Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

Daily Boost

  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Haiti: Building a New Hope and Future

By Kirk Noonan
May 2, 2010

I went to Haiti for the first time last year. The poverty I saw was crushing. High in the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince, I met hungry children who walked miles each day to fetch water for their families. Along the coast, just outside the capital, worried mothers wept because they couldn’t forage any food for their children. I remember thinking then that things couldn’t get much worse for the country or its people.

I was wrong.

When I went back to Haiti only days after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Jan. 12, I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around what I was seeing. Entire neighborhoods had crumbled to the ground. Families slept on mats in the streets next to the few household items they salvaged. Fields overflowed with poorly constructed lean-tos that seemed to stretch in all directions. Dead bodies were still enmeshed in rubble. When children ran up to us to beg for food, they touched their fingers to their mouths then ran their index fingers across their necks as if to say, “If you don’t feed me, I’ll die!

That’s the backdrop of the following stories.

Meeting needs
Sprawling shade trees stretch across the landscape at Quisqueya Chapel in Port-au-Prince. The lush grounds are surrounded by a 10-foot-high wall. The area appears safe from looters and mobs of desperate people trying to claim whatever they can grab. Entrance is gained only through two steel gates manned by armed guards.

“It’s the perfect place to stage a point of distribution,” says Paul Coroleuski, Convoy of Hope’s director of field services in Haiti to help in relief operations.

Mike Clark, who started Convoy of Hope’s nutrition program in Haiti, agrees.

“There’s a balance we’re looking for because the situation is so chaotic right now,” says Mike. “Our goal is to find a place where we can serve people for a few weeks — and even months — as well as offer a calm place where people who are desperate for food, water and medical aid can come.”

As word spreads through the surrounding neighborhoods that Convoy of Hope and its partner, Mission of Hope, are at Quisqueya Chapel, a long line forms on the road that runs along the chapel grounds.

AG missionaries Rick Salvato of HealthCare Ministries and Gary Higgins of Convoy of Hope help ferry a young girl in a white dress into the makeshift medical clinic. Even with swollen, bloodshot eyes, 10-year-old Gamaelle is a pretty girl. A soiled dressing covers her head, and a splint is on her left leg. She is missing teeth, and bruises, scrapes, gashes and bumps cover most of her body. All of the injuries occurred after a wall collapsed on top of her, says her father, Pére.

It’s been four days since the earthquake, and still the leg has not been set. As the team prepares to start treatment, Gamaelle screams, “God, you forgot me!”

Hours after the procedure is done, I catch up with Pére and Gamaelle. “Where will you go?” I ask.

“I don’t know what we will do,” says Pére, a father of eight. “We are on the street for now.”

Close calls
James and Rachel Courter, missionaries to Haiti, returned to Port-au-Prince with their three children just before noon on Jan. 12.

After landing, they planned to have lunch with missionary colleagues, do some grocery shopping at the Caribbean Market, and then check into a hotel.

At 4 p.m. they entered the Caribbean Market. They decided not to shop for food and supplies to take to their home in Les Cayes, several hours outside the capital. Instead, they grabbed a few snacks and headed for a hotel. Once there, they learned no rooms were available.

Just as they were leaving the hotel James discovered his credit card company thought their card had been stolen because of suspicious activity. He immediately called the company to discuss the problem. The time spent on the phone proved providential.

“After the call we headed to the Hotel Montana to see about a room,” says James. “We were within minutes of arriving when the quake hit.”

Both the Caribbean Market and the Hotel Montana collapsed during the earthquake, killing hundreds of people. James doesn’t know what would have happened to him and his family if he had not stopped to make the phone call, but he is sure of one thing.

“Though our faith has been stretched,” he says, “God’s peace surpasses all understanding.”

To be poor
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 54 percent of the population living in abject poverty. Two-thirds of the labor force is unemployed.

I met several of the 54 percent. One in particular is hard to forget.

I’ll never know her name. I barely saw her face; it was buried in her father’s neck as she clung to him.

She was barely breathing when her father brought her into the clinic at Quisqueya Chapel and gently laid her on a bed. She had been injured during the earthquake, he said.

After examining the girl, doctors told the father that her injuries were life threatening and beyond their scope of services. “She needs to go to a hospital immediately,” said one of the doctors.

“The hospital told me to come here,” countered the father.

Looking discouraged and disheart-ened the man scooped up his daughter and walked dejectedly out of the makeshift clinic leaving all of us to wonder if the child ever made it to the hospital.

Food … a prized possession
The boy smiled as he held up a bag of food. He skipped about before breaking into a full sprint. “Merci, merci, merci,” he shouted. 

He didn’t seem too worried about the source of his next meal; he just seemed happy to have food at that moment.

He was not the only one.

“God gave me this food,” said Doula, a 33-year-old mother of four, noting that she had eaten only one meal since the earthquake struck four days earlier. “I have faith now that He will give me even more in the coming days.”

Within a month of the earthquake Convoy of Hope, in partnership with Mission of Hope, Latin America ChildCare and the Haiti Assemblies of God, distributed more than 3 million meals in Haiti.

