Safe haven after the earthquake
Tristan Taylor, International Mission Board
February 12, 2010

Safe haven after the earthquake

Safe haven after the earthquake
Tristan Taylor, International Mission Board
February 12, 2010

He couldn’t find the words

to pray. He could only sing.

Concord Baptist Church

pastor Ronel Mesidor had left his Port-au-Prince office at Compassion

International, a Christian child advocacy ministry, at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 12 to

drive to his home in nearby Carrefour. Before he was halfway there, a 7.0

magnitude earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people

shook Haiti.

Dusk soon settled over the

chaotic city. Shocked and grief-stricken people, crumbled buildings, crushed

cars and dead bodies made streets impassable, so Mesidor continued home on


Feeling his way through the

darkness and devastation, the Haitian Baptist pastor sang every song that came

to mind as he walked throughout the night. It was the longest night of his

life, he said.

Unable to reach anyone

“First, I tried to call my family on my cell phone,” Mesidor said in Creole

through a translator. “

It was difficult because communication was down. I also

tried to call the church, but I couldn’t reach anyone.”

It was the next morning

before Mesidor arrived at his church in Carrefour, a Port-au-Prince suburb

about 12 miles south of the capital. He heaved a sigh of relief when he found

his wife, Manise, there and unhurt. He soon learned his five children were OK

as well. Miraculously, the church and his house, located on the same block,

were intact.

But the earthquake has taken

its toll on the 250-member Concord congregation. Eight church members died as a

result of the disaster, leaving four children as orphans. In addition, 100

members suffered broken bones, 130 homes were destroyed and 45 damaged.

People who had lost their

homes soon began arriving at the church — they had nowhere else to go. Manise, a

nurse, turned the Mesidor home into a clinic to care for the injured. When

space ran out, the pastor opened the church.

Alive for a reason

“I think God left us alive for a special reason,” Mesidor said. “Because these

people need someone to take care of them.”

Carrefour is known as a

dangerous place to live because of gang violence and other crime. Plus, nearly

4,000 inmates escaped from a nearby prison damaged in the earthquake. But

Mesidor has noticed a change in the community since Jan. 12 — people are more

subdued. Regardless, these are the people the pastor is dedicated to serving.

“I still believe we should

show them the love of Christ,” he says. “Once they understand who God is, they

will know how to love others. This is why the church is here.”

IMB photo

Since the earthquake, makeshift camps have cropped up in and around Port-au-Prince. Mothers cook and care for their children. Everyone tries to hold out hope for relief and somewhere else to go.

Haitians helping each other

People continue flocking to the church in search of medical care, food and a

word of encouragement. It has become a hub of grass-roots relief activity. One

of the pastor’s friends with medical experience is treating people in the makeshift

clinic set up in the sanctuary. Manise helps prepare food for all the workers.

And church members help clear rubble around the building.

Relief has started to arrive

from other sources, too. Dominican Baptist and Southern Baptist assessment

teams have visited the church and delivered supplies.

International Mission Board

missionary Dawn Goodwin, who has worked with Mesidor, says the church is being

used as a distribution center for supplies sent by Dominican Baptists. It is

one of several churches the Dominican Baptist Convention is assisting following

the quake.

Rising leader

“He’s extremely organized,” says Goodwin of Mesidor. “On his own, he sent

people out to seek information from all these other churches” in and beyond the

epicenter — such as damage to churches, church members’ homes, injuries and


“He’s a young,

up-and-coming leader in the convention (Baptist Convention of Haiti),” Goodwin

continues. “He goes out of his way (to help), not just for his own church. …

He’s very self-sacrificing.”

The Mesidors have 12

additional people living in their home now, including four children they’ve

taken in. Three are orphans of deceased church members. And 20 people are

sleeping inside the church, 40 on the church grounds and others in the Mesidors’

car or on their porch.

But they all have a place to call home. Each night,

Mesidor leads a small worship service.

“Every night we meet

together and tell jokes,” Mesidor says, to find comfort and relieve stress.

“And after that, we pray and sing together.”

Mesidor believes good can

come from this tragic earthquake. More than anything, he prays that Haitians

will find hope in God.