Take an unforgettable trip with a Free Will Baptist relief team...
Help and Hope for Haiti
by Ken Akers
I will never forget my reaction when I heard about the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. I thought, “The quality of life in Haiti is already terrible! How can it get any worse?” After ten years of annual missions trips to the island, I knew that a major earthquake in the poorest country in the western hemisphere could only result in calamity.
When denominational leaders asked me to head up Free Will Baptist relief efforts on the island, I was glad to accept. We chose to partner with Mountain Faith Mission located in Saut D’Eau, just north of the capitol city of Port au Prince. The independent, evangelical mission started by Lee and Molly Carroll in 1948, has a long track record of service through an orphanage, bakery, school, trade school, and medical clinic. They also sponsor annual Vacation Bible Schools attended by thousands of children.
As money and supplies poured in, we began to make plans for a series of trips, the first to provide immediate relief and medical aid, and additional trips to help the mission rebuild destroyed facilities.
A Logistic Miracle
For three frustrating weeks I tried everything to get relief workers into Haiti, but a series of cancelled flights from airports up and down the east coast left us fuming, anxious to provide help and supplies to these people in need. Just when we had reached the end of our rope, God opened the door to make the trip in the strangest of ways.
One of the nurses on the team was sharing her frustration about the situation with a patient. To her surprise, he responded, “I think I can help.” He went on to explain that he was a pilot, about to head back to Haiti in a private jet to retrieve a group of doctors he had delivered several weeks earlier.
To her delight, he invited our team to join him. We quickly accepted, and the trip was underway!
The Medical Team
I met Oklahoma team members Linda Peters and Courtney Garner for the first time at Nashville International Airport. Linda is a retired nurse from Pryor First FWB Church and Courtney is an LPN from Rejoice FWB Church in Owasso. After a quick lunch we dashed off to Chattanooga to catch the plane.
The helpful pilot, whose name was Roman, helped us load our luggage, supplies, and equipment on the nine-passenger corporate jet. After a sleepless night, we were in the air by 5:15 a.m. Finally! We were on our way to Haiti.
On the Ground
As we neared the Port au Prince airport, we peered anxiously through the windows to see the damage from the air. After a safe landing, we made our way through the airport with little trouble. We were surprised to see that life had returned to “normal” in the Haitian capitol. Accustomed to desperate circumstances, it appeared the Haitians had adapted to the situation and the bustling streets reflected “business as usual.”
The two-hour ride to the missions compound in Saut d'Eau was uneventful, and we arrived in time to participate in evening worship services where two people were saved.
The next morning, after a worship service where I spoke to an audience of 500 about the goodness of God in the face of disaster, I evaluated the damage to the mission’s facilities. The boys’ dorm at the orphanage and the metal working shop had been destroyed. In addition, large portions of the security wall around the compound had collapsed.
Thankfully, no one died in Saut D’Eau, although nearly everyone was affected by the quake. Most lost friends or family members, and many had no place to live. The nurses went into action immediately. Some worked with Dr. Charles, medical director at the mission, to treat rashes, infections, various wounds, and other lingering effects of the quake.
The rest of the team set up a temporary medical clinic in an unused chapel, using donated medical supplies and equipment. But before the clinic even opened, the hardworking team had already treated 40 patients!
Into the City
The next morning, patients had already lined up at the entrance to the clinic waiting for medical attention. It quickly became apparent that we would need more medicine and medical supplies, so I headed back to Port au Prince with Dr. Charles to find a pharmacy.
While in the city, I also planned to go to the airport to greet the rest of the team—volunteer workers from Kentucky who would repair the damage to the mission. The team also included nurse practitioner Greta Minton, and LPN Tina Walker, both from McMinnville, Tennessee.
The pharmacies were a hub of activity as thousands flocked to one of few sources of medicine. We stood in line for hours watching people receive medicine and supplies for a myriad of ailments. They brought their own bottles and jars of all sizes, from a gallon jug to a baby food bottle.
After purchasing supplies, we met the volunteers at the airport (minus 14 pieces of luggage) and began the two-hour trek back to the compound.
As we wound our way through the rubble of downtown with its vast tent cities and crumpled buildings, I was struck again by the attitude of the Haitians. While it was obvious that a major catastrophe had occurred, they were no longer mourning. They had moved on. For the most part, routine had returned.
I was reminded that Haitians are familiar with problems, hardship, and suffering, as much, perhaps, as any people on earth. They have little expectation of happiness, little to anticipate. Endurance has become their way of life.
And that is why the gospel of Jesus is just as important as medical supplies, care, and food. The Haitians don’t just need temporary relief. They need eternal relief as well—the hope of Heaven and the assurance of a loving God.
The following morning, I left the relief team hard at work and began the long trip back to the States. I was tired but happy, glad to be part of the rebuilding efforts in Haiti—efforts that may last for years to come.
I will always be grateful to the hundreds of Free Will Baptists who shared their time and money to bring hope and help to the people of Haiti.
About the Writer: Ken Akers is the director of Free Will Baptist Master’s Men. Read more about his organization and their mission at www.fwbmastersmen.org.
Editorial note: At press time, Free Will Baptists had given a total of $79,133.81 toward relief in Haiti. This does not include the thousands of dollars given to regional relief efforts by the Gateway FWB Church in Virginia, Impulse International in Ohio, or Arms of Compassion in Oklahoma. Thank you for your generosity.