Jacmel - One year after the Haitian earthquake

Subject: from Jacmel, Feb 19, 2011

One year after Haitian Quake


The months, weeks, days and nights of 2010 have melted into the past. It seems like yesterday we were trying to get ourselves together after saying good bye to my niece, Katie, and her husband, Carson....and then the earth shook.  It left us breathless.  I had no idea we would spend the rest of the year the way we did.  It seems just these past few days we are at last...."catching our breath."  As that day neared again in January, Jan. 12, the one year mark, I think everyone was inundated with flashbacks of that day and the scenes that are forever engraved in our minds.  The president declared a national day of mourning and everything was closed.  He didn't need to.  No one could do anything. No. The country was quiet and still.   At that hour 4:51 p.m., I found myself on my knees thanking God for His outstretched hand, that day and the days and nights since. 

Downtown, Port au Prince looks something like pictures of bombed cities of World War ll.  The cleanup grinds on.  Little reconstruction has been done.  The president issued the death toll at 300,000.  After the quake there was mass exodus from the capital, buses jammed inside, risking their lives for a toe hold on top, trucks loaded with people standing, squeezed against each other with children nearly suffocating between their legs, and then the long slow procession of dazed, hungry, thirsty people walking, pulling suitcases, carrying a few belongings rapped in sheets on their heads, asking anyone who would standing by for water and food.  And then the reverse tide....the city has far more people than ever.  When word flashed through the country there was free rice, oil, beans being distributed they came from everywhere....and didn't go home to the misery of their eroded mountain fields or the drought scorched barren fields of the plateaus or the hungry allies of their home towns.  And thousands of UN personal and soldiers, Red Cross, NGOs of every name, choke the streets with their vehicles on their way to their daily meetings and patrols with heavy tanks and battle gear.  The streets and lots are still crowded with people living in tents.  They are worn and torn now.  The paths between them are wearing deep.  The street in front of the bach is worse than ever.  Some enterprising women have set up shop in their tents selling to those camped in area, ever pushing, inching their way into the path so that now no water truck can get close enough to deliver water to the bach.  The brothers carry in water from Kesner's in jugs.  They were mighty happy for a rain this week. The friends are housed now.  And are deeply thankful.  The children are back in school.  Two of the friends have found work with NGOs.  Alex has been building sleeping quarters and air conditioned offices for most of the year for the UN personal.  Prospere works with the Red Cross building one room wooden prefabbed homes in the Jacmel area.  He had lunch with us yesterday and poured out his frustration.  Sometimes he doesn't do anything for two weeks at a time...the administration wants to make the project last as long as possible.  I'm glad they have work.  Both of these men spent months in tents in the streets with their families. 


As convention time neared the cholera epidemic raged through the country and an overwhelming dreadful fear.  People were well in the morning....gone in the afternoon.  At one point we sat down and pondered canceling convention.  But life goes on in Haiti in spite of the plague...it must, what else can you do?  They are crawling over each other getting on buses and trucks, the markets are push and shove crowded, some subsidized schools are so crowded there is no more room on the benches so the students stand and take notes (Mimose's class is not subsidized so out of 40 enrolled only a few can come...the others haven't paid).  If they could get to convention at least we could provide pure water and food.  But what if someone came with cholera?  And we would be 400 people so close together.  The week before preps started the sisters in Cap Haitian were more or less locked down in their batch for a week as the streets were cut through with trenches and blockaded with rock throwing crowds.   The day preps started the highway was blockaded with rocks and burning tires.  I had to go into the ditch to get around it to pick up Lea at the airport.  In the afternoon when I brought Doreen back from the airport the bridge was blocked at Cabaret with two trucks turned crosswise.  They were gathering tires and bringing fuel to burn them.  Mike and some of the boys came as far as they could from the grounds and then walked to where we were.  They walked with Doreen back to the river and crossed on foot.  The trail gave way on a cut and Doreen fell and hurt herself.  As the next week wore on the entire country was blockaded every few miles from one end to the other.  There we violent confrontations in Port au Prince and the international airport were closed down for most of the week.  And then it calmed.  The visitors arrived.  The friends came from far and near.  Never before has such a spirit of peace reigned over our assembly as this time.  Every memory of those days causes my heart to rejoice.  We tasted of things that makes it possible to believe the promises of heaven are very, very  true.  Quite a few made their choice known and several were baptized.  And during it all my thoughts were going to something very poignant to me that was happening far away.  During the year Glenn, Joe, and Madochee had been living in the remote village, Jean Rabel, eight hours over rough road and bridgeless rivers to the north west.  Five boys, the oldest about 14, have chosen to be their brothers for life and eternity.  One of them lost two older brothers who were teaching school in Port au Prince in the quake.  These boys while the brothers were away for preps kept their fellowship meeting under a mango tree in Jean Yves' back yard.  Glenn will soon be 83.  The love of Christ, the work of the Spirit, has broken every barrier down....age, race, language...there is nothing in all the world comparable.  They were thinking of us. They asked Joe, "Bring us a picture of convention."  And we were thinking of them. 


One of our older friends was in a Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) hospital with cholera.  Another young man from Massolass was in Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital for two weeks and finally pulled through, skinny and weak, but alive.  This group and the group Samaritan’s Purse have done a tremendous job caring for the hundreds of thousands who would have died from cholera.  The Haitian government judged winning the elections more important and gave everyone who would get on their campaign buses to shout and holler 200 gourdes and a yellow tee shirt.  


Finally we are back on the trails.  Yesterday we had two meetings in La Montagne.  One was with an older widow lady in front of her little mountain home.  In 1972, Donald Karnes and Charles Lauchner had meetings in the same spot.  They lost all contact with the workers but brought up their children with the story of those two servants bringing the gospel to their door.  Six years ago their daughter met us and put it together that this was the same ministry.  As we sat outside for the meeting this spry little old lady jumped up and came out with a picture of Donald and put it in a chair....I guess she wanted him in the meeting, too.  We went on to visit Madame Saint Ange who is 106 and still the first person up in the morning.  In the next meeting a husky man sat and listened.  The stub of where his right hand used to be was an awful looking scarred mess.  During the last hurricane a cocaine boat from Colombia ran onto rocks down below.  He risked his life to swim the rolling, flooding river at the edge of Jacmel to get up there, his home part, to get his share.  His buddy drowned and he ended up getting his hand cut off with a machete.  And the police are still looking for him. The quake shook many people’s lives in more ways than one.  Many were forced to move from where they were.  In the moving I don't know how many have come to appreciate the light of the lives of God's children.  Rozie, about 20, is one.  She is one who professed at convention.  Her parents wanted to meet us.  We went on to this area, Seguin, on Monday.  Their home is over 6,000 ft. above sea level....yet you look down on the Caribbean Sea from up there, until the fog closed in.  Higher yet behind them is a beautiful pine tree forest from eons ago.  We helped dig up potatoes and carrots from the garden.  It was cold!  (Don't laugh in Iowa!)  Another day we sat with Charita's family near the old French Fort Oge, another new area to us and shared a portion of the wonderful story with them.  As we prayed and sang, I felt my soul being healed.  It has been a year away from the Work doing a different work.  Yet I feel we've known God's blessing through it all.  But what Work compares to the Work?  Yves and Mado sweated from early to late every day for those months with the rest of them and never complained once.  But I can see the joy on their faces as we hear things coming from these hearts and poor souls that we know is the "Bridegroom’s" voice.  And I rejoice that these young men are set free to this Work again. 


This note seems so little in comparison to share in return your love and care for us here.


With Love in Christ

 From your brothers,
Yves, Madochee and Dan