JOURNEYS

Heart Broken for Haiti

JTJ's Adam Cole reflects on his journey to Haiti linking with Haiti Outreach Ministries

A small child gets a hardy meal as part of a food outreach JTJ was able to coordinate during Adam Cole's Haiti trip. © Adam Cole 2010

A Haitian family next to their new home, courtesy of Haiti Outreach Ministries. © Adam Cole 2010

The rubble as seen from a section of the national cathedral, which now lays in ruins. © Adam Cole 2010

Haiti’s hurt breaks the heart.

The tragic effects of the seismic earthquake that struck here nearly nine months ago are more than apparent. Crumbled buildings (seemingly untouched since Jan. 12) stand as monuments of the disaster’s wake; tent villages span as far as the eye can see; children, without any school to attend, playfully prance around the streets and open fields.

Life has resumed…cars whizz by and markets are abuzz…but so many of the people here are in desperation, their houses gone, forced to live in squalid tent camps, without any seemingly way of re-starting their lives.

Seeking to see for myself the progress, or lack thereof, and to aid the efforts at least in a small way, I returned to Haiti for a brief trip (about eight days) in late September to work alongside a faith-based non-profit, Haiti Outreach Ministries, in rebuilding homes here. I had come here previously at the outset of the earthquake with the U.S. Navy, but at that time was stationed off the coast and administering aid to the island La Gonave that sits near Port-au-Prince. So I was seeing for the first time the absolute magnitude of the devastation and it was shocking, particularly crawling through what remained of the once sacred national cathedral.

The heartbreak of being in Haiti, beyond even what the earthquake has done, is the wide sweeping poverty: a majority of roads are unpaved (and makes for a very bumpy ride), trash is everywhere, cement walls that enclose homes have barbed wire on them, and sanitary drinking sources are scarce. Throughout my time, as I witnessed what seemed like inhumane living conditions, I just keep asking: how can a country suffer this bad? How can such a mass people be stuck in such impoverished conditions? There is no exact answer to this – but I know the Lord is sovereign, a sovereignty that is confirmed here by what He left standing and living, and in that sovereignty, as He healed Jerusalem, He will also heal Haiti.

Within any environment of need, you must do what you can to be a ray of hope. On this occasion, it was taking a hammer and nail, working alongside Haitians to put on roofs of homes that will be turned over to families. Haiti Outreach Ministries, in addition to running four churches, a medical clinic, and a school, has set a goal to build/re-build 100 homes (at least) for families that are with the communities it services; on the time of my arrival, 70 homes had already been handed over to in-need families.

I was fortunate to be able to witness a couple of the homes being directly turned over to families. It touched my heart deeply to see that, especially since they had been living in such makeshift shelters since the earthquake. The tangible elation of those people getting a new home is indescribable in words. “Mesi, mesi,” they repeat over and over.

In addition to the work with Haiti Outreach Ministries, I felt compelled to take an assessment of the struggles of the tent villages by actually stepping inside a couple and speaking to their leaders. With a translator, one host from the organization, and I went to two different villages, Tapis Vert and Cappva , meeting with both of those villages mayor-type figures. Sadly, they say their people have nothing, barely enough food to survive, no education for the children, and no word from the government on when they might get more permanent housing. Children are dirty, seemingly under malnourished, but extremely joyful.

One lady, Leonne Dorcemon, mother of five children, invited me in to her tent. They had one bed, a mattress, and a coffee table -like stand with a few personal items on it…I couldn’t imagine how their 7-member family unit slept in there. I prayed with Leonne there, with the deepest sincerity, pleading that God would do something to help their situation.

Faith is evident here, even as conditions are so morbid. People like Leonne claim a hope in the living God. So many people you speak with here flow thoughts of the Lord from their lips.

You gain a sense of faith here by keeping an open ear at night: there is always a chorus of praise music that fills the air. Though I can’t detect the words (because they are sung in Creole) I can sense that they are directed to the Lord. It is a perfect summary of this nation, so broken by poverty and the recent earthquake, yet always singing to the Lord for His glorious works.

On my last day in Haiti, I utilized leftover trip funds to purchase some food (rice and beans, a Haitain staple) and returned to Cappva to feed the children there. It was a delight to see them so eagerly munch the nutrients that they were given. These tent villages, specifically Cappva, remain close to my heart, and I pray that the Lord opens a door to work to help them for the long term.

As our tap-tap (taxi-like vehicle) pulled away from Cappva on that day, a handful of kids stood at the entrance to the village and waved until we were out of sight. The hearts of the children is so endearing, so full of life, even in the conditions they face. May their joy be an example to us all.

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Adam Cole, the executive director/editor of Join the Journey, launched to Haiti as part of JTJ’s initial media and humanitarian mission trip, partnering with Haiti Outreach Ministries in Haiti. To read more on the trip, read the blog at http://www.jointhejourney.cc/on-mission-in-haiti. Join the Journey is looking to start a development project with Cappva. If you have questions/comments or would like to assist in some way, Adam may be reached at adam@jointhejourney.cc.