Category Archives: Haiti

Haiti – Devastation by Hurricane Matthew … Please Join Us in Helping the Victims!

BACKGROUND ON HURRICANE MATTHEW

haiti-map-webStill trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake which caused more than 200,000 deaths in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince, and an ongoing cholera epidemic and outbreak of typhoid during which 10,000 people have died and 700,000 have become ill, Haiti is again victim of a major disaster!  On October 4, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on south-western Haiti as a category 4 storm with winds up to 145 miles per hour.  It devastated the region with a population of 2.5 million people; a community leader describes the situation on the ground as “complete destruction”. Matthew has severely damaged 200,000 homes.  90% of the houses on the southern coast are destroyed.          

haiti-matthew-devastation-webIn the city of Jérémie, the hurricane blew off the roofs and collapsed 80% of the buildings, including every structure not made of concrete. Nearly all the crops and livestock in the larger region were wiped out by the wind or destroyed by the subsequent flooding, leaving the majority of the population, who are subsistence farmers, destitute. With bridges and roads washed away, many communities are now inaccessible to receiving relief aid, except by boat or air.  It is feared that massive death by starvation and a renewed cholera epidemic, due to lack of food and clean drinking water, may result in a catastrophic human disaster.  Major relief organizations and WHO (World Health Organization) are mobilizing efforts to help, but they may, regretfully, be running against time.

haiti-urra-kitchen-webOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bible commands us as believers to be generous towards the poor.  Practical expressions of compassion and mercy are intrinsically interwoven into the faith of the believers as an extensions from The Source: God’s love through Jesus Christ!  Although The Bridge does not directly work in Haiti since there is already a large Christian presence, and our focus is more on unreached nations, we make ourselves available to resource partners who serve the poor in Haiti on a grassroots level.  In the aftermath of the 2010 hurricane, thanks to our generous donors, we were able to send a sizable amount of money through them to help groups of victims restore their lives.

In Haiti, we have been working through two of our trusted partners, Jorge Urra, and Jeanette Felix who via their own individual ministries have helped establish a network of indigenous leaders in Haiti who serve people in their local communities. You will find more information about them and their ministries below.

There are many good, efficient large Relief Aid agencies in the States who, in disaster situations like this, are needed to do the heavy lifting, like mass emergency assistance and rebuilding of damaged infrastructure, however, often their overhead and administrative costs are sizable.  The Bridge is more the fish-and-loaves ministry. Through our partners we deliver from hand to mouth without middlemen or deducting overhead and admin. cost — trusting that God will multiply! Your donation will be applied in full, directly toward the spiritual and physical needs of Hurricane Matthew’s victims in Haiti! Please mark your donation 8010 Haiti Relief.

OUR PARTNERS WORKING IN HAITI

Jorge Urra — from Cuba to Haiti with the Gospel

You will find Jorge Urra’s background information, his testimony and ministry, posted at: http://www.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/july2011.pdfHaiti - Urra Distr Food

A few days after hurricane Matthew had passed through Haiti, I called Jorge to inquire if he had heard from his Haitian leaders of the churches and orphanages he has served on the island for over 12 years.  The answer came back, “The winds did some damage to buildings in those areas, but the floods have ruined the harvest and killed the farm animals.  Every place is up to three feet under water. There is little or nothing to eat, and the  drinking water is contaminated.” 

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Jorge will personally be going to Haiti with a team in a couple of weeks to bring as much relief aid and other assistance as possible to his Haitian network of pastors who will distribute them to the most needy among orphans, elderly and destitute. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jorge Urra was born near Havana, Cuba some fifty years ago. He grew up  surrounded by Fidel Castro’s atheist communist  ideology, yet at 14, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, and was filled with the transforming love of his Heavenly Father. God’s compassion and love translated later into a ministry toward the rejected and fatherless—the unsaved, the orphans, and the welfare of God’s people in poor countries.  He is presently involved in bringing leadership training to local pastors and relief aid to orphans in Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru.

