The Haiti Quake – Up Close and Personal

Like most of the world I am stunned and saddened by the horrific damage done through the  earthquake that leveled the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince last week. Scores of thousands of people are dead and an entire city is now struggling to survive then rebuild. Thankfully, many nations, organizations, churches, and individuals have stepped into the rescue and relief effort which will be needed for months and years to come. We must continue to pray and do all that we can to help.

Youth With A Mission has had long-term workers in Haiti for decades. We operate a number of ministries out of two properties located in St. Marc, about sixty miles from Port-au-Prince.

Regretfully, we also lost a beloved co-worker in the earthquake. One of our Haitian familes on staff with YWAM St.Marc were living in the capital on a time of sabbatical. Evodie St. Fleur was killed in the earthquake, leaving behind her husband, Illioney, and young daughter, Abigail. The St. Fleur’s had been on staff at YWAM St.Marc since 1995. We appreciate your specific prayers for Evodie’s family and friends.

A 22-year old missions volunteer from our home town in Port Orchard, Washington was also killed in the quake. Molly Hightower was halfway through a year of service with Friends of the Orphans–a work dedicated to orphans and disabled children. She worked in a daycare center in Port-au-Prince in a building–the Father Wasson Center–that also served as her residence (she lived on the fifth floor). Her body was found at 4:30am on Friday, January 15.

These are only two of the thousands that perished. Listen to the words of Youth With A Mission Haitian director Terry Snow as he describes the incredible scene and subsequent needs of the island nation:

1/13/2010 5:10 PM 

“I was sitting with our leadership team when the room began to tremble. EARTHQUAKE! We quickly realized that this was an abnormal rumbling. We have experienced minor trembles in times past but not like this one.”

“We all bolted to the exit. Soon we saw everyone out in the center of our campus field as the earth continued to tremble. One of our walls had some plaster begin to shack loose, but then it stopped. Thank God! The city erupted with screams and shouts! Most of our cell companies were down, electric went off, but then one of our new DTS student’s cell phone rings.”

“People are telling him that many buildings have fallen. There is much destruction in the capital Port-au-Prince! We have received word that many housing units have collapsed and government buildings as well, but still no clear reports. Everyone only had 45 minutes before the sun set and now they are pretty well in the darkness.”

1/14/2010 07:19 AM

“Every 30 minutes to an hour the house rumbled and shook from the after shocks of the earthquake that has devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince. It was hard to sleep wondering if you should run, wait or ignore it. All I could think about was the thousands that had no where to sleep in Port-au-Prince 60 miles away from our city, St. Marc. We were up early to see the video footage and pictures of the Presidential Palace destroyed and so many other buildings we once knew. We feel in some ways as helpless as the victims in Port-au-Prince in the since of shock and not knowing what to do or where to start.”

“Communications are still down, airport is closed for today so we have decided to send in a observation team to see what connections they could make. Haiti has no infrastructure much less a crisis management team. I suspect that Port-au-Prince is crying even louder this morning as the reality of their situation tumbles on them.”

Later on in the day, Terry shared this eyewitness report:

“Dead lay in the streets, possibilities of mass burial sights talked about on the radio. People wandering the streets, city parks now filled with people camping out in them. The situation is more worse than dreamed! Yesterday we sent an investigative team to Port-au-Prince (PAP) to take a first hand look at the situation.”

“I will not easily forget what Rodney Gephart and Wayne Snow said when they had returned. “The situation is worse than it has appeared on TV!” My heart sank and instead of crying I felt a numbness come over me as they began telling me of the dead, the buildings that had collapsed and then to hear that they could not find any information on who is doing what as far as cordinated efforts for immediate response and longterm recovery.”

“Our Leadership Team went late into the night trying to assemble all the data and strategies on how to begin with assisting the victims of the earthquake. Praying for wisdom from God! We know He has a plan. We have seen him take us through many floods and other situations that were greater than we could bare in the past and by GOD’s grace, mercy and power we will see this through! How ummeasurable is His love! Nothing is impossible concerning Him!”

