“The city of St Marc erupted with screams and shouts.”
This is how Terry Snow, YWAM’s national director for Haiti, remembered the minutes after the terrible earthquake that was to change Haiti forever.
When the earthquake struck at 16:53 on January 12th 2010, the whole world watched the horror unfold. The full impact of the 7.0 magnitude quake was in Port Au Prince, the capital city some sixty miles away from the main YWAM center in St Marc. As reports came in, Terry soon realized that the situation was far worse than anyone imagined and Haiti would face many desperate struggles ahead. The international community responded with aid, the media came to report and the world was, for a time, carrying this country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, close to it’s heart.
Being a large city in relatively close proximity, St Marc became one of the obvious destinations for the refugees forced to leave Port Au Prince. YWAM was asked to organize the transformation of schools into refugee centers to receive, feed, clothe and register the victims. Partnering with local churches, YWAM also mobilized congregation members to host their bewildered and broken neighbors. This was a three-week program. When the three weeks were over, the focus shifted from crisis rescue and hand-outs, to developing systems and goals for long-term recovery.
One of the important systems put in place in St Marc in the weeks after the disaster was a registration card program. Each refugee from Port Au Prince was given an identity card, allowing them access to the food distribution program. This brought order into potential chaos and violence and meant that everyone had access to rice and beans provided by the United Nations and other organizations. YWAM, with other charities such as Christian Aid and the Red Cross, are committed to the long-term plan to rebuild Haiti, restoring justice, solidarity and dignity to this beautiful country and its people.
With the media gone and the attention of the international community directed elsewhere, how is Haiti recovering six months on? Here are some stories of what is happening now.
‘New Foundations Clinic’ – From death to life.
In 1972, a Dr. Brown built an abortion clinic in St Marc that was known as “The Death Hospital.” When Dr Brown died, the clinic was vacated, and stayed empty for 10 years, being used only as a latrine by the locals. In the days after the earthquake, YWAM was given the building to use for the refugees. In partnership with others, YWAM renamed the old hospital the “New Foundations Clinic.” It is now used to treat the sick before transferring them to temporary tent housing as they recover.
With the 270,000 people of St Marc having only one hospital, this is a vital ministry needing 8,000 dollars a month to run efficiently. It is hoped that the clinic will be soon self-sustaining with an efficient administrative system to facilitate treatment programs.
Sometimes though, the healing process bypasses the medical teams and testimonies are heard of supernatural healings. One such event happened recently in New Foundations Clinic. A patient had a dream that she was prayed for and healed. She had prayed often for healing of her legs as walking was virtually impossible for her.
News of this lady’s dream reached the YWAM base and it seemed like a good idea to go to the clinic to pray for her in person! When they arrived, they placed a wet, white cloth on her legs in accordance with her original dream. The lady told them the cloth became cold, then hot. So the team lifted her up out of her seat and she stood tall, wobbled a little bit and, in her words, “I stood up and started to walk!” It was not long before she was jumping and dancing.
This miracle happened at the start of three days of national “mourning for the dead” and was a reminder that God turns mourning into dancing. (Psalm 30:5) Many in Haiti are now turning to God to restore their nation as He answers their prayers for healing.
Handing over the keys: Homes of Hope
“There is nothing more effective, yet so simple, as building a home for a family. It gives them a foundation, a hope, and an understanding of what it means to be loved.” (YWAM Haiti)
On June 25th 2010, YWAM Haiti’s national director, Terry Snow, handed nine families the keys to nine brand-new permanent homes in the tent communities of Perisse and Timonette.
As the YWAM team prayed blessings over them, it was clear that this was a significant milestone in the recovery process for the Haitian people. Each home cost three thousand dollars and was built in partnership with the Hinkletown Mennonite Church of Pennsylvania and YWAM. Since the earthquake, each family had been housed in temporary tent dwellings provided by YWAM, and as they opened the doors to their new home, deep thankfulness was evident by the wide smiles on their faces.
Since the earthquake, YWAM has acquired land on which they have built hundreds of tents to house the homeless. While tents continue to be purchased and erected as funding becomes available, the long-term aim is to continue to build permanent housing, thereby rebuilding the stability and dignity of Haiti.
Stretching wide. Going deep.
For YWAM teams, the costs of helping to rebuild a nation are not just financial. The emotional resilience needed to stretch wide and continue to pour love into the people of Haiti can only be sourced from the heart of God. It is deep intimacy with God that replenishes souls and gives strength to serve day after day, often in extremely difficult circumstances.
At the YWAM base in St Marc, the 24-hour prayer room is a safe place for the teams to go deep in corporate worship and intercession. When all three YWAM tent cities joined together in 24 hours of prayer something remarkable happened. One group decided to visit a nearby village, gathered the people together in one place and preached the gospel. Half the population of that village received Jesus Christ and were all baptized in the river behind their homes!
A week after the 24-hour house of prayer was launched, a new ministry was birthed. Thirty-five inner city prostitutes were brought to the YWAM base in St Marc, and met with female members of the team over some weeks. Eventually, one of the pimps let a YWAM volunteer know that ten of the girls had turned away from prostitution at the same time.
Prayer changes things! God is at work in the villages and cities of Haiti.