Haiti - Urra Tent City.jpg

Before Hurricane Matthew struck, some 55,000 Haitians left homeless by the 2010 earthquake were still living in shelters, largely because billions of U.S. dollars of relief aid donations to Haiti disappeared  into corrupt hands, thus never benefited the people.  Above is one of those tent cities which Pastor Urra visited and delivered much needed food and medical supplies.

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Steve and I have known Jorge and partnered with him for 21 years.  He is a man of faith and passion with an apostolic gift and an impeccable integrity!  He presently lives with his wife, Magdalena in Miami where he has planted and pastors a multi-cultural church.

From New York City to the Mountains of Haiti

Likewise,  you will find Jeanette Felix’ background information, her testimony and ministry, posted on this website at: http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2013/07/haiti-felix-j-with-child-web

haiti-felix-old-school-webhaiti-felix-new-school-blg-webThe school Jeanette and her team founded in 2006 and continue sponsoring via their ministry Children in Need Haitian Project (CINHP), is located in Lespinasse in mountains up to 4000 feet about two hours drive south-east of Port-au-Prince.  The school  provides a full time Christian education including school supplies, and  a warm nutritious meal daily for 120 students grades 1-6, and 3 levels of Preschool. Recently, they finished building a new school building.  In the two pictures above, you see the old school building they initially renovated for educational use, and then new building adjacent to the old.  CINHP is largely self-financed by the Felix family and a few friends.haiti-felix-students-webhaiti-felix-classroom-web

 

 

 

 

haiti-felix-kindergarten-webMost of the people in the region are subsistence farmers, eking out a living in the valleys between the mountains. Jeanette writes, “ Apart from the south-west of the country which has total devastation, there are many other areas of Haiti that received heavy winds and torrential rains on steep mountains with few trees to prevent erosion and mudslides. These areas are never reported in the news and international aid does not reach them. The only access to most of these areas is by foot, like Nouvelle Touraine, located in the highest mountain range in Haiti in the south.haiti-felix-view-from-school-web

Friends and contacts in the region report on  unbelievable destruction to homes, livestock, gardens, crops, and food bearing trees (i.e. bananas, avocados, plantains, coffee beans), their sole source of food and income sold in neighboring towns, all carried by foot on the heads of these strong and resilient people.

There is an urgent, immediate need for basic construction materials— tin, 2x4s, nails, hammers as well as tarps, basic first aid supplies, basic medicines, and food.  We have people on the ground ready to buy, organize and mobilize all supplies into the steep mountains to reach these areas. Let us be the ones who show them that God has not forgotten them!haiti-felix-ny-partner-web

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

My first encounter with Haitian people was in 1985 when I first met Steve.  He owned and operated a 20 acre commercial nursery where he employed 23 Haitian field workers. Sitting in Steve’s car surrounded by his workers in the midst of myriads of potted plants, at his bidding, I shared my faith and told them about the mission work I was doing (my French was doable then). In the years after Steve and I were married, we employed over a hundred legal Haitian workers. They were all reliable, hard-working, and self-motivated to making a good life in America for themselves and their families.  God gave me a love for this beautiful people. Since then I have come to count many Haitians among my personal friends.

The Haitian people have continually suffered throughout their 500 year history under slave masters, wicked foreign rulers, corrupt local governments, and natural disasters.  Yet, the problem in Haiti is not socioeconomic … it is SPIRITUAL!   Self-proclaimed Voodoo doctor, elect President François Duvalier, declared in 1971 voodoo—religious witchcraft— the official national religion. This was affirmed in 1990 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Therefore, I believe Satan has a legitimate claim on Haiti, albeit there are many sincere Christian believers among them. Please pray that the Lord will send His Spirit of comfort and revelation of truth to set the captives free, and strength to the Haitian believers that they may boldly share their faith with others!

 

 

 

 

From New York City to the Mountains of Haiti – July 2013

From R.K.’s Corner

RK Ulrich 2012For many, the thought Missionary evokes images of either a person who is a bit weird, unusual, or perhaps somewhat super-human.  That is not quite right!  The simple truth is that God calls and equips very normal, ordinary people to do extraordinary things in this world for Him and His Kingdom!

