four updates from Haiti

Four quick updates for you from Haiti, as well as a call to action for our church family, Westpoint Church.

1st, the team from Central Florida with New Missions that was serving at the time of the earthquake is in the first phase of returning home. Many of their family members here are anxious to see their loved ones again. To say it has been an adventure of survival would be an understatement. My prayer for them is threefold: (1) to return home safely, (2) to never forget what life was like when all they had was each other (they return to a region of our world that is one of the most affluent), and (3) to return to Haiti one day soon to help with the relief effort. Here’s a report from someone in Central Florida who was instrumental in helping to organize their rescue.

Our team successfully landed in the Dominican Republic yesterday and sent in a team of four special operators into the New Missions compound last night via helicopter.  Today, with a joint effort with the US military, all 44 individuals are in route back to the Dominican Republic via helicopter.   All 44 are safe and did not sustain injury.   We have a large plane in route to the Dominican Republic to bring them all back to the US. Due to the heavy air traffic in the area, we do not know exactly when our plane will be able to land to bring them back. But we believe they will be home soon. It’s just a matter of time. Thank you for all your prayers and support. Thank you God for your provisions and for the safety of our team.

2nd, last night, a friend forwarded an email to Jen and me from one of the people with the New Mission team. Here is an excerpt from that letter. Pretty raw and telling of the situation there:

It has been a rough 24 hours. I haven’t slept since 4:30am Tuesday. Email has been our life lines to all of you. The support is so incredibly uplifting. God continues to work incredible miracles. I can’t wait to fill you all in.

We are still getting some heavy tremors. We react a bit quicker than the first time. Things are moving very fast here. All morning we have been assessing damage to the compound. Though no buildings collapsed, almost all the buildings will have to come down. We are helping the small village, Board Mear, next to New Missions. There were deaths there. We are emptying the warehouses of food, which normally goes to the 8000 children New Missions feeds at their 23 schools each day, and giving it out to the villagers. Also, each school received two weeks supply – all the bags of food are gone now.

We traveled out to the main road. Didn’t get too far in the direction of Port-au-Prince before we were turned back- so we went the other way. House after house crumbled to the ground. A lot of the homes are made of cinder block and concrete flat roofs. They just came straight down. We came across a home that had several people still trapped inside. We could actually see someone who didn’t make it out alive.  Several men were using a small hacksaw to try and cut thru one single rebarb on the top of this mountain of concrete. I can’t imagine what you are seeing in Port-au-Prince on TV. The thatch huts in the villages fared better. Made of sticks and mud, I guess materials that give more.

There have been emails coming in from people in Orlando, Tallahassee, and Washington to get us home! They have our GPS coordinates. A US Coast Guard plane circled overhead a few times then came in low over the water and waved it’s wings. We started waving and yelling things like “That’s the U-S of A Coast Guard Baby – oh yeah!!” Again – like something out of a movie. That one gave me chills and brought me to tears. We are all ready to depart. Problem is we can’t go to Port-au-Prince by open truck with teenagers. It’s too dangerous. There are reports of major looting and chaos. So however we get out has to be by boat or helicopter. They keep saying either to Guantonimo Bay in Cuba then home or the Dominican Republic. Also CNN  wants to land chinook helicopters at the mission.

On the tough side, New Missions has 4 confirmed deaths so far from their people here – 3 children and a woman who started in New Missions in the 1st grade and was being put thru nursing school. She was at a hospital in Port-au-Prince. There was a lot of damage to the water lines from the well at the Mission so we don’t have showers or bathrooms. A lot of flooding. But plenty of food. The well is a 25 year old aritsian well (self pressurized), but when we we came back this morning there was no pressure at the well head, as if the pipes were severed deep in the ground. That well supplies water to the Mission compound and two surrounding villages.  Anyway about two hours later, water came bursting out of the main pipe with awesome pressure. It came back. God’s hand is amazing.

It’s dark now and need to find a place to sleep – maybe the back of the truck.  I’m so fortunate and blessed to be safe and better off than 99 percent of the people here – absolutely no complaints. I am humbled by this experience. And convinced God is walking with us. The sky is so clear here and I’ve never seen so many stars – and so bright!  However the dark clouds are moving in with a breeze – so tonight may bring rain. More reason to pray for the perhaps millions of children and families sleeping in the fields and villages across Haiti.

