On October 4, 2016 Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti as the strongest storm to hit the island in the last half-century and the third strongest on record. The storm devastated much of southern Haiti, washing away homes, crops, roads, and taking many lives.
While most of the work of Haiti Orphan Foundation is around central Haiti (Port-au-Prince & Croix-des-Bouquets), we are connected to southern Haiti through the ministry of Pastor Lesly Bertrand. Pastor Lesly oversees nineteen churches across Haiti. (He personally started five of them, and the others have come to him for leadership and support). Two of his churches are located in Saint-Jean, a town near the larger seaport city of Les Cayes, an area that was severely affected by the direct hit of Hurricane Matthew. On our recent trip to Haiti Tripp Atkinson and Bruce Cope made the difficult five-hour trip from Croix-des-Bouquets to Saint-Jean with Pastor Lesly to survey the damage and deliver aid to the community.
The further south we drove, the more devastation we saw. Nearly two months since the hurricane, there were still downed power lines everywhere, washed out bridges, downed trees, and destroyed
homes. When we arrived in Saint-Jean, we met Pastor Mario who had his church destroyed and the roof blown off of his home in the storm. Pastor Lesly made it a top priority to put a tin roof on Mario’s house, as he and his wife are caring for a new baby. Rebuilding the church building for this 160-member congregation will require a much greater effort and resources.
Up the rough terrain a few miles from Pastor Mario’s church we met Pastor Ovner, who ministers to a beautiful hilltop community of a few hundred people. Pastor Ovner not only lost his current church building in the hurricane but also the partial construction of their new larger church building. His congregation has constructed a make-shift hut under which about 120 gather on Sundays to worship.
While the loss of church buildings is certainly heart-breaking, they are certainly not the most difficult tragedies from the storm. Pastors Mario and Ovner lost six church members in Hurricane Matthew. Most of them drowned when the storm surge covered their houses. While mourning the loss of loved ones, this community is struggling to survive. The storm washed away their crops, which not only fed their families, but also were a source of income at the local market. The many coconut trees that were blown over will take as long as ten years to replace. Other crops will take several months. Very little aid has reached this community, and starvation is a reality to the people. Pastor Lesly informed us that 127 people in the region have died of starvation since the hurricane.
While we want to do so much more, it was such a blessing to deliver a monetary gift from Sugar Hill Church to Pastors Mario and Ovner. I’m told that the gift will ensure at least one meal a day for the next two months for those in these churches who are starving. That will allow some time for crops to be planted in the area. Pastor Lesly delivered a bag of seed that the people hope to get in the ground soon.
While we were there, Dr. Bruce offered a medical clinic for those in the area that needed to see a doctor. Among those seen was a baby that survived being born during the hurricane. Nearly all the medicine that was bought or donated to us was given out that day to this hurting community.
Going forward, we want to do more to help this hurting community. A big immediate need is for seed to plant new crops. Only limited seed can be purchased there, and Pastor Lesly has requested okra, watermelon, red pepper, green pepper, and yellow pepper seeds. These can be used to feed the community and will sell well in the market in Les Cayes.
In Pastor Mario’s destroyed church we found a Bible lying among the ruins, opened to Psalm 138 which reads, “As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” Thank you to those who have sent strength & encouragement to those hurting in Haiti! Please continue to remember these pastors and this sweet community in prayer as they rely on God’s strength in these tough days.
Friends, I want to first thank you for the gracious and loving support you have given to the Haiti Orphan Foundation this year. Because of you, 15 vulnerable children were fed, given shelter, and shown the love of Christ. Your willingness to think of others less fortunate truly has made an impact in their lives. We at HOF did not seek this position, we feel our Lord has called each of us to reach out of our comfort zone and follow where He leads. We have continued to pursue true obedience and hold steadfast in His provision for all we do. I often marvel at what HOF has grown to and eagerly wait for what God has planned. Our mission has never wavered. We aim to share the love of Christ with vulnerable and abandoned children in a lost and harsh country. Remembering the recent bible verses that were recited to us by the children at Grace Children’s Home on our most recent trip serves as a strong reminder of His involvement in this endeavor.
Our year was met with an extraordinary turn of events. Over the past 7 months we have endured violent acts that are almost unfathomable. In March of 2012, the security of the Grace Home was breeched and met with a level of violence that reminded each of us of the danger one sees in a desperate third world country. Our security guard was murdered and Pastor Lesly and his family were victimized all for money. Praise God none of the children were harmed, but it served as a sobering reminder of the spiritual war we are involved in. Not only did this prompt the displacement of the boys to a safer more rural area (Mirebalais), but it served notice that Haiti is continuing to become more dangerous. Ensuring the safety for the children and all who reside at the Grace Home has become paramount. Through much discussion and prayer, we have taken strides to meet this need. From your support and the leadership from our sources in Haiti, we were able to raise our perimeter wall 3 more feet, add razor wire, and erect two elevated security guard shacks. Unfortunately, this is only one aspect of the challenge we are facing with regards to security. Cost for this much needed upgrade remains the biggest obstacle. We have been told we will require at minimum 2-3 security guards (estimated cost is $900/mo… our initial costs currently are $125/mo. ). Please pray for guidance and wisdom as we work to find a solution.
As we struggled with the events of March, our organization was faced with another tragedy. We lost one of our own. PFC Junot Cochilus was a Haitian American serving with the United States Army in Afghanistan when he died tragically by an enemy IED. I am unsure how to best describe my friend. Junot was quite simply an angel who walked on this earth. He was instrumental in the formation of HOF and remained the liaison between Pastor Lesly and our board. He was the spark behind the formation of the Haiti Orphan Foundation. If it weren’t for Junot’s connections, love for children and passion to dream big, HOF would have never been formed. We owe so much to him and the vision God gave him. I have seen Junot’s heart reach all walks of life. From the pagan voodoo doctor he ministered and showed love for, to the desperate and homeless, to the orphaned and ill children, to strangers needing money or a shoulder to cry on, Junot was there for each of them. I will miss my friend. I will miss him very much. I am only sad for myself however; for I know my brother is home.
Satan’s actions over the last few months have attempted to disrupt, detract, and destroy HOF. I must say it was difficult, but we have met each challenge with resolve, fervor, and most of all, prayer. We remain resolute in our mission for we know God has a plan. To that end, we are once again actively pursuing a location for a future girls home. We are currently examining the possibility and implications of having it reside in the mountain foothills of Mirebalias. Please pray for God’s direction to become clear to us. Girls remain the most vulnerable in Haiti. In a world where strength and brutality rules, women find themselves a consummate victim. Our Lord beckons us to do something. I sincerely ask for your prayers, not for HOF to be successful but that His Kingdom will be glorified. We give honor and glory to our Heavenly Father for continued grace and provision.
Making a difference with you,
(for Daryl, Mike, Tommy, Tripp, & Wes)