Risks vs. rewards
Bill and Dorothy Smith are soft-spoken missionaries, but they are quick to take risks to help others.

“Let’s move the food and supplies fast,” says Bill as he and several others unload boxes from the back of pickups in his driveway. “We don’t want people knowing we have a stockpile of food here in the house. That could be dangerous.”

With fuel shortages and security issues hampering relief efforts in Port-au-Prince, Bill decided to store some of the food and supplies at his house. But doing so had inherent risks. A refugee camp had sprung up just a short way from the Smiths’ house. Dozens of hungry, thirsty families were living there, with even more in the surrounding area. With the country in disarray and the Haitian government all but shuttered, every move needed to be calculated and the risks weighed carefully.

“Haiti is a complex place to work even when it hasn’t suffered a disaster,” says Dale Coad, Caribbean area director for AG World Missions. “We’ve been very deliberate in making sure our work does not cause more problems.”

Connecting Convoy of Hope to the national church was a primary focus for Dale and other missionaries. Through local churches, food and aid is quickly distributed to where it is needed most.

“Our goal is to respond to as many people as we can with wisdom and compassion,” says Dale. “We’ll help provide relief, then we’ll help in the reconstruction and recovery phases.”

Kevin Rose, a missionary associate who serves as country director for Convoy of Hope, says if Bill and Dorothy are any reflection of the work the AG will do in the coming months, a host of Haitians will be grateful.

“Bill and Dorothy’s willingness to put the needs of the Haitian people ahead of their own is a reflection of their 20 years of ministry here,” he says. “They are more concerned about the needs of the people they have come to love than their own safety.”

Death and destruction on Delmas
Delmas Road is a congested thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince. Long lines of cars, buses and motorcycles snake around gas stations like giant serpents waiting to be fed. Power lines dangle precariously from broken poles. Beneath them, men sift through jagged piles of rubble looking for survivors, bodies and anything that might be salvageable.

Many of the apartment and office buildings lining Delmas Road look like stacks of concrete and rebar pancakes. Each is a testament to the earthquake’s devastating strength.

The smell of death is pungent. Bodies tangled in piles of rubble can be seen from the road. Government officials estimate the death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

“Right now we know of at least one pastor who was killed and dozens of AG believers who were injured,” says missionary Steven Aldrich. “We’re praying that through this catastrophe our churches will reach out even more to their communities. This nation desperately needs Jesus right now.”

A cup of water
The place looked like a playground as cribs, toys and clothing dotted the green lawn. Instead, it was a mini-refugee camp for children whose orphanage was destroyed in the earthquake.

The children whiled away their days running around and playing games, but their circumstance was quickly becoming desperate. As with tens of thousands of Haitians, their access to clean drinking water was dwindling.

“The children are surviving on only half a cup of water per day since the earthquake,” says missionary Gary Higgins who serves with Convoy of Hope. “Obviously, that amount is not nearly enough for the hot, humid conditions here.”

In response, Higgins built and installed two water purification units for the children. These units can provide unlimited clean drinking water for years to come. Within a week Convoy of Hope installed 28 more water filters in the Port-au-Prince area. An additional 1,700 filters are en route to Haiti, along with three large water purification units donated by Culligan that can each produce 15,000 gallons of clean water every day.

Conclusion
“It will be a long time before life in Haiti returns to normal,” says Hal Donaldson, Convoy of Hope president.  “But returning to ‘normal’ in Haiti is not good enough when the majority of the population was struggling to survive before the earthquake.  We need God’s wisdom in providing aid where it will have the greatest long-term benefit.”

Such abject poverty is the reason AG World Missions, HealthCare Ministries and Convoy of Hope will continue to send teams, food and supplies to Haiti in the coming months.

Helping Haiti recover and rebuild will be a challenging, long-term project requiring ongoing sacrifice, selfless giving and determination. These qualities were evident when a national missionary from the Assemblies of God in the Dominican Republic volunteered to transport food and supplies to Port-au-Prince. While en route, he was stopped by dozens of people and robbed of his cargo.

But miracles are happening too. Shortly before the earthquake, Convoy of Hope’s warehouse outside Port-au-Prince was restocked with food and supplies. On the day of the earthquake Kevin Rose was in the country and immediately began relief efforts.

Throughout the disaster’s aftermath, Convoy of Hope’s greatest advantage in getting food and supplies to the suffering has been its network of partners.

“Our long-standing partners give us access to parts of the city we could have never gone into by ourselves,” says Coroleuski. “Without partners we would have been like many other relief organizations. They had food and supplies, but they faced enormous logistical and security problems getting those items distributed.”

Having partners and food in Haiti didn’t happen by accident. People who regularly give generously and sacrificially to AG World Missions and Convoy of Hope made it happen. Their support has already saved lives, and in the days ahead it will help move many Haitians toward a new life.  

Dick Nicholson, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, says: “What impresses me most is the unique sense that God is doing something huge to provide Haitians with a whole new opportunity. There seems to be a spirit of revival, repentance and turning to God. And the way the church is responding gives us hope for the future.”


KIRK NOONAN is communications director for Convoy of Hope

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.