Six months after the earthquake that devastated a nation and gripped the hearts of the world, Haiti may have faded from media view. But Foursquare leaders and members are fired up by the opportunity that endures, they say, to write history rather than just headlines.
“Once the news cameras leave, it becomes a classic case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ but the overwhelming amount of need faced on the ground really does require ongoing support,” says Jeff Roper, Foursquare Missions International’s (FMI) relief and compassion coordinator. “We are building for the coming generations of Haitians. We are helping them rebuild their lives, and this takes time.”
That effort has brought Foursquare churches from across the United States alongside Haitian congregations to begin allocating the nearly $1 million raised in a series of special offerings and collections in the wake of the Jan. 12 disaster.
With 2,000 members in eight churches, the Foursquare family in Haiti suffered its share of loss of life, property and livelihood when the earth shook and left around 250,000 dead, many more injured and up to a million homeless. In the months since, Foursquare members and visiting volunteers have offered medical assistance, provided food, water and temporary shelter, ministered in orphanages and displacement camps, and begun the long-term work of rebuilding homes and lives.
“This is not going to be solved any time soon,” says John Booker, who stepped down as senior pastor of Cornerstone Church (Phoenix Northwest Foursquare Church) in Arizona, in the aftermath of the earthquake, to go and coordinate on-the-ground relief aid. With his wife, Debbie, he has committed to being there at least two years to help with the rebuilding.
But “something spiritual is happening there as well,” John told Foursquare.org in an exclusive interview. “It’s an opportunity for a nation to be changed. I believe this earthquake will mark a start in the history of this nation that will be remembered for many generations to come.”
John observes that the collapse of so much of the country’s infrastructure has also broken the stranglehold of corruption that has plagued Haiti for so long.
“There’s a space of time right now for the church to step up, for goodness, to shine a little bit brighter,” he affirms. “The bad guys can’t get away with what they used to.”
His optimism is shared by Guy Thomas, national leader of Foursquare Haiti, who remains confident that God is at work despite the massive problems all around.
“God is not finished with us yet,” Guy states. Part of that assurance is rooted in personal experience. The national leader would have been at a meeting in one of the buildings flattened by the earthquake but for travel plans being thwarted at the last minute. “I’m no better than anyone else,” he says, “but God spared my life.”
Additionally, Guy points to a national conference that had been planned for last fall but was postponed until spring because of planning difficulties. The timely theme, selected months before the disaster: “Come up, Haiti. God has not forgotten your address.”
Revival in the Land
Guy has seen signs of what he calls revival in the past few months, with people attending multiple services and nearly 30 people baptized at a special service in May. He has been encouraged by such things, as well as by the meeting of practical needs. He has also been anxious for Foursquare ministry to touch hearts.
That has meant addressing the fear held by many that the earthquake was a curse or a judgment of God on Haiti’s long relationship with voodoo.
“It’s not a curse,” Guy asserts. “It was a natural disaster, and God wants to catch our attention. He is in control, and He is not sleeping. We are trying to give everyone hope, to let them know that they are not here by accident, that they have a special goal to accomplish.”
While inadequate foundations have been blamed for some of the widespread destruction of, and damage to, property, Guy Thomas is keen to establish a solid base for the new Haiti. Leadership training and a focus on children will be an emphasis in the months ahead.
“We want to see young people with hope, with a new reason for living,” he explains. “One of Haiti’s greatest needs right now is for good leaders, at every level—in the church, in the government, in families. That will lead this nation forward.”
Both Guy Thomas and John Booker give thanks for the outpouring of love and support for Haiti from the rest of the global Foursquare family. So does David Wheeler, FMI short-term missions coordinator, who has been working to place those who have volunteered to go to Haiti to help.
Hundreds responded in the early days following the disaster, but more will be needed to meet the long-term needs, David says. That ongoing commitment, he explains, can be fueled by those who have been to Haiti, as they share with others their passion and enthusiasm for what God is doing.
Helping Foursquare keep Haiti in mind has been a key objective of Sheila Donegan, a former FMI project manager and missionary to Africa who now runs her own video company, New Light Productions. A member of the relief and compassion team formed to help guide Foursquare’s global response to big crises, she traveled to Haiti in March to film a report on what has been happening there. The report is available online and for screening in churches.
In addition, Sheila orchestrated an immediate response to a particular need. Hearing that the eight Foursquare pastors in Haiti needed motorcycles to get around, she approached Daren Laws, senior pastor of LightHouse Church (Newbury Park Foursquare Church) in Newbury Park, Calif., where she is missions pastor. The pair presented the request at three services in April, and church members responded with gifts totaling $14,000—almost double the amount needed. Sheila was present when the bikes were given to the pastors during a two-day Foursquare conference in May.
Also taking part in the event, which included leaders and members from other Haitian churches, was David Dirmann, worship pastor at The Rock (Anaheim Foursquare Church) in Anaheim, Calif. As part of the Global Worship Network, he was asked to go to Haiti to minister through music.
“It is difficult to measure all that God is doing there,” he told Foursquare.org upon his return to the U.S. “But more than anything … there is power in partnership. It brings an added strength.”
To volunteer to help with the ongoing rebuilding work in Haiti, e-mail FMI.
To give to Foursquare’s relief work in Haiti, click here.
By: Andy Butcher, who previously served as a YWAM missionary in Europe. He is now the editor of Christian Retailing and a freelance writer living in Longwood, Fla.