PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — “What
do I do?” the Haitian man asked helplessly.
Having lost his wife and two
children and his home in Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake, he was living out of a
Butch Vernon struggled to answer the man’s question.
“I’m not asked that question a lot back in the States, you know?” the Baptist
pastor said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Vernon, who was in Haiti as a volunteer with a Kentucky Baptist disaster relief
team, later reflected, “It’s not one of those deals where you can say, ‘take
two (Bible) verses and call me in the morning. It’s the only time I’m going to
see that guy, and there are no bottled answers.
“I prayed with him and I hugged him, and we gave him some medicine…,” Verson,
pastor of Thoroughbred Community Church in Nicholasville, Ky., recounted. “We’re
seeing a lot of that.”
Vernon and the Kentucky team joined forces with a Mississippi Baptist disaster
relief team from Jan. 31 to Feb. 8 as part of a coordinated effort involving
the Florida Baptist Convention, which has a longstanding relationship with
Haitian Baptists; the North American Mission Board; International Mission
Board; and Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development
The toughest part for a volunteer is that you can’t help everyone, said Daniel
Edney, who directed medical response efforts by the Mississippi team.
“But we can take care of those who God puts in front of us,” said Edney, a
member of First Baptist Church in Vicksburg who led relief teams in New Orleans
following Hurricane Katrina and in southern Asia after the tsunami.
“When those you help walk out with a smile on their face, you know you’ve done
When the Mississippi volunteers pulled up to a church on the outskirts of
Port-au-Prince, they were surprised to see people praising and worshipping God
even as they were struggling to get by without adequate food and water.
“It was a neat thing to drive up and hear them singing and praising the Lord
and worshipping,” said Kay Cassibry, state Woman’s Missionary Union executive
director who led the 10-member relief team.
“They have been so receptive,” added Cassibry, a member of Highland Colony
Baptist Church in Ridgeland.
“People do not know us, but they are receptive to
our hugs and everything,” she said during an on-site interview.
During the week, the Mississippi team helped at makeshift medical clinics and
saw more than 1,100 patients.
“We have treated all kinds of things,” Cassibry said while walking through one
of the clinics. “There were a lot of respiratory problems, a lot of infection.
We had to set a couple of bones.
“We’ve got a guy on an IV,” she added. “He asked for a Bible as soon as he woke
up. We were pretty excited about that.”
For Hester Pitts, another Mississippi volunteer, the biggest blessings were the
thank you letters team members were receiving from Haitians.
“I know what it means for us to be here,” said Pitts, a member of First Baptist
Church of Vicksburg, “but (these letters are) tangible evidence of what it
means for them.”
Pitts, a retired medical technologist, was on vacation with her husband Kerry
and two other couples in Tampa, Fla., when she was contacted about joining the
She admitted she wanted to wait until later to volunteer, but she
couldn’t shake her burden for Haiti.
She agreed to go to Haiti immediately and asked others in her vacation group if
they wanted to join her.
One of the friends, David Baldwin, broke down in
“He said, ‘Hester, I’ve been sitting here praying that God would open that door
for me to go,’” Pitts said. “I could not believe it.”
Within two hours, the couples were on the road back to Mississippi so that
Pitts and Baldwin could prepare for their trip.
For Pitts, giving up her
vacation became an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m just thankful that I didn’t miss the experience,” she said. “I came so
close to telling God ‘no.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by International Mission Board staff. For more on the
volunteers’ experience in Haiti, go to commissionstories.com/haitivols or see video below.)