Street Camp Community

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What would happen in the U.S. if we had an earthquake like the one that hit here thirteen days ago? Do you think, in your neighborhood, if all the people came running out of their crashing-down houses into the street, would the vast majority of them lift their hands and heads to the sky and cry, "Jesus, Jesus, come and save us! Let your blood cover us"? It seems that this is what happened here when the earthquake struck.

I'm not speaking to churches or groups of Christians when I ask the question, "What happened when the earthquake hit?" I'm talking to person after person on the street, in tent camps, selling food, in the hospital. I'm talking to young men, old women, children. I ask the question, "Did anyone come running out of their house and cry to the heavens, 'Satan, Satan save me,' or 'Loa, loa (voodoo spirits) save me,' and so far no one has said yes. At least 85% of the people I speak to do not simply talk about God in this situation; it's all about Jesus! Could revival be far away?

Of course there are those who are and will take advantage of this situation, as I've heard that some of the tent camps have prostitutes doing their rounds, and various drugs being sold. I would expect that. But much more surprising are the instant communities that are springing up in the midst of the misery, and that's the first half of today's story:

We visited a street in Port-au-Prince that we heard had some of the greatest devastation. The name of the street is Rue Poupelard, and when we got there, we couldn't believe what we saw: nearly every house was flat on the ground in ruins. Who can understand this difference from one neighborhood to another? As we drove down Rue Poupelard (I know, it's a rather comical name in English), we could see that in various places, half of the street had been marked off with stones and tree branches, which made it difficult for two-way traffic to negotiate the remaining lane. We knew that these were areas where, each evening, people would lay their blankets, mats or pieces of carpet on which to sleep. Home-made signs along the street read, "We need help. Food, water, medicine."

George decided this would be a good place for a story. So we stopped and began to interview some people who were on the sidewalk in front of their destroyed houses. It was there that we discovered how a new kind of community is springing up among the earthquake survivors. They are creating associations of people living on the streets. A young man pointed and said, "From that marker on the street down to the ruins of the Catholic Church, everyone sleeping on the street is joined together in one group." We asked, "For what purpose?" He responded, "If any of us find anything to eat or water or anything during the day, we bring it back and share with one another. We take down everyone's name and how many people are in each family, so if we receive any kind of aid we can share it equitably."

You have no idea how profound a thing this is for Haiti. This is not normal. Let me give you an illustration. Two woman can sit on the sidewalk selling oranges next to each other every day for years. They are not friends. They hardly know each other. There is a jealousy that develops between them if one sells more oranges than the other. Each one wants to make more money than the other. The poverty culture can create this everyone-for-himself mentality. Oh there can be sharing and giving among family and friends or church members, but not usually between neighbors. I would have to say that God is doing something in the people's hearts to care for one another at this time of extreme need. He is growing true communities with these people who have all lost everything and now sleep shoulder to shoulder on the street.

A man said to us, "Come here and let me show you something. " We followed him down Rue Poupelard to a gate in a wall across from St. Antoine Church. He pushed the gate and we followed him inside to the large yard of a private residence. What appeared to have been a large colonial style house was in ruins up a hill behind the yard, and the yard itself was bustling with 300 people who had converted it into a tent camp. We were told, "Come and meet the man who owns the house. He is the one who welcomed us into his yard to set up this camp."

Our cameras were rolling as we met seventy-eight year old Ivan Breton, a very "gentlemanly" man who was more than happy to tell us his story and show us around. Ivan was born in this house in 1932 and has lived here ever since. Ivan's father was born in this house in the late 1800's; I don't remember the year. When the earthquake came, Ivan was buried under the ruins for a day until he was rescued. Now he has nothing, and he sleeps on a mat in the charcoal smoke-stained outdoor kitchen. He walks slowly with a limp from the injury he incurred under the rubble.

After the earthquake, Ivan opened up his yard for anyone from the neighborhood to come in and stay. They call him the "Good Samaritan." The camp is bustling; people cooking food and sharing it, people selling bread and vegetables and fruit, some families just sitting together on blankets under makeshift tarps and tents. A guy was writing something on a list as people were lined up before him. I went to see what he was doing; he was recording the names of everyone in the camp along with the number of people in each family, for the "equitable distribution" of whatever aid might come to them. So far, they said, no international aid had reached this street or this camp, and even though some people were cooking and others selling food, it looked like few could afford to buy anything and amounts of food being cooked very small. At this point, those who might have money in a bank could not access it, and I don't believe Western Union is up yet for those who might receive aid from relatives abroad.

Ivan spends his day walking from tent to tent, from person to person. You see young people coming up to him and getting a hug and words of encouragement from him. Sometimes he sits down and puts his arm around a twenty or thirty year old, and all are more than happy to receive that embrace. He gave me the phone numbers of his two brothers who live in the US and asked, "Could you please call them for me when you get home; they don't know whether or not I'm alive. And if you can find any way to direct aid to this little tent camp, please do whatever you can for us."

From Poupelard Street we went to the General Hospital. On the hospital grounds are big tents from various nations who have sent doctors, nurses, and medical equipment. These tents have become wards, some for children, some for maternity, some for amputees, some for pre- or post-surgery. George wanted to do a story about amputees, because there will be so many now in Haiti as a result of the earthquake. Babies, children, young and old, many of them entered surgery not knowing that when they awoke they would be missing a limb. As we took their stories, I would stay to minister to these people. Most were grateful to God and thanking Him that they were alive, but all were in deep pain over losing loved ones, losing their house, and facing the rest of their lives without a limb. Here is where I began to see more clearly that in the midst of all the physical, material, and medical relief the people are getting, there is nearly no one ministering to their spiritual needs. Person after person in the hospital would embrace me with tears and thank me for sharing a word from the Lord and praying with them. They would say, "They have taken good care of me and fed me good food here. But you are an angel from God speaking to my heart..." or something to that effect. It was very difficult for me to have to minister quickly to these people as George would be calling me to translate for the next person he wanted to interview. I so wanted to stay with these people and hold them in my arms while praying over them one by one. It doesn't seem there are any chaplains or pastors here doing anything like that. Meantime all the people are crying out to Jesus and desperate for spiritual ministry...that is the only thing that will really sustain them in the weeks, months, and years to come!

If you were here, if you could see with your own eyes, and if you knew the normal situation in Haiti, you would realize that the Haitians will not starve for lack of food. Gaunt, ribs-showing Haitians are rare to see. There may be some problems with the mass distribution of aid, but it will get to them and they will all eat. But now is the time, while their hearts are soft and broken and crying out to God, while "voodooisants" and witch doctors are turning to Jesus, while rich and poor pastors are sleeping on the streets next to one another, while large and small churches are all destroyed, now is the time for the Spirit of God to raise up an army from dry bones. I pray He will give me the resources and energy and courage to do that very thing in my last years of ministry.

So now I feel the Lord speaking so clearly to tell me that this is my continuing call from Him, to not be deterred from the spiritual ministry to which He has called me for this nation. I pray that I can return here soon and carry out that call and vision, and that He will really grant to me the great privilege of being a mouse in the corner witnessing with my own eyes the revival of this decrepit nation into the Pearl of the Caribbean, the Light over Nations, for His glory in the Last Days.

Jim Glynn, Pastor/President
Heart of God Ministries
1603 Hickory Hill
Freeport, IL USA

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