January 25, 2010
‘Lord, I pray this house is as solid as I think,” Haiti quake survivor prayed.
Many short-term missions volunteers evacuated after quake.
Two weeks after Haiti’s historic earthquake, the stories of survival are beginning to flood out. At the time of the quake, there were hundreds of Americans in country on short-term missions trips.
Ann Klein, during a detailed interview with Christianity Today, told her story of survival and post-quake ministry. She was in Messailler, Haiti, on Tuesday, January 12, on a short-term mission trip. This community is located 20 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince and was not as devastated as Leogane, a major community at the quake epicenter.
During the 7.0 magnitude quake, Ann Klein was aroused from an after-clinic rest to violent shaking. She wondered if the concrete around her would crumble. “I lay there praying, ‘Lord, I pray this house is as solid as I think it is.’ ”
Klein, 71, has been a regular volunteer to medical missions work in Haiti since 1990, traveling to the impoverished nation up to six times per year. After nearly a minute (53 seconds to be exact) of violent tremors, the earthquake subsided.
There was, “loud wailing everywhere. People in the village were hysterical,” she said. Upon stepping outside, she saw that all of the buildings on the mission campus, where she was staying, were spared major damage. But every other two-story building in the area had collapsed. The reason for this was the fortuitous fact that most of them had been over-designed by her husband, Jeff Klein, who knew the Haitian penchant for skimping on concrete. The nearby town of Cabaret was all but flattened, but providentially there were few fatalities—none on the Presbyterian Mission in Haiti campus.
Prior to the quake, Klein and her team had an average visitation rate of 80 patients per day. After the disaster, the flow slowed down, as many regular patients delayed or deferred their visits.
But on January 13, the day after the quake, the medical clinic treated a nonstop flow of around 50 seriously wounded patients, and stayed open from 7 am to 7 pm (normal hours were 9am to 4pm).
“We set many broken bones, crushed pelvises and limbs, concussions, eyes swollen shut with cement dust and chips, bodies white with cement dust from being buried for hours, women in premature labor, terrible lacerations everywhere, and a horribly mangled hand,” reports Klein.
Also on January 13, Klein’s translator, Sammy, and Pastor Charles Amicy, the head of Presbyterian Mission in Haiti, visited the city of Port-au-Prince to look for relatives, returning with news of further devastation. They told Klein, “The center of the city looked like a rubble heap for miles, covered with wailing, digging people. They could hear cries from many people buried under the rubble, and dead bodies were stacked along the streets in groups of 10 to 50.”
A minister of the Haitian government found his way to the Messailler medical clinic because there was no viable medical help remaining in the capitol city—many hospitals were destroyed.
As a result of the quake, Klein’s volunteer work ended a week early. It was important to evacuate “innocent bystanders like us, who went to help under ordinary circumstances,” in part because Klein’s team was out of supplies and couldn’t be of further use, but also because increasing food, water and fuel shortages quickly placed them in the category of being an unnecessary burden to the Haitians.
The fear of lawlessness played a part as well, although this has been over-reported in the US media, Klein says. She was evacuated with others on the team by an international security force and put on a U.S. Navy C-130. The last leg of the trip home on a private business jet completed the unreality of the whole experience.
Since arriving at her hometown in Savannah, Georgia, Klein has received calls from local churches and news media. She has shared her first hand observations with her home church.
As a veteran volunteer missionary to Haiti, and as someone who has lived through other earthquakes, hurricanes, and tropical storms (as well as being an eyewitness to the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan) Klein is not deterred from her plans for returning to Haiti.
She wants, in fact, to go back in the next few weeks to run the phones and e-mails at her Haitian pastor’s office to help with the relief efforts. There are many more instances of helpfulness than violence in Haiti. “The born-again Christians are just grateful for being spared, are praising God, and are continuously praying for everyone else,” said Klein.
“Our campus was not hurt in any way, so Pastor Charles has started feeding the homeless, about 150 each night, that are still in the area,” recounts Klein gratefully. A large number of the homeless have traveled to the provinces to stay with relatives.
Unfortunately, any efforts by the Haitian government are close to non-existent. “The government that remains, those who were not killed, has no buildings to work out of even if they wanted to do anything. All of the government buildings went down.”
The rest of the world is also struggling with the relief effort. “Many countries in the international community are doing things that don’t make much sense because they don’t know how to get supplies to the people that need them,” regrets Klein.
“They could best help by working through the Christian NGOs because they are the ones who are in touch with the real needs of the real people, and can get supplies directly to those in need, rather than efforts like helter-skelter airdropping.
One of the greatest helps is fervent prayer. Klein’s church, Kirk O’the Isles Presbyterian, is “specifically praying for people who we know need prayer. We’re praying that supplies we’re sending will reach the campus, and that started on January 22.”
It’s apparent to Klein and other relief workers that “food, water and fuel are the three major needs.” It is not a matter of whether or not the items are available, but the problem lies with transportation. “The international community's response has been very slow, and may not really kick in until next week,” Klein predicted.
This isn’t only a chance to donate money for physical healing and relief, but the Christian community also needs to “pray that God will reach into the hearts of many Haitians and turn them toward Him. Many are turning to the Lord through fear and through miraculous deliveries, but many remain indifferent.”
Haitians who have been pulled from buildings have reported they prayed the whole time they were trapped. Klein tells of her Haitian missionary friend, Muriel Juste, who runs an elementary school for the poorest of the poor out of her home located in a section of Port-au-Prince just six miles from the epicenter, who is “walking all around the neighborhood sharing the gospel.”
Muriel has reported of “four young people and one adult who have professed Christ.” The Haitian people are very open to the gospel, Klein says, and are greatly moved by the power of nature and even more by the saving power of God.