Jeanette Felix is such a person. Steve and I just spent a couple of days with her as she stopped over on her flight from New York City to Haiti.  A farm girl from Pennsylvania, later nurse in New York City, Jeanette was led to identify with and serve the families in the remote mountains of Haiti, one of the most impoverished rural areas of the world.

Forty years ago, shortly after I first arrived in the States, I was introduced to Jeanette and her family through a girlfriend in NYC. We visited the farm of her parents and received warm hospitality, and I was received into their circle of friends.  Since then, I have had the privilege of watching Jeanette’s  journey of faith as she passionately embraced the mission she was called to fulfill – and continues to find ways to serve the people in her care.  While with us, I asked Jeanette to write her story which I have included in this month’s Bridge Report.  I trust it will be an inspiration and encouragement for you to reach higher up and further in faith – expecting the extraordinary from God in your life!

Please pray for the Felix family, their mission and the families, students and staff of the school. If you want to help sponsor the students and staff at Children in Need Haitian Project  via this website, click on the DONATE button above, follow instructions and mark your contribution Haiti Outreach.  Thank you!

A Missionary’s Journey – My Story

by Jeanette FelixFelix - Chris and Jeanette

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of Praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Is. 61:1-3Haiti Felix - Palace

 The above quote from the Bible is one of my favorite, as it expresses the mission God has given me for the nation of Haiti and the Haitian people!  My background, however, is very different from that of the people I serve!  I was born and grew up in the beautiful rural part of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  My father was a dairy farmer. I was the proverbial tomboy who loved to work alongside of him in the field and with the cows in the barn.  My parents were God–fearing people for whom the Bible was central in their lives, so we learned from an early age to embrace faith and trust in the Lord.  We regularly attended the local Mennonite church.  After finishing high school, I went to nursing school, hoping that skill would be useful in helping people in need.

Haiti Felix - Catholic ChurchAt 25, I was invited to go to Haiti as a volunteer with a team from the States to help build a medical program for an orphanage there.  The goal of the team was to help co-ordinate a Haitian team who would establish a clinic in the rural part of the mountains, a couple of hours drive south-east of the capital Port-au-Prince. I had decided to give three months to the program — I actually ended up staying for three and a half years!  I had fallen in love with Haiti, and especially enjoyed the children.  I was impressed by the people’s carefree, laid back way of life.  I found them open, warm, and hospitable. They took time to enjoy life and had time for each other!  There was something beautiful with the way they confronted life’s difficulties using their well-known expression, “Pas de Problem” – (“no problem”).

In 1982, I became ill in Haiti and had to return to the States.  I spent the next two decades working in a pediatric intensive care unit in New York City.  My love for Haiti and its people never left my heart and mind, so I was happy when a group of Haitians I had befriended in the mountains moved to the States and settled in New York.  I integrated into the Haitian community, again – this time in my own country!Haiti Felix - Children Payingl  While in Haiti, I had also met my future husband, Chris, but at the time we were only casual friends.  After I returned home, we had not stayed in touch with each other, so when we years later reconnected in New York, Chris had already immigrated to the States and was working there.  We began spending time together and fell in love. Knowing that a bi-racial marriage would bring many unique challenges, we prayed about our future, and came to the same conclusion — we knew that God had brought us together and destined us to be husband and wife.  In 1994, we married.  We bought a home and settled in New York City.  God gave us a son who is a great source of joy and pride.  He finished high school this year and has just left home to go to college.

