A nervous 16-year-old sat waiting for surgery on his broken leg at a Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Ricardo* is one of the 12,000-plus people injured in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that recently rattled his small Caribbean country. At least 2,200 people lost their lives in the quake.
Before his operation, Ricardo began talking to a crisis-trained chaplain from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT).
Both direct and urgent, he asked, “How can I accept your Lord please?”
On the spot, a chaplain helped him pray to surrender his life to Jesus Christ.
Moments like this are why a small team of Billy Graham chaplains are serving those devastated by the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, which destroyed nearly 53,000 houses on Saturday, August 14.
As helicopters and trucks drop off those injured in the earthquake at the emergency field hospital, chaplains are ready to offer emotional and spiritual care. Since Friday, they’ve had the opportunity to pray with dozens of people, and several have decided to follow Jesus.
“Right here, locals come [to the field hospital] full of hope,” said José Aguayo, a deployed Billy Graham chaplain who’s stationed at the emergency field hospital. “They have nothing else.
“They not only don’t have physical buildings, they don’t have bodily strength,” said Aguayo, speaking about the older generation. “It’s very difficult for them, and of course, traumatizing.”
Over the weekend, he met a woman who wanted to be checked out by a nurse at the emergency field hospital. Although she needed no physical aid, she was emotionally distraught.
“I prayed with her and told her God loves her,” Aguayo recalled. “She couldn’t stop crying. I gave her Scriptures and she left here leaping for joy.”
Many Haitians are no stranger to hardship—they survived the 2010 earthquake that killed over 220,000 people. And before the country was struck by another deadly earthquake, it was shaken by political upheaval.
“Haiti is going through a very turbulent period right now with the president being killed just a few weeks ago,” said Aguayo, referring to the assassination of Jovenel Moïse. Now, he says some running for office are taking advantage of the natural disaster to gain ground in their political agenda.
Through all of this, Aguayo shared Haitian Christians constantly have given him three prayer requests: first, they want prayer for Haiti. Then, lift up their families. Lastly, they’re asking for prayer for personal healing.
Others have come in, desperately wanting medical assistance and food to be available to those who haven’t yet received help in the mountains.
“There’s a lot of obstacles from nature,” said Aguayo, noting multiple road blocks. Besides being a Billy Graham chaplain, he is chief chaplain of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, and is senior pastor of Dorea Ministries.
“It’ll happen [though]. God is greater.”
Repeatedly, Aguayo has seen God’s faithfulness in the toughest situations. He deployed following earthquakes in Puerto Rico last year and served as a chaplain after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas. Most recently, he was in Surfside, Florida, after a condominium collapsed and caused 97 deaths.
“Devastation is devastation. Trauma is trauma,” Aguayo said. “This situation is different, but the trauma is the same.
“Our job is to fill up heaven and be there for our neighbor,” he continued. “That’s what we have to do—love thy neighbor, share hope in the middle of a crisis, and inspire people to help each other in these times. We cannot stay forever, but we can train and help give them self-sufficiency.”
Ultimately, as Aguayo takes time to talk and pray with hospital patients and all those who have faced disaster, he wants them to know “God has not forsaken them.”
*Name changed for privacy.