Erilus St. Sauveur lost a sister and two nephews to the
Haitian earthquake Jan. 12.
His sorrow was mitigated only by the first phone call from
his son in Haiti six days after the quake to say he was alive.
St. Sauveur, pastor of First Haitian Tabernacle of Grace in
Raleigh, is no stranger to pain, having lost three siblings during political
violence in Haiti years ago. With seven children of their own, he and wife
Mureille, are parents to six other relatives for whom they’ve taken
With the television in his sparsely furnished house in
Garner tuned constantly to news, and his telephone ever at hand, St. Sauveur
yearns for any news from his native island. He knows all surviving relatives
are living on the street with hundreds of thousands of others.
He also has learned how narrow the margin between life and
One of St. Sauveur’s grandsons was with his father in Haiti
on Jan. 12 when they heard a strange noise. The father stepped outside the
house to look at the sky, just before the ceiling collapsed on his son. The
boy’s last words were, “Help me; save me.”
St. Sauveur also lost a niece and her two children. The four
churches and two schools he planted in Haiti are all destroyed, with 12 known
casualties. The fate of many others is simply unknown.
He is anxious to get to Haiti to assess the situation, and
pledges his availability to help any group going over.
St. Sauveur, an entrepreneurial church planter who started
14 churches in the Chicago area and two more in Pennsylvania, moved to North
Carolina just last year in search of warmer weather for better health.
He formed an organization called Solid Rock. Prior to that
he worked under the auspices of two other denominations and his church is now
meeting in the facilities of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh.
He was a district overseer for 42 congregations in Haiti
when he left for America in 1985 as a missionary to reach Haitians for God.
His vision is to start Haitian churches everywhere. “We plan
to go and get them for the Lord,” he said, noting also Haitian populations in
Charlotte, High Point and Greensboro. “You have to go out there and cry in the
wilderness like John the Baptist and people will come to you,” he said.
He called Raleigh a “tough place” to start a Haitian church
and said if a preacher does not “have God’s spirit after a while you will say
au revoir and will leave.”
St. Sauveur, 58, grew up with an aunt in Port-au-Prince from
age five after she took him in following destruction of his hometown of
Anse-a-veau by a hurricane. She was a member of First Baptist Church of
St. Sauveur offers some insight as to why Haiti is so poor.
He said Haitians picked up from the French colonialists that only certain
professions had honor. Craftsmen or tradesmen had no prestige and no one sought
training or employment in those roles.
Instead, “everyone wants to be the chief or president” he
said, and everyone who gets into such a role takes the money and leaves.
Way to help
As North Carolina Baptists prepare to help Haiti recover,
St. Sauveur suggested building a trades training school. With so much
rebuilding ahead, and so few craftsman, training Haitians to lead their
rebuilding effort would help to establish a middle class economy.
Of course, St. Sauveur’s No. 1 concern is to lead Haitians
to Christ, and he sees great potential in a training school with a spiritual
More immediately he says thousands need to get off the streets,
and he suggests erecting temporary shelters just out of the city that each will
be a distribution point for food, medicine and water. He is very concerned that
survivors of the earthquake are dying in the aftermath.
In offering his help, St. Sauveur said he would go every
month if he could help navigate the local mazes in Haiti. He reminds North
Carolina Baptists to bend to tasks that are good for Haitians, not necessarily
good for themselves.
In each project, he encouraged the N.C. Baptist group to incorporate
several local workers and to train them. When the project is over, not only
will there be a building, but also several trained Haitians who will have a way
to make a living.
He said Haitians believe in commerce and are entrepreneurs
and that micro loans of just a few hundred dollars could jump start many
“I would strongly suggest we go there and build houses, and
that we make sure we have a church and school for them too,” St. Sauveur said.
“God in heaven will be very, very pleased with that.
“I know the job you are doing is definitely out of
love. You owe us nothing but you go for love.”