by Annette Hinkle
Pastor Jean Carlo Thomas whose New World Mission is based in Meyer, Haiti northeast of Port-au-Prince. This month, Pastor Carlo is visiting churches to raise funds for his mission — among his stops is Living Water Church in Wainscott where he partners with former Haitian missionary Richard Grubb, head of Impact Haiti, a ministry based at the church. He will also visit churches in Philadelphia and Massachusetts.
Tell me about your work in Haiti.
We have four schools of our own — in Balix in the south, Roche-à-Bateaux, St. Louis and Meyer and serve 896 children. Each school has a church and Bible school as well. We also partner with other ministers and in total, are working in 21 churches with 14 schools.
How important are mission schools like yours in Haiti?
They really help to feed the children and also provide medical care and education. Ours is a Christian school, we teach geography, mathematics, and we also teach the Bible. If missionaries do not get involved, most people wouldn’t have an education. Ninety percent of the people in the mountains can’t read.
What sort of damage did your mission sustain in the earthquake?
There was destruction of churches, we’re still struggling to get them repaired and rebuilt. We’ve made some efforts and have a temporary structure. It’s not hard to get supplies, but it’s expensive. They’re gouging. They’re even taxing the medicine coming in. Every level of the government is corrupt.
Can you explain what life was like for the people before the earthquake and how it changed?
Before the earthquake it was like people saw [a future] in front of them. After the earthquake it’s like they lost all the hope they had. Right after the earthquake our first thing was to go all over and preach about hope to make some actions, not only preaching to show them the love of God, but by sharing food, giving them medial assistance. We even gave them shoes. We spent time with them, to teach them about the future.
I remember the biggest thing that touched my heart was when people came with their babies. At that moment all the stores were closed. There was no food for the babies, even for diapers. We had some friends in the States, they packed things to send to us and we were happy to share them with other people. Like Jesus, he didn’t feed only people who knew him but the whole community, we got many new people and are able to feed them every single Sunday.
What new problems are you now struggling with?
After the earthquake, so many left the city and went to the countryside. One pastor said he knows of 24 people living in one house. But it’s difficult to live in the countryside. There’s no infrastructure.
Where were you when the earthquake struck?
I was in the countryside and I was sitting in my truck when it happened. It was shaking so hard I thought someone was pushing my truck. But I didn’t see anyone. A few minutes after they told me it hit Port-au-Prince. When I got to Port-au-Prince it was terrible. I couldn’t stop crying seeing people in the street. I lost 11 relatives myself. Haitian people are all very connected, we’re like family.
How did you go about supporting the emotional needs of your parishioners?
We held a special meeting one month after the earthquake with all the pastors and deacons and talked about how to counsel. Many people in our churches needed to be counseled and we needed to keep them walking in Jesus.
How has the quake changed people?
Many people were very materialistic and that’s changed. Now they have nothing. Some are very discouraged because they have lost their material things or livelihood. But it’s offered another perspective of life. What was important yesterday is not anymore.
Is anything getting better in Haiti?
It’s not getting better. For the Haitian people in 2010 many thought they were in hell for the year. In January we had the earthquake, in September we had a tornado, in October the cholera, in November we got a hurricane and in December, we got the problem with the elections. When you try to resolve one thing, another comes.
What effect has the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier had on people?
There are people in this generation who don’t know him, but heard of him. Some are excited to see him, but they are curious. We don’t know why he came back. Some think he wants to assume power. Some people like his presence.
Despite the setbacks, do you feel that in the long run, the efforts to rebuild will ultimately make Haiti a better place?
Yes, if the countries who make promises keep the promises.
As tragic as it was, the earthquake focused international attention on the difficult situation in Haiti. Has that attention stayed on Haiti in the year since?
No, because I saw many people in Haiti right after the earthquake who came to help. I don’t see them anymore. Before the earthquake many more organizations were there. They’re still there but they’re not doing very much. Their strategies are changing.
What is the number one thing that you would like to say to people around the world about the situaiton in Haiti?
For the Christians, I would urge them to pray for Haiti, because we are really in bad shape. For the general population, I would ask all the countries and people in the world to help Haiti as we are working to see how we can have reconstruction of the country. Haitian people cannot do things by themselves. We need support.
To help Pastor Carlo’s mission, contact Richard Grubb’s Impact Haiti by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.