The Buildings Fell, But the Church Stands

The Buildings Fell, But the Church Stands

By: Ricot St. Paulin, Haiti Field Communication Specialist   |   Posted: January 10, 2011

How does the Church in Haiti rise amid the destruction of the earthquake?
Children and families affected by the Haiti earthquake gather in church to find hope and strength in God. They are grateful to their sponsors and to donors for the relief provided.

The earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, resulted in widespread destruction and chaos. Buildings of the government, schools, universities, churches, commercial institutions, and homes crumbled and become piles of debris.

More than 230,000 were killed, an estimated 300,000 people were injured, and nearly 250,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged, displacing more than 1 million people.

But the Church of Haiti rose up amid the rubble.

Though many church buildings fell apart, the institution of the Church has remained a strong moral and spiritual support to the survivors. In many cases, pews were plucked from the rubble and set up for outdoor services.

People cried out to Jesus at the very time of the earthquake they did not seek refuge in other gods, says Pastor Yvon D鬩ssaint of New Jerusalem Church, a partner with Compassion through Nouvelle Jerusalem Child Development Center. I think this event helped us to understand that the church is the only hope of the world.

The Church Gives Strength

In the first week after the earthquake, about 800 people came to Christ in New Jerusalem Church. The leadership team held a prayer service every day to keep peoples faith up.

According to Pastor Mathurin Menard of the Wesleyan Church of Leogane (partnered with Compassion through the Leogane Child Development Center), the local churches mourned many dead but the Christian survivors knew with certainty that the dead merely went ahead of the survivors to wait in peace for the return of our Lord.

The Wesleyan mission was the most affected partner of Compassion after the earthquake. Thirty-eight of their local churches (among the 123 churches throughout the country) were affected. The Wesleyan Church of Carrefour-Feuilles, where Capitol Child Development Center is located, was devastated. They lost 99 church members.

A Message of Love in the Midst of Tragedy

Despite the tragic situation and the widespread damage people have been experiencing, God gave us the anointing to preach a message of love and repentance, says Pastor Mathurin. We let them know that we will be through hard times (natural and man-made events), but we need to take heart, for our Lord has already conquered the world.

Church facilities that still stood, as well as parking lots and church yards served to shelter the displaced. Prayers, fasting services, worship songs, and comforting messages echoed all day long and many experienced for the first time the love of God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

All things work together for those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose, says Pastor Mathurin. As Christian leaders, it is more than ever the time to band together toward one goal: Allow people to experience the love of Christ, no matter what. I think January 12 has given us the opportunity to reconsider our approach as the Church of Christ in a distressed world.

An Effective Response Through the Church

Compassion believes that the true change in Haiti should happen through the Church. This is what makes the ministry of Compassion a unique ministry, strong and effective, because it is carried out through the local churches.

Immediately after the earthquake, Compassion launched an assessment and found 38 church partners that were significantly affected and 31 that were moderately affected. Through the churches, at least 60,000 families have received food packets and water to help them cope with their urgent needs. Nearly 6,000 families benefited from temporary shelters, and more than 11,000 people received medical and psychological assistance at the sites of the churches.

Compassion has also provided financial assistance for building materials for the churches and funds to help them remove debris from their compounds.

Compassion has been a great support and encouragement, says Doucet Desronvil, pastor of the Wesleyan Church of Carrefour-Feuilles. It allows the Church to have a stronger visibility in the communities by providing us with means to meet peoples needs. Especially for the Wesleyan church, it has provided a new roof after we have experienced big damages in the church facilities, and now we can worship again with our people, even with more people than we had before January 12.

Praise Among Debris

The Church in Haiti has taken the opportunity to spread the message of the gospel, and people have been more attentive and receptive to it. Thousands of people came to Christ in just the first weeks after the quake.

In every tent city, people gathered to pray, and canopies, tarps, wood or corrugated metal sheets were used to erect temporary meeting places where church services are normally held.

Many came because of fear of another upcoming cataclysm, but left after a couple of weeks, but at the same time, thousands decided to stay and we are so encouraged by that, says Pastor Adrien Denis of the Baptist Church of the Redeemed. They preferred to stand or sit outside in the open sky to attend services as there was not a building to accommodate them.

Now, churches are still packed with people during regular services and leaders have worked on strategies to keep them. For example, at the New Jerusalem Church in Delmas, special meetings are held every Tuesday and Saturday where newborn Christians are taught the Bible and uplifting songs, and they share their testimonies.

The Church in Haiti Marches Onward

Now the most important thing is to keep those who came to Christ after the earthquake to help them grow in the faith, but what is so encouraging is that every week, at least five people still come to Christ in the church, says Pastor D鬩ssaint.

We commit again to be alongside the local churches because we think that the Lord has empowered them to go all over the world to bring the good news of the gospel, to nourish starved bodies, and to feed hungry minds, says Haiti Country Director Guilbaud Saint-Cyr. And Compassion strives to explore ways in which it can reinforce the capacity of the local churches to be powerful weapons in the hands of the Lord for the transformation of communities.

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