by Bob Allen
Monday, January 25, 2010
LIMBE, Haiti (ABP) -- A missionary doctor appointed jointly by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches USA has returned to his home in northern Haiti after eight days of working at an emergency clinic near the epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation Jan. 12.
Steve James, far right, treats a Haitian man who suffered a broken leg, arms and ribs in the Jan. 12 earthquake. (CBF photo)
Steve James, who along with his wife, Nancy, was in the United States attending a conference when the disaster hit, said while returning to the island he wondered what two people could do to make a difference in such a large-scale catastrophe. What came to mind, he said in an online journal report, was the Bible story about Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.
After arriving in Haiti Jan. 14, the couple returned to their home in Limbe, a town of about 10,000 located outside the damage zone. Nancy stayed behind to keep lines of communication open with the outside world while Steve and four others set out for Port-au-Prince. The first day they drove around the city, helping people to find lost relatives and giving water to thirsty people.
From there they headed to Gressier, a community west of Port-au-Prince not far from the earthquake epicenter, where an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of the buildings were destroyed.
When they arrived, doctors and staff at Christianville Clinic, run by the Kansas-based non-profit Haiti Health Ministries, had been working 30 hours straight through the night giving primary medical care to hundreds of injured people who appeared at the mission compound.
James and the rest of the team took over care of the injured. That freed physician Jim Wilkins, who runs the clinic with his wife, Nancy, a nurse, and their staff to salvage and move medical supplies and equipment out of the damaged clinic and set up a makeshift clinic in a nearby school building that was not damaged.
For three days they treated the wounded outdoors under the trees, while an average of five aftershocks a day continued to topple buildings and crack roads even as they were leaving.
"So many have lost so much," James wrote. "Yet only in the wisdom of God and the love of Jesus can glimpses of meaning be found in the midst of all this suffering.
"We felt the power of the tiny acts of Jesus' love coming through all of us, sometimes even so small as a smile, or a touch on the shoulder, a brief prayer, a word of encouragement, in the midst of such pain and grief, especially through those who have suffered so greatly, revealed to us the great power of Jesus to heal," he said. "Working as a team, with every injured one who came to us, we felt the presence and person of Jesus in each suffering one."
"The wounded and grieving ones ministered to us as they shared their faith, their suffering and their gratitude, while we set their broken bones, cleaned and bandaged their wounds, gave medicines to relieve their pain, prayed with them, sang with them, encouraged them, in some we helped introduce them to Jesus and His salvation life for them," he said.
"Together our faith in our healing and loving Lord grew deeper," he wrote. "We were so inspired to see so many Haitian people including doctors and nurses sacrificially helping their brothers and sisters with so little resources available."
Scott Hunter, one of CBF's former field personnel in Southeast Asia, agreed to a three-month assignment in Haiti to give logistical help and provide a point of contact for response teams coming from the United States.
Writing Jan. 25 from Port-au-Prince, Hunter, who did similar work in coordinating the CBF's response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said things were returning to "some sort of new normality." He said that meant that there is no immediate panic, food and water are available and there was no need for military intervention to see that aid is distributed smoothly.
"Many buildings are in ruins and most of those left at the south end of the city will never house people or conduct business again," Hunter wrote. "The [dead] bodies are gone, and I think that most of the people needing medical attention have received it. There will be much work ahead, and I think that it will probably take 10 years to rebuild."
Chris Boltin, who manages short-term engagement for the CBF, said the Atlanta-based Fellowship is not a first-response organization, but is waiting until a safe and stable platform for ministry is established to do follow-up work in Haiti.
"Now is not the time to deploy responders," Boltin said in a CBF blog. "The U.S. State Department is strongly advising that only governmental agencies and highly trained and experienced workers even consider going to Haiti at this time. So, what else can be done?
Boltin said the most effective way to help the people of Haiti is still financial contributions. He said the CBF is accepting donations online at https://www.thefellowship.info/Give/Donate.aspx?fund=17015 or by mail.
As of Jan. 21, more than $49,600 had been contributed to the Fellowship’s Haiti response effort. These funds will be used for the Fellowship’s developing response, which could include responding to long-term needs ranging from sanitation and clean water to medical care and rebuilding homes.
American Baptist International Ministries provided a total of $65,000 for Haiti through One Great Hour of Sharing, an ecumenical relief offering that collects gifts for humanitarian aid from nine Christian denominations.
"We are witnessing a monumental effort that is marked by a historic collaboration between [ABC] International Ministries global partners and missionaries from a variety of countries," Jose Norat-Rodriguez, area director of Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, said Jan. 25.
Reid Trulson, executive director, said International Ministries, which has been working in Haiti since 1823, is committed to working with Baptists there both immediately and into the future.
International Ministries expects to develop a three-year plan for recovery and rebuilding in early February.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.