On Friday, Terry shared this update on the relief effort:

01/15/2010 8:50 PM.

 “We bought  two 25lb bags of rice in St. Marc. To our knowledge it was the last available rice in all of St. Marc city and province! This is getting serious friends. What the UN and Government people may not be taking into thought is the mass number of people that are evacuating Port-au-Prince (PAP). This is devasting the supplies in the province.”

“One of the largest wholesalers in St. Marc has empty depots tonight with no word on when he might be able to get more bulk food! Victims of PAP are now beginning to fill churches in St. Marc and we are looking at potentially staging two additional camps here in this city as well as our staging points in PAP. FUEL is gone, vehicles are being parked! We have to have fuel if we are going to survive, much less help the victims!”

“We have been very busy and have made great headway in developing a plan to begin assistance. We would like to begin preparing food and passing out sacks of purified water very soon! Instead of doing this today we focused on staging points to host teams, connect with the US Embassy and develop the infrustructure needed to assist in a positve way!”

“Please understand that all the banking systems have collapsed due to communications and the main offices destroyed in the capital. Hopefully tomorrow we will see our Haitian bank begin to open or release some funds for our use. We are finding other ways to obtain funds as well. The Haitian government is not funtioning and we have a team working to try and find a way to get the port of St. Marc opened for humanitarian supplies.”

“Our YWAM base has 3 acres of land that we could make available to park containers for unloading, organizing and then shipping on to Port-au-Prince. We have placed a call to YWAM Volunteers to come and assist in administrative ways to help in organization of the many teams that have already written ready to come. As mentioned we have currently found two staging points that could provide housing for these teams. We have a possibility of up to 10 additional places as well. Airplanes were seen flying in and the US Embassy was still very packed with people trying to leave. The smell of dead bodies is growing stronger and there seemed to be a spirit of despair crying out through out the city.”

1/17/2010 – 5pm.

“Yesterday our YWAM’ers in Port-au-Prince (PAP) came upon people seeking help and a four month old child was discovered pinned under a building. Our rescue team from YWAM sprang into action. After some time the child was removed from the rubble and rushed to a make shift hospital with a large cut on her head. Once there everyone tried to find a responsible person. After asking where the baby’s mother was, the people with them said she was still under the building.”

“The YWAMers rushed back to hear people saying that she was under the building, dead. Our YWAMers began to dig to find her. To everyone’s surprise they found her ALIVE! She was extremely dehydrated and will need hospital care but it seems she will recover! YWAM St. Marc Gym has become a make shift recovery ward for the overflowing hospital. Yesterday a Doctor asked one of our YWAMers “What are they going to do with all these orphans.” He claimed that none of the children at our center had known living parents and the orphanage caretaker is not in the country. “Would YWAM take these children?” he asked.”
“One of our volunteers spoke with one young boy that was actually thought to be dead! He had already been placed in the morgue in a closed room with the dead. After placed there and the door closed, morgue workers heard a knocking on the closed door and was shocked to see that this young boy was still alive!”

“Strategies are forming on how to best cope and minister during this situation. It is very intense and difficult, but let us all pray for the children of Haiti.” 

I hope reading this eyewitness account moves you to pray and get involved. Our family and ministry are giving to the relief effort and you can too. Size of gift doesn’t matter–just share from the heart. There are many worthy organizations I would encourage you to support. As we saw in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Christian organizations because of their compassion, staff of the ground, and lack of bureacracratic red tape, are often the best responders and rebuilders. I recommend:

And let’s keep the suffering peoples of Haiti in our fervent prayers. God Himself is the only one who can truly bring both immediate and long-term hope to the people of Haiti. He can work in their hearts. He can restore faith and purpose. He can reveal his love through his people.

If you’re interested in sending a church team or youth group to help in the long-term recovery efforts of Port-au-Prince and the nation of Haiti, Youth With A Mission can also help you. For information contact :

May we all remember these words as we face the challenges and disasters of life:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the mountains quake and the earth be removed.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God shall help her. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1,5,10).