Coastal homes reduced to rubble, acres of land covered with toppled trees and walls bearing high water marks left behind by floods. These are common sights across Haiti’s devastated southern peninsula in the wake of Hurricane Matthew which made landfall on October 4, 2016. Powerful winds and raised seawaters battered coastal towns and wrecked countless homes. The hurricane killed hundreds of people, injured thousands and decimated agriculture and livestock—making Hurricane Matthew one of the fiercest storms on record to ravage Haiti. As it swept through the various other islands I was there in Haiti – not physically, but it had become my second home. And my second family was directly in the line of fire from this terrifying storm. I shuddered to think of what was going to happen. I literally shook with fear as I prayed. You see, I have walked into the mountain villages, visited with these precious families, prayed with them, and offered help.
This little girl lives in the village just behind our east wall. She came to visit me when I was there recently and the mother asked me if I could somehow help them to have fresh well water. I prayed and promised them I would try to raise funds to drill a well for the villagers to use. During the storm, this mother’s home was destroyed. They fled to our orphanage sanctuary and found temporary home and food there.
“Wake up! Wake up!” Tamy peered through the darkness to find her grandmother frantically wrapping her arms around her. The thrashing of the hurricane surrounded them as they fled to the safety of their neighbor’s concrete home. Tamy now stands in front of what used to be her grandmother’s kitchen. An uprooted tree lies as shade for her dishes.
When the storm came, this family of seven hid under their table praying it would protect them. The house eventually collapsed under the weight of the hurricane. It left them trapped and injured. The father pushed on the door until it finally released. When asked about their home, the mother responded, “We don’t have any alternative.” She later shared that God gives them hope and because of that they are surviving.
“School was just about to start. We had everything ready for the children that go to school here — new paint on the walls, school supplies and books ready. Nothing was spared when the hurricane came Sunday. We were planning on distributing school books to children on Monday, but now they are ruined.”
This is Mrs. Valencia Valore, a 96-year-old grandmother who lives in the village behind Place of Hope. Valencia’s home is very small and she is a semi-invalid. I had climbed the mountain into her village and her son took me to her home to pray for her. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience for me. All I could think about was this saintly lady. During the storm, her roof was blown completely off her home and she was thrown out into the front of her place, lying helplessly. Our property manager, Juniou found her, picked her up and carried her to the orphanage, sparing her life. Place of Hope cared for her, fed her and helped to replace the roof on her small cement block home. We are so grateful for God’s hand is all of this.
Especially heartbreaking was the loss of the many remote mountain churches. Pastor Linus, pictured with Andre and Angie, lost the entire roof of their church, just five miles west of Place of Hope. Despair could easily come to a church of 200 villagers, with poverty preventing collection of any meaningful money with which to rebuild a new roof. If you were to look into their faces, you would have seen the desperate call for help. Area pastors could only stand and survey the complete destruction of their worship center in these remote villages as Hurricane Matthew played no favorites. Mr. Dorval, pictured next, was one of the Elders of this church where I had just preached, jammed with young families. Mr. Dorval is a blind uncle and only relative of one of our blind boys at Place of Hope. He walks away from a morning service under a makeshift tarp. We were able to collect some funds from Albany Christian Church in Indiana and a couple of Canadian churches. It was enough to help the people rebuild some walls and a metal roof. They’re still unstable church is perched on the steep mountainside slope in a remote mountain area.
The Haitian people have learned that destructive earthquakes, hurricanes, and torrential tropical storms will arise. Life will and must go on. In spite of any and all tragic events of nature that continually pound the Haitian people, you will find quintessential human qualities. They still laugh in the face of tragedy. They have learnd from experience that these earthly events cannot be the end of life. So, they rise to assist others who have lost homes, family and possessions. Children still run through debris and remains, laughing and playing, and adults somehow find the ability to smile, and say, “We have to bounce back. That’s the way of life here in this land. We never give up.” They still live under blue tarps and temporary roofs, still hoping, still trusting and still believing that their hope will not go away.