop the ministries in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico (CCAM).