The former Haitian missionary and head of Impact Haiti, a ministry based at Living Water Church in Wainscott, about the mission he supports and Haiti’s future in the aftermath of the earthquake. In March, Grubb plans to travel to Haiti to assess the situation first hand.
Tell me about your ministry work in Haiti.
“I partner with Pastor Jean Carlo Thomas and his New World Mission. It’s based in Meyer, northeast of Port-au-Prince. They also have churches and schools on the southern fork of Haiti in Jeremy, Balix, Roche a Bateau, Cog Chante and St. Louis. All are in rural areas except Meyer. All told, the mission serves five schools and 2,500 children who walk for miles to get to school.”
How did you meet Pastor Carlo?
“My wife and I and our four children were missionaries in Haiti from 1982 to 1986. Pastor Carlo was a young guy who had just gotten out of Bible school and I have worked with this man since 1984. Since then, I’ve been organizing construction and medical teams to support his mission. I also work with other organizations to raise funds and utilize them to help his mission.”
Tell me how missions like those you’ve worked with operate in Haiti.
“We would have a church and a facility that would be a school and a feeding station. The children would come to school in the day, they would get one good nutritious meal with vitamins, then we would do medical clinical work with local doctors and nurses coming once every couple weeks.”
Though you’ve done mission work in Haiti, your efforts now support the work of Pastor Carlo, a Haitian. Do you feel missions can be more effective when administered by someone from the country?
“When we went down there, we didn’t see ourselves staying for a long time. Economically and socially, it’s better for a nation to work with its own people. We can go and help, but my goal was to lay a foundation to train others and leave.”
“When dealing with certain third world nations, if you don’t understand the culture, idiosyncrasies and ins-and-outs, you can be taken advantage of. It’s important just to be able to reach them on a grass roots level.”
What sort of damage did New World Mission sustain in the earthquake?
“In Meyer, the walls are falling and the building will have to be torn down because the whole infrastructure is compromised. Pastor Carlo himself lost 11 family members. We don’t have an accurate count of all the church members who were killed, but it could be in the hundreds.”
How do missions manage to feed and care for so many people in the immediate aftermath of disasters, even when they are damaged themselves?
“Pastor Carlo and other missionaries, in my opinion, are the best people to work through because they are already there working. Relationships and mechanisms are in place. What happens is a mission called World Vision, which is very big all over the world, partners with the smaller NGOs [non-governmental organizations] like Protestant and Catholic missions and say, ‘Here’s food for two weeks for 10,000.’ The military’s also giving things to missionaries.”
We’ve heard that Haiti had serious problems even before the earthquake. Why has life been so difficult for so long?
“The number one difficulty is political corruption. When I was down there, there were the Duvaliers — Baby Doc [Jean-Claude Duvalier] was in power. He was made president at 18, it was really the military people around him —the Tonton Macoutes —who ran the country. Between the Duvaliers, father and son, in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, over 1,000,000 people were killed and buried all over the island. Then when the Duvaliers were out after 1986, there was complete anarchy.”
“The second thing is abject poverty. The average Haitian eats once every other day. Our goal, while they were young, was to get the children vitamins and square meals every day and ensure they grow properly.”
“The third thing is education — 80 percent of the country is illiterate. There’s also a lack of medical facilities.”
What do you envision for Haiti’s future?
“I see Haiti can be better than ever. I think if the Haitian government would allow the world to get involved and help restore it. I think the Americans will play a very large part especially in Port-au-Prince to help them introduce building codes. The Haitians want us there, but they would be suspect if they thought we were trying to occupy them. We need to go in there and partner.
How would you describe the spirit of the people of Haiti?
“The Haitian people are the kindest in the world. They are also tremendously resilient. They pulled someone else out 10 days after the quake. They should have a few more days searching for people, these are people who are used to going without. But I’ve always found the spirit to be extremely positive. They’re very spiritual people with a strong belief in God and their faith keeps them going.”
On February 7, the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization will host a fundraising pancake breakfast for Impact Haiti at the Bridgehampton Community House from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Richard Grubb will be on hand to answer questions and show some images of Haiti. A ping pong tournament begins at 11a.m. and there will also be live music. The cost is $10 for adults and $7 for children.