Praising in Survival Mode

Post a Comment » Written on February 2nd, 2010     
Filed under: Disaster Relief

We weave through the village of makeshift shelters – sticks holding up a few faded and torn sheets, with pieces of cardboard and rusted corrugated metal filling in the gaps in the “walls.”

This is Haiti’s newest housing estate – one of scores of shanty camps that have sprung up across the capital Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake.

The people in these camps live in dire conditions.  They have no regular food source or clean water supply.  At night, parents remove the sheet covering their family’s shelter and lay it on the rocky bare dirt inside for their children to sleep on.  In that way, the “ceiling” doubles for a bed.

Since the quake, this is the new reality for hundreds of thousands of Haitians – living in a stick shelter or primitive lean-to because their home was wiped out by the giant tremor.

Yet – amazingly – many families in this camp of about 800 people rejoice in their circumstances – as desperate as they might seem.  They thank God they are alive – and praise Him for protecting not only their own lives but their children and grandchildren, too.

Singing Praises

When the evening breeze lifts the mugginess in the air, they get out their homemade drum and come together to sing praises to the Maker of heaven and earth.

“Hallelujah!” rings out across the camp, as these remarkably resilient families sing “the battle belongs to the Lord” – the children clapping and smiling.

These people trust in God to fight for them.  And they believe that the church will come alongside them in this, their hour of deepest need.

“We feel there’s no way we can resolve our problems on our own,” explains mother-of-three Altona inside the family’s shelter, which – like all the others in the camp – has its own number.  “But the church is our hope… we believe God and His people will help us in this situation.”

Altona’s home was flattened by the 7.0 quake January 12 – and she and her family spent a sleepless night on the street before carrying anything they could salvage from the rubble – tarp, sheets, sticks – to build themselves a shelter at the campsite.

Prayer Brings Strength

“We have no choice but to pray,” she says, “and we pray that things will get better.”

Roselia, her husband and their five children also look to God for strength during these difficult days in the camp.

“I give thanks to the Lord because He saved us from the earthquake,” 36-year-old Roselia says.

The family have been living in their 8-foot-square stick and tarp shelter since the day after the quake.

Some days, they have nothing at all to eat and the children go to bed on the dirt floor with burning hunger pangs.

“We live day to day,” Roselia says, “sometimes we have food, sometimes we don’t.  Today, the children have had nothing.”

According to Ilmond Noel, a leader in the camp, people are willing to share what little they have with others.

Often, if one family has food, they give some to another family that has none.

Ilmond and others have set up a committee to deal with problems as they come up.

“The families here have good relationships with each other,” Ilmond says.  “We have nothing in our pockets, but people help each other with food and water.

“Right now, people here are very hungry.  Many have nothing to eat – only a little water to drink. “

Ilmond glances skyward.

“But it does not depend on us,” he says.  “Our future is in God’s hands.”

Help Haiti’s most vulnerable.  Please consider a donation to Covenant World Relief. Click here to donate securely online.

Story by Julian Lukins and photos by Ray Tollison, World Relief International

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