Comforting Haiti’s Grieving

Junior’s sister was killed in the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake. Since her death, Junior has had a hard time focusing and often turns to rum to help him fall asleep. Although he attends church, he says he feels like he’s just going through the motions.

The grief and pain Junior feels is mirrored in the lives of thousands of other Haitians. Seeing peoples’ struggles to rebuild their homes and lives, Sous Espwa (Source of Hope), the Haitian ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, began a new training program to help church leaders guide people through the grieving process.

Zach Segaar-King and Jennifer LeMahieu, missionaries serving with Christian Reformed World Missions, and three other local partners had organized a Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) session on pastoral care last fall. Since the earthquake, the need for pastoral care has been greater than ever.

In response, Segaar-King worked with David Carter, a school psychologist and World Missions volunteer, to create a “Pastoral Care for Earthquake Survivors” workshop. The workshop built on the earlier TLT session by providing information on the grief process and training on how to help people through it.

One hundred Haitians gathered in April for the two-day workshop. Twenty of them had participated in the earlier training session; the rest were other pastors and church leaders, many of whom were struggling with personal loss themselves.

A group of young men who had been in the fall workshop shared how the earlier training they received had spurred their actions after the earthquake.

“They decided that one of the best ways to ‘care for the sheep’ after the earthquake would be to organize and staff a food and shelter distribution point at their church for the surrounding community,” says Segaar-King. “They volunteered daily for over a month to organize daily distributions, and over 10,000 people in the community received aid.”

Glimpses of triumph in the midst of tragedy emerged as the April workshop progressed. After Junior told of his struggles, the group stood by him, assuring him that his feelings were normal and that God will give him the strength to make it through.

“Another really encouraging moment was the presence of Monica Petit-Homme and Edouarnis Estevil,” says Segaar-King. “Caleb Petit-Homme was a member of the TLT coordination team and a promising TLT trainer who was killed in the earthquake. Monica, his sister, and Edouarnis, his best friend, are carrying on his legacy by using the Pastoral Care for Earthquake Survivors material to assist others who have lost loved ones.”

Segaar-King says he hopes that the materials will provide a way for Haitian church leaders to reach out to suffering people in their communities. “With so many people having lost loved ones, homes, and jobs, the church has an unprecedented opportunity to share the love of God and Jesus Christ for those in the greatest need of it.

“We hope that the people of Haiti will be rebuilt not only physically through homes, roads, and infrastructure, but that they will be rebuilt emotionally and spiritually to be the people God has called them to be.” 

About the Author

Sarah Van Stempvoort is a writer with Christian Reformed World Missions.

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