It’s been a year since the earthquake hit Haiti; Patti Gibbons shares her love for this nation, which has grown over half a decade and her experience of ministry last month in Port-au-Prince.
In a sweltering summer music festival exhibit tent, I talked with the missionary to Haiti in the neighboring booth; it was the first time I felt that tug on my heart. She spoke lovingly about Haiti’s people, clearly about the spiritual challenges there, and passionately about reasons she saw for the pervasive generational poverty which kept the people there oppressed.
That conversation was five years ago. Every time Haiti was in the news — hurricanes, political unrest — I would remember her words and offer a prayer for her family’s ministry there. That was enough, until the evening of January 12, 2010 when a tremendous earthquake brought Haiti’s largest city to its knees. That night a call was planted.
I tugged on God’s sleeve in prayer, “Dad, Dad… you know me, you know my heart and my abilities… would you send me?” For months, possible opportunities came and went as I actively waited for the green light. The hope of going at the right time with the right purpose kept me focused on keeping Haiti in front of everyone I could reach.
When I arrived as part of a team in Port-au-Prince on December 27, 2010, our mission was clear. Listen to, encourage, pray for, and show people that the world has not forgotten they are there, needing hope and help.
One morning we visited a displacement camp for ministry in smaller teams. With our interpreter, whose family lived in a section of this camp, our team wound through the rows of tents and found something I didn’t expect: joyful faith.
Most people with whom we spent time told us how grateful to God they were for their lives, for their shelter, for God’s provision for their needs. Yes, they were weary, but most commonly, they requested us to pray with them for work so they could move out of the camp they’d lived in for 11 months. We also prayed for healing and health, for safety, and blessed babies and children.
One man, in fact the last person with whom our team prayed before it was time for us to go back to our base to prepare for the afternoon’s ministry, spoke to us about his belief that he would never leave the camp. He echoed a sentiment common among others, but his own sense of discouragement was evident.
He was near tears as he said, “It’s not going to change.” He said he knew God had not abandoned him, but the year of living among people who had lost everything was pressing him. The Lord brought to my mind a verse for him, really, for his people. He did not have a bible, so, through our interpreter, I spoke the words of Jeremiah 29:11 to him as we prayed for him and his neighbors in this camp.
When we said amen, his tension had been replaced by renewed trust in God; his discouragement by hope that he was not forgotten. There were many, many moments like this during my week in Haiti, but even if he had been the only person in which I’d seen this transformation, I would have known I’d been there for the right purpose. Hope empowers.