Tragedy with New Hope

Stephen Carlton, a volunteer with Haiti Outreach Ministries, reflects on a powerful day of prayer and praise

  • Journeys // Hope for Haiti
  • Stephen Carlton with Adam Cole // January 17, 2011

Family members stand in front of a newly built home. © Stephen Carlton 2010

Stephen Carlton - long term volunteer with Haiti Outreach Ministries. ©  2010

Working on another home. HOM has worked to build more than 100 homes for people that lost theirs in the earthquake. ©  2010

Today is Jan. 12, 2011.

One year ago today, Haiti was struck by a horrific earthquake. The devastation was so great that it was in the center of our world’s attention.

I woke up today, here in Haiti, to silence. I live in a compound shared by a church and a school. Any normal weekday morning would be incredibly loud, with children starting to show up around 6:30 a.m.

There was no school today. I was told that most likely every school in Haiti would be cancelled.

Throughout Haiti, January 12th is commemorated as a time of remembrance and prayer, prayer for a nation still recovering. It is also a time of celebration: to praise the Lord for how He has spared so much and continues to work, even in the little ways [like those happy schoolchildren that usually wake me from my slumber each weekday morning].

I am an American who moved here in late September, seeking to help those in need. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for the Haitian people on Jan. 12, 2010—and continue to move through the tragedy for the next 365 days.

At the church that is inside the compound in which I live and is supported by the organization I volunteer for (Haiti Outreach Ministries), there was a service on this day. I decided that I would go and show my support by worshiping and praying alongside the Haitian people. Though the sanctuary was only a quarter full initially, after an hour, it was packed, a sign of how important this day was to people.

The service was very ‘come-as-you-are’ people showing up not in their ‘Sunday best’ but rather just everyday clothes, some even wore flip-flops. I assumed that today drew in all types…the regulars and the not-so-regulars, not just the ‘church-goers’ but everyday people seeking God as they continued to try to understand what happened to their country and how to start anew.

By noon, the 1000-person capacity church was overflowing, so much so that people had to sit outside.

The service consisted mostly of prayer and singing, with a sermon towards the end of the service. At the service’s conclusion, you could feel a collective ‘amen’ as if all those gathered—probably 1,500—were unified in giving it all to God.

Overall this was a powerful day, made clear to me by that service and the silence: there was little to no traffic (most gas stations were even closed). Everyone took today very seriously, just as we all should.

The earthquake was just one part of a series of unfortunate events here, dating back to a series of corrupt government officials and prior earth-wrenching devastation. Even with all this pain, including many lost loved ones, but also, they people here praise their Lord and Savior. To experience that praise, even within such hardship that continues daily, added to the power of this day.

Haiti still needs prayer. I hope you all will join us in lifting up this country to God, that His will would be done here, and that all the glory would be given to God.

Stephen Carlton is a long-term volunteer with Haiti Outreach Ministries, which operates a school, clinic, and four churches in several districts outside of Port-au-Prince. Stephen may be reached at stephen@stephencarlton