I can literally hear them singing in the village across the way.  May God’s hand be upon them.

Next, a couple in our church family has a daughter and son-in-law who live on the southwest corner of Port-au-Prince. They are alive. They have heard from them. Their daughter Rachel (the granddaughter of the couple in our church family) flew out at 2:15pm the day of the earthquake in order to return to Central Florida for college. Obviously, she has been anxious to see her parents again. Rachel will be with our church family Sunday morning. I will be interviewing them. We will have a chance to hear from her as well as her grandparents and pray for and with them for the people of Haiti. Here’s a note from the daughter and son-in-law still in Port-au-Prince:

We spent the night sleeping in the street in front of our house along with all of our neighbors once again.  We were awakened in the night by some gunshots in the distance and again at 5AM by several strong aftershocks.  This thing just won’t quit. We would ask that you pray for wisdom as we and those around us begin to recover from all that has happened.

Yesterday we drove around our area.  What we saw was heartbreaking.  There were houses down everywhere. Many are still trying to dig folks out from under the rubble.  It is difficult as they have only hammers and their hands.

Many have asked questions of us, and we cannot take time to answer all individually. We will try to keep everyone updated as we can. Roger and I are doing fine.  As everyone else, we were not prepared for this. Therefore, we are doing with what we have and helping out as we can. So far we have fuel for the generator and a little in our car. We are charging phones, providing some electricity for our neighbors, handing out drinking water, and giving out some rice and beans that we had in our depot for the school.

You can see some pictures on Roger’s facebook and later refer to our blog site (www.newlifehaiti.blogspot.com) for updates, too.

Finally, as some of you know, one of the networks that we partner with are Florida Baptists. You may not know how connected Florida Baptists are in Haiti. Here is an update from the executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention about the situation in Haiti. Please pray specifically for the rescue of one of their missionaries there. One of them is still unaccounted for. Here’s the update from Dr. Sullivan:

RE:   Responding to Haiti Earthquake

Staff of the Florida Baptist Convention is diligently working on a response effort to assist the people of Haiti who were affected by the 7.3 earthquake that shook the impoverished island nation on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

We are calling upon all Florida Baptists to remember in prayer the people of Haiti who were suffering even before this latest disaster struck.  Also please be in prayer for the 890 Baptist churches affiliated with the Florida Baptist State Convention and their nearly 60,000 members who have directly been affected by this natural disaster.

Secondly, the Florida Baptist Convention’s response efforts will require financial resources to secure foodstuffs and humanitarian assistance.  Florida Baptists and their churches can contribute directly to the Florida Baptist Convention. Every dollar donated will be used solely for this purpose.  At this time we can only accept financial resources.

Those gifts-earmarked for disaster relief–can be sent to the Florida Baptist Convention at 1230 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, Florida, 32207.  Additionally, individuals can make contributions through the Convention’s website: www.flbaptist.org.

The Florida Baptist Convention has an assessment team that is ready to go into Haiti just as soon as transportation can be arranged.  The team will determine where foodstuffs and other commodities can be shipped, stored and distributed.  Then the team will assess damage to Convention-owned property and the churches that comprise the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’ Haiti (CMBH).

The Florida Baptist Convention, which has had a 15-year missions partnership with Haitian Baptists, employs six native Haitian missionaries who are expected to provide information on the needs to which the Florida Baptist Convention can respond.  No other Southern Baptist entity has missionary personnel in the country or the experience in responding to disaster relief in Haiti as had the Florida Baptist Convention.

Updates on the Convention’s response efforts in Haiti will be posted on the website: www.flbaptist.org.

Join us Sunday morning for worship gathering at 10am at Whispering Oak Elementary School in order to worship together and cry out to God together for the New Missions team, Rachel and her family, Florida Baptist missionaries and churches, and the people of Haiti. AND, if you are willing to give, pray for guidance as to whom and to where. I would encourage you to consider Florida Baptists, New Missions, or New Life Haiti. Money given to all three is sure to go to relief efforts through the likes of food and medical supplies.

In the coming months, you will be hearing about opportunities to help with relief efforts by focusing with New Missions in partnership with Northland West Oaks, a partner church with the Church of West Orange. If you have an interest in being on a team that travels down to assist in the relief efforts over the course of the next two years, please sign up Sunday morning or comment here to let us know.

Thankful to be the church together. Love y’all.

-jason

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