In Haiti, Earthquake Survivors Pick
Up the Pieces and Minister to Others
BY LIBNA STEVENS, Inter-America Division, reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti
ilourdes Richars is a survivor. Just like the millions who were spared by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake which crumbled buildings and homes on January 12, 2010, in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Richars, an active Seventh-day Adventist, wants to tell her story.
Richars was among a group of 50 church members who were gathered at the Adventist Bible Auditorium Church in downtown Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck.
ALL HE CAN DO NOW IS SERVE: Jacque St. Vil [left] focuses on bringing comfort to others even after his house collapsed killing his wife and son during last month's earthquake. Dr. Elie Henry, [right] vice president for the church in Inter-America translates his story.
"I was sitting there," she pointed at the pew near the back of the church where chunks of the cement roof still lay on the floor. "I was compelled to move closer to the group as we were about to kneel to pray. We began to pray and we felt and heard the church shake. We kept saying ‘Jesus, Jesus, save us,’ and asked the Holy Spirit to be near us."
Minutes later she saw where a piece of concrete had fallen on the spot where she had been sitting .
Richars, 55, remembers the painful moments after the quake.
"It was like labor pains," says Richars, a mother of five grown children. "We were all shaken and soon after injured people came into the church grounds. I had dying people in my arms."
A Seventh-day Adventist for 33 years, Richars, who has been the personal ministries director at her church, says every day since the quake she praises God and thanks Him for sparing her life and the life of her husband and five children.
"This has put me closer to Jesus," she testifies.
Her house destroyed, she now lives on the grounds of the church along with nearly 1,000 who take shelter there. She offers words of encouragement to those around her. She is active in the worship services held daily and every Sabbath.
"Jesus has been so good to me, and I just want to continue serving Him," Richars says.
ESCAPING TRAGEDY: Milourdes Richars points where she was sitting seconds before part of the ceiling of the Adventist Bible Auditorium fell when the earthquake hit Haiti last month. [Photos: Libna Stevens/IAD]
For Jacque St. Vil, serving is all he can do now. Before the earthquake, he was a math teacher at the Adventist school on the campus of the Adventist University in Diquini, but now he visits different churches with Bible in hand and speaks to those taking refuge.
His is a sad story.
"My wife and son were killed when our home collapsed on them that night of the earthquake," says St. Vil, head elder of the Cedon Adventist Church in Delmas, a region not far from downtown Port-au-Prince. St. Vil had just left his home seven minutes before the earthquake hit to run an errand. "Now it's just me."
St. Vil clings to serving the church. With no news about when he'll be able to return to teaching, St. Vil focuses on offering hope to anyone who will listen.
"We have to always stay strong for Jesus and keep moving forward," says St. Vil.
Richars and St. Vil are not alone. There are thousands of stories still untold.
There are more than 27,000 Seventh-day Adventists who have lost their homes and many of them are mourning the loss of family members. Yet they are clinging to God and serving the church as they look for ways to rebuild their lives.
Church leaders are still doing as much as they can around the clock to provide basic needs to all the members taking refuge on 75 of the church's properties in the capital city. Almost immediately following the quake, the church began assessing damage to its facilities and providing spiritual guidance to the survivors.