But amidst the pain and chaos, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have seen a new reality fall upon them, one in which the anger and despair have been stripped away and replaced by the peace of God.
Since arriving two weeks ago, less than 24 hours after the earthquake that devastated the impoverished country, the chaplains have been based at the Baptist Haiti Mission Hospital. While there, they have been ministering to the most critically injured of the earthquake survivors.
“They’re not letting anybody into the hospital with bruises, cuts and scratches,” said Rapid Response Team Deployment Manager Keith Stiles. “They’re looking for broken bones, people that need surgery, internal hemorrhaging. We’re having people die in the hospital every day.”
As deaths have occurred with nobody to claim the bodies, chaplains and relief workers have even been asked to assist in the process of burying the deceased in mass graves.
Jeremy Hunt of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association wrote in a blog, “We were taken to a small mass grave out in the woods of the compound and waited for a couple of hospital workers to bring out the bodies: a man, a woman and a young boy. We prayed over the grave and the people [were] dropped in and then covered with a layer of rocks and dirt. Three more bodies will be put in the grave tomorrow.”
On top of the ever present pain and death, the chaplains and hospital staff are dealing with the most basic of needs. This urgent prayer request was posted by Hunt on Sunday, January 17: “We’ve reached a critical state of need in the areas of fuel and water. The water at the mission is filtered through a cistern system and it’s the dry season here. With the influx of injured patients, the doctors to take care of those patients, and the various support staff/Samaritan’s Purse crew (not to mention the missionary families that already live here), the water is nearly gone.”
It would be easy to assume that the chaplains would be burdened beyond comprehension. It’s nearly impossible to sit safely and comfortably in our homes and imagine what they are going through and how they are doing what they’re doing.
The message from Stiles, however, is to keep praying and know that God is with them. “Rest assured that the presence and love of Jesus is so alive here it is all bearable,” he said on Sunday night. “Above all, know that spirits are high, brothers and sisters in Christ are working in harmony to express the love of Jesus to the patients, their families and local residents. And every day enormous improvements are taking place as we go through this disaster with our focus on the hope we all have in Jesus.”
And the proof is in the ministry. As the chaplains take on roles from helping to filter water and tracking down diesel for the hospital generators, they also work their way through the hospital daily to listen to the stories of the survivors, love them, pray with them, and share the hope of Christ.
RRT chaplains Jack and Becca Dowling minister to an earthquake victim. Listen as Becca talks about her experience via telephone:
They’ve had the opportunity to pray with more than 125 people, communicating largely through interpreters. Several who have found a new lease on life following the earthquake also now have the hope of eternal life.
One young man they have gotten to know is Watson, a 21-year-old who was trapped under the wall of his parents’ home. He has a broken leg and has been lying on a mat on the concrete floor of the hospital for five days. He is scheduled for surgery this week, along with more than 60 other patients at the hospital.
As chaplains spoke with him, Watson acknowledged that he knew a lot of Scripture but didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. He listened intently as chaplains, through an interpreter, shared the Steps to Peace with God, and he enthusiastically prayed to invite Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.
The chaplains have prayed with Watson several times and he has become very dear to them. He has told them that he is in a lot of pain, but with a big smile he praises God for the gift of hope he has been given through Christ! In his own broken English, Watson said “Glory to God!”
God is moving in other ways as well, meeting the basic needs that just hours ago seemed dangerously out of reach. After quite a bit of work, a water filtration system was in place and working properly. God even provided a piece of hose that was the perfect length to run water from the filtration unit to the hospital cistern.
To help send BGEA Rapid Response Team chaplains to Haiti, please consider a contribution to our Haiti Emergency Fund.
Said Hunt, “With that cleaned water came the knowledge that this would provide the doctors with the water needed to help continue ministering to the living within the hospital. It was a beautiful thing, seeing clear water coming out of a pond turned green with algae and debris.”
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains will continue ministering in Haiti for a long time to come, confident in the hope, peace and provision of God, even in a country torn by tragedy.