A heart broken again and again

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Marvin Delaney, pastor of South Park Baptist Church in Houston, preaches in a church north of Port-Au-Prince during a recent trip.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The tremors of the January earthquake that rocked Haiti shook those as far away as Houston.

Members of South Park Baptist Church were glued to news coverage of the disaster, and their hearts broke as they thought about the people the congregation has been ministering to since 1998 and what they were living through.

“Right away I started thinking about the poverty people are living in already,” Pastor Marvin Delaney said. “Then I started thinking about the deaths, no access to food, no access to clean water, no access to sewage facilities.”

Delaney’s heart broke again during a recent trip to Haiti where he hoped to set up an administrative office through which the church could funnel aid in the form of money and supplies. As he turned the corner to see the building he hoped to buy, his heart broke again. The building had collapsed in the earthquake. One of the pastors the church had partnered with died nearby.

“My heart just fell,” he said. “I could not believe it.”

For Delaney and fellow disaster relief assessors Charlie Singleton, director of Texas Baptists African American Ministries, and Gerald Davis, Texas Baptists community development director, much of the trip through the country was like this – one heartbreaking story after another. People still in shock, struggling to cope with the losses. Tent cities without clean water or sewage systems that stretch as far as the eye can see in some places. Piles of rubble, most of which no one is moving. The stench of decaying corpses that remain buried beneath crippled buildings.

“It was heartbreaking to see,” Davis said of the scene at Grace Community Hospital in a suburb outside Haiti. “Even the children are in tents. Patients are in tents being cared for.”

Individuals are struggling to get by, Delaney said. They are trading items in markets largely just to talk to people, verbalize their pain. Haitians are trying to find sustenance where they can.

“They’re like zombies,” the pastor said. “They’re like up against a wall in a wrestling match, and they’re being held down. They’re trying to smile, but they’re normal smiles are not there.”

At one point in the trip, Singleton stepped out of his room to offer a small group of hungry children the few cookies and crackers he had with him. When he did, word quickly spread and he was nearly instantaneously surrounded by people young and old.

“They just came from everywhere,” he said.

The dire situation calls for a response from Texas Baptists, Delaney said.

“We as Baptists can do great things,” he said. “We have disaster response teams. We have people who can respond right away. These people are camping out, basically. They have no money. They have no jobs. They’re at the mercy of the system.”

“We can make an impact there.”

Respond they have and respond they are. Texas Baptists medical professionals have served in Grace Community Hospital. Texas Baptist Men is distributing water filters for families. Baptist Child & Family Services has been ministering in an orphanage. Buckner International has sent shipments of supplies.

The assessment team helped meet needs as well. Delaney’s church remains committed to serving in Haiti. The pastor committed to sponsoring several groups of people he encountered while in Haiti, including one household that had swelled to 31 people following the earthquake.

“We found families that really needed direct impact,” Delaney said.

Davis took four laptop computers originally intended for the South Park administrative building and installed them in the TLC Barefoot School, another ministry South Park is helping sponsor. Texas Baptists has committed to installing a full computer lab at the school. The school provides free education for impoverished students, and since the earthquake is feeding 200-300 people each weekend living in tent cities near its campus.

“We were just blessed to donate the lap tops to that school,” Singleton said.

Christians are serving as the hands and feet of Christ in Haiti, Delaney said, providing hope to those who are hurting and hungry. But much remains to be done. The pastor asks Texas Baptists to continue praying for people affected by the Haiti earthquake and encourages each person to help how they can.

“Be passionate about the suffering of other people and do as much as you can to alleviate that suffering through works that glorify Jesus,” Delaney said. “If it doesn’t glorify Jesus, it’s not worth it.”

For more information about to help in Haiti, visit www.texasbaptists.org/disaster.

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