Four months after the devastating earthquake shook their very foundations, the people of Haiti still struggle to deal with loss?loss of shelter and loss of security. Due to poor infrastructure and fear, people still live on the streets. They are either too afraid or unable to go back inside their homes.
When the earthquake hit, the government warned people that their houses were not safe. They told them to stay outside. Narrow roads became nearly impassable as families set up tents outside where they felt they would be safer. Fear has kept them there. One woman told a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer that her home used to be her source of comfort; now it is her enemy.
Others have no choice. Their homes were so damaged that they are not able to go back inside. People sleep outside, wash clothes outside and even worship outside. Many church buildings were so damaged that the congregation either set up a temporary shelter from sheets of tin and tarps or simply began to meet out on the street.
Disaster relief volunteers from SBTC churches have partnered with Haitian Baptist churches to rebuild church buildings, homes and a sense of security in their neighborhoods. Up to this point, volunteers have been involved primarily in assessment, feeding, and demolition projects. Their priority has been to make sure that they meet people’s most urgent physical needs. Starting this month, the focus shifts to rebuilding.
Teams will rebuild areas around Haitian partner churches. They will construct church buildings and homes in neighborhoods other disaster relief teams have scouted and prepared for rebuilding. The long and difficult job begins with cleaning debris from building sites. Once a site is cleared, the team will erect a 12×6 concrete block home.
In addition to building, SBTC Disaster Relief teams partnered with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma to provide hand-driven well pumps to be installed on Haitian Baptist church properties. Clean water remains scarce. The pumps will enable churches to provide clean water for the entire community. Along with delivering these pumps, volunteer teams will help reopen wells that collapsed during the quake.
While rebuilding teams do their work, evangelism teams will work with Haitian families to begin rebuilding of a different sort. In order to help people overcome their lingering fears, these teams will hold discipleship and evangelism lessons. Evangelism teams will encourage people to regain a sense of security by facing what they’ve been through. Those who attend will also receive the message of hope in Christ and a lesson in sharing that hope with others. In the evenings, the teams will reach out to the community through revival services.
Chaplains lead many to Christ
Since the work in Haiti began, chaplains and other disaster relief volunteers have led over 800 people to the Lord. Haitian Baptist churches have reported thousands of professions of faith. Chaplains have seen that God can use even the most difficult circumstances to bring glory to his name, said Darryl Cason, SBTC chaplaincy leader.
Every disaster relief team travels with two chaplains. Chaplains serve the spiritual needs of the teams?organizing Bible studies and devotionals?and of the people affected by the disaster. Cason said they are in an ideal situation to share Christ. In disaster situations, people are forced to reevaluate what is important. They have often lost most if not all of their possessions. Many have lost loved ones. Because of these struggles, they are more willing to talk about spiritual things and more open to hearing the gospel.
Most DR chaplains have received training in other areas. This enables chaplains to help out when they are needed, Cason said. They also know what the teams face and are better able to minister to them. The main priority of any chaplain, however, remains spiritual ministry, he added.
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