by Bob Allen
Friday, January 15, 2010
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (ABP) -- Baptists in Haiti mourned the death of a beloved pastor killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Gedeon Eugene, a vice president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, told the Baptist World Alliance that Bienne L'Amerique, 46, pastor of Eglise Baptiste du Shiloh (Shiloh Baptist Church) in Port-au-Prince, was one of thousands of victims buried in rubble of collapsed buildings in the capital city.
L'Amerique, described as a beloved pastor and leader among Haiti's Baptists, was a host to mission groups from the United States and was due for a U.S. visit next month.
''Everybody in our office is crying,'' Jack Groblewski, senior pastor of New Covenant Christian Community in Bethlehem, Pa., told the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pa.
With most of Haiti's power grid destroyed, information from Haiti was slow in coming during the first three days after the disaster. Eugene told BWA officials there had been no word on the fate of about 15,000 members of six Baptist congregations located in Port-au-Prince.
Groblewski said about half of L'Amerique's church building collapsed, and it was constructed better than some others. The American pastor said streets in the neighborhood where Shiloh was located are said to be lined with corpses, which are covered with sheets or blankets because there are no body bags.
According to a BWA report, First Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince also sustained damage.
Baptists in America responded quickly to the humanitarian crisis, but aid was slow in arriving due to difficulty in getting into the country. A medical team from North Carolina Baptist Men left for Haiti Jan. 14, but was still trying to get across the border a day later.
Texas Baptist Men were waiting for clearance Jan. 15 to send 5,000 water-purification systems that cost $30 each. The group asked for donations to help cover costs of the $150,000 commitment.
Buckner International was preparing four containers of shoes and emergency food items for Haiti, which will cost $5,000 per container to ship. Buckner asked the public to supply new items such as new socks, tents, toiletries and new and unopened first-aid kits.
Relief agencies said the best way to help in the short term is to give money. Aid cannot be distributed until staging areas are established, and most volunteer work will not be needed until after the initial search-and-rescue phase. Groups including Baptist World Aid
, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
and American Baptist Churches USA
are all raising money for earthquake relief.
Several Baptist congregations are also making large commitments to disaster relief. Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, set aside $10,000 for earthquake aid. Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Okla., asked his church members to give money to Baptist World Aid. Randall visited Haiti last year to distribute mosquito nets with His Nets, a ministry that fights malaria in developing countries started by T Thomas, coordinator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma.
Baptist leaders also sought prayer for Haiti. www.d365.org
, a devotional website sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, The Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church, is editing content to guide readers in devotion and prayer about Haiti.
Colleen Burroughs of Passport, Inc., the organization that produces d365.org, said the site was created in response to 9/11, when it became apparent that Advent literature written months earlier for students was not relevant at the time. The site offers daily devotions, along with Advent and Lenten series, but it is also designed to respond immediately to events like the tsunami in Asia or Hurricane Katrina.
"The immediate response helps make it a relevant ministry to students," Burroughs said. Last year d365.org had 450,000 visitors from all around the world, and the site is currently being translated for Christians in Mongolia at their request.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.