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
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,
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.”
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
“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.