As the wives and children of two Christian Reformed missionary families arrived in the U.S. from Haiti, members of Hillcrest CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., prepared to travel to that earthquake-ravaged country.
Cheryl Vanderwell of Hillcrest CRC left Michigan on Sunday, January 17, to work at “God’s Littlest Angels,” a Haitian orphanage through which she and husband Tom adopted two children. Vanderwell, a nurse, will be joined by a team of 11 other Hillcrest members leaving on Tuesday, January 19. The congregation is sending the team off with $13,000 raised in Sunday’s offering. (The Banner will have more on this story in the March 2010 issue.)
Meanwhile, Ruth Van Dam and Rev. Sharon Segaar-King, along with their children, arrived safely in Florida on Sunday. Their husbands, Howard Van Dam and Rev. Zachary Segaar-King, remain in Haiti with other staff of Christian Reformed World Missions and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), where they will continue to help the relief and recovery effort.
All North American CRC personnel working in Haiti are safe. Officials from Back to God Hour Ministries International, the CRC’s media ministry, reported that their two Haitian staff members and their immediate families also survived the disaster.
BTGMI said its ministry building in Haiti is still standing, and generally structurally sound. The discipleship center is located in the offices of the Christian Reformed Church in Haiti. But BTGMI still does not know the status of its 37 Haitian volunteers nor that of its 900 Haitian Bible study correspondence students.
As of January 19, CRWRC reported that it has received approximately $400,000 in donations in the U.S. and Canada. The $171,000 received from Canadians will be matched dollar for dollar by the Canadian government.
CRWRC is setting up a logistics center in neighboring Dominican Republic as a base for procuring and distributing aid. “Haiti doesn’t have large reserves of food and other supplies at the best of times, so the existing supplies are expected to be exhausted very soon, after which all supplies will have to come in from abroad, which makes logistics a challenge,” said Jacob Kramer, CRWRC’s Disaster Response director.
“The images of destruction are difficult to comprehend,” said Ken Little, CRWRC’s senior Disaster Response Project manager, after visiting various communities in Haiti this weekend. “Homes made of concrete were often piles of rubble beneath a sharply tipping concrete slab that used to be the roof.”
But in the midst of tragedy, stories of God’s grace abound. Pastor Elihu Metellus, the president of the CRC of Haiti (a partner of CRWRC and CRWM), was helping to pour a new concrete roof for a church construction project in the town of Belladere some distance away from his home in Jacmel, Haiti. When the quake struck, the last bucket of wet concrete was being poured onto the Belladere church roof.
In what can only be described as a miracle of God, the freshly poured cement withstood the quake and the roof did not fall down on Pastor Elihu and the other volunteer laborers.
A hundred miles away, Pastor Elihu’s own church in Jacmel buckled under the force of the quake and was completely destroyed. No one was in the church when it fell.
For continuing updates on the situation in Haiti or to donate, see the Help Haiti website at www.crcna.org/Haiti.
—Gayla R. Postma, with files from CRWRC