Members rebuilt church buildings and planted new congregations after the disaster.
Published on: 01-24-2020
In the midst of a hiatus from political protests that filled the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2019, Seventh-day Adventists had a reason to celebrate on January 11, 2020, 10 years after the nation saw its worst earthquake devastate thousands of lives.
Hundreds gathered at the nearly completed Galaad Seventh-day Adventist Church in Diquini, Carrefour, to praise and worship as they welcomed guests during the second week of a three-week evangelistic campaign. The event took place on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, which hit the island nation on January 12, 2010, and claimed the lives of many thousands of people, including more than 500 Adventists.
To the more than 300 members of the Galaad church, the memory of the tragic earthquake also brings to mind the birth of a church group of 50 Seventh-day Adventists and other neighbors. This group slept on the streets the night after the earthquake and began to meet every week thereafter. The informal group soon grew to what is now the current congregation. They have nearly completed a church building that seats more than five hundred.
Pierre Caporal, president of the Adventist Church in Haiti, was among the group of 50 sleeping under the stars and then worshiping every week with the new, smaller congregation in 2010. He congratulated the congregation for its resilience and dedication in spreading God’s love in the community.
“Tomorrow will be 10 years since the terrible earthquake hit us,” Caporal said. “That date brings sad memories, made us cry, and touched the whole world.”
Caporal said that it had been 10 years of demonstrating God’s love. “Ten years of struggles in favor of God’s work. Ten years of generosity that led to building this temple and waiting to see its completion and dedication soon,” he said. “These 10 years were not easy, but everything came about as a result of God’s grace and God’s power for His people.”
Since the earthquake, the church in Haiti has seen the baptism of more than 91,000 new believers and the birth of more than 110 new congregations.
Caporal’s spiritual message encouraged the more than 500 crowding the church and reminded them of the importance of resisting sin today and clinging to Jesus, “for nothing can separate His people from the love of God.”
“Keep moving forward, resist temptation, and finish the goal of spreading God’s love to others,” Caporal said. “The finish line is the Second Coming. We are all running in this race and do not know when we will be called to rest, so we must work hard, stay strong, and not be tempted to abandon the race.”
As Caporal broke into a praise song during the service, he was joined by hundreds of voices. He then invited anyone who wanted to give their heart to Jesus to take a stand at the front of the church. More than 20 accepted the call and were prayed for by Waitland Francois.
Francois, who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines and traveled back to Haiti for the anniversary celebration, moved quickly to the platform to pray for those in the front.
He recalled the pain and the grieving he and his wife endured after celebrating their wedding on December 27, 2009. Seven of his bride-to-be’s family flew in from the United States to witness the ceremony and were scheduled to leave on January 13, 2010. “They all died when the earthquake struck, and both of us were left to grieve,” Francois said. “I do not even have photos or videos from our wedding because our photographer died in the quake.”
Francois’s wife died less than two years ago in the Philippines from a pulmonary embolism.
“Life is short, and it’s important to know that the best resource in your life is family and friends; it’s what matters most,” Francois said. “You have to be ready in Jesus, because you do not know when you may not be here anymore.”
Francois said he is determined to finish his doctoral thesis on developing a theology of service. His desire, he said, is to return to Haiti and serve his church and ensure that churches are acclimated to providing accessible spaces for members and persons with special needs. He had been blind in one eye for more than 19 years before surgery corrected it. Francois said he sees the growth of Galaad Adventist church and spoke proudly of one of his best friends, Figaro Greger, who is the head elder at the church and who was instrumental in raising funds to build it.
Greger pointed at the spot where a small group of people from his neighborhood gathered on the night of the earthquake. For more than five years after the quake, the group worshiped under a tent with wooden pews at that spot in front of his house. His house sits across the street from where the new church was built. “We came to the porch of my house when we held communion services, and we saw the church grow,” Greger said.
Greger said he had a burden to find a property and build a church. Ten years later, Galaad church has more than 350 church members. Greger said he was overjoyed to see the church bursting with more than 500 people. “There is so much to praise God for because from the moment the earthquake struck, a new congregation was born among so many unbelievers in the neighborhood,” he said.
The ceiling needs to be finished and the air conditioning system needs to be installed, as well as a few details in the basement, which houses the children’s church, according to Greger. “I know God will see the completion of the temple,” he said.
Many churches in Haiti still have some additional renovation to be done after the earthquake, but every church is bursting with believers every Sabbath, Caporal said. During his spiritual message, he reminded church members of the love and support that the world church demonstrated right after the quake and years later. “You are not alone. God and our brothers and sisters still care and pray for us,” he said.
Primary and secondary schools resumed classes in December after two months of being closed, and Haiti Adventist University began its first semester last week, Caporal said. The university is expected to make up lost class time due to the political unrest and complete its school year in July, like the government-run schools. The university has nearly 200 more students enrolled in the 2020 school year than the previous year, and university and church leaders are hopeful that the girl’s dorm will be remodeled by the end of the year, and the men’s dorm to be completed next year, Caporal explained.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti has more than 481,000 members worshiping in 1,126 churches and congregations. The church oversees a hospital, university, radio station, and dozens of primary and secondary schools.