Haiti Felix - Poor childrenIn 2004, after being away from Haiti for so many years, Chris and I decided to visit the island, again, this time as a family.  When we arrived in the picturesque mountains where I had lived and worked, I cried. I was heartbroken to realize that the beautiful Haiti I once knew had disappeared. The political instability and corruption among government officials and leaders affecting the population at large had caused devastation, even at the most fundamental level. The basic infrastructure — physical, social, and emotional, was gone from the Haitian society. The streets were no longer safe; education was only for the few well-to do who could afford to pay, and jobs were practically non-existent.Haiti Felix - Post earthquake  Everything was dirty and filthy, impoverished and deprived.  Instead of the joyous, open, carefree life I had experienced among people, there was now distrust, oppression, and heaviness of spirit.  When I looked into people’s eyes, I saw hopelessness and despair.  They were not able to think beyond the survival of each day, so they had no vision for the future. I thought of the profound truth of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, people perish, but happy is he (she) who keeps the law”.  I felt it accurately applied to the Haitian people. The lack of vision breeds criminal behavior; being forced to only look for the immediate needs for today, negates the consequences of tomorrow.  It is said that in some of the more remote communities in the mountains that parents do not name their newborn children for several years, as they do not expect them to live.

Haiti Felix - School DirectorDuring this visit, we spent time with the people in the same mountain region where I had earlier helped establish the medical clinic.  Talking with some of my old acquaintances, I asked them what their community needed the most.  They unequivocally answered, “Education for our children” followed by health care and job training.  The leader of the community looked at me and said, “Let me show you something”.  He took me to an old dilapidated school, beautifully perched on a mountain ledge, which had been abandoned when the political instability in the country forced them out.  He said, “If you can raise a little money to pay for a couple of teachers, we will run the school”. Considering the teacher’s average salary is app. $200.00 per month, we could not refuse the offer to help.Haiti Felix - Roof Repir

Returning home to New York, we established a non-profit charitable organization Children in Need Haitian Project, through which we began raising funds toward the restoration and expansion of the school buildings and the support of students and teachers. The call toward this island and its people kept increasing and I sensed God’s nudging toward us moving there. With the love for my husband, and the Haitian people in my heart, yet with some reservation and trepidation considering the huge cultural and social changes I would encounter in my new land, I responded to the Lord’s calling.  In 2006, I gave up my senior position as a nurse, sold our house, uprooted myself from family and friends, and with my husband and eleven year old son, set a course toward the mountains of Haiti, twenty miles South East of Port-au-Prince.Haiti Felix - Kindergartenl

We built our new home on my husband’s family land, and directly oversaw the school and its functions with the local Director.  The grade levels are pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade.  Next year, we will be adding 6th grade.  The area is very remote and quite poor, so we feed the 120 students and staff a nutritious meal every day.Haiti Felix - Old KitchenHaiti Felix - New Kitchen  The school’s operating budget is approximately $20,000 per year, but we also raise funds to remodel the existing building which is now extremely crowded.  We have already laid the foundation for a new building which will give room for more students and staff.  The curriculum is Christ centered.  We wanted to see that all the students, not only receive a Biblically based education in the school, but also as adults find and embrace their calling and place in the Body of Christ at large.  We have therefore established a local church for parents and students who are not attending other churches in the area, to also give those students a chance to experience practical church life in a community setting. 

The major earthquake in 2010 did not directly affect our school or our home, as we were far enough away in the mountains to escape the main destruction of that disaster and the following two hurricanes that have ravaged Haiti since then. However, after the quake, our son’s American school in Haiti temporarily closed, forcing us to relocate him back to the States, where he just finished high school.Haiti Felix - School Visit

Other extenuating circumstances have made it necessary for us to spend more time in New York, with visits to Haiti, all the while working with the nationals at the school by sponsoring the staff and financing the students’ education.  We are currently working diligently on finishing the new school building.  Due to a generous donation from a group of French speaking Canadian friends, we have now 1000 children’s books in French (Haiti’s official language) to open the very first school library in the entire region in which there is not s single library!

It is challenging to be a self-supported missionary by working full time,  while keeping up two households, one in New York, the other in the mountains of Haiti,   carrying the burden for the needs of the school and its staff and children, erecting new buildings for expansion, as well caring for the overall needs of the people in the community. Haiti Felix - New school site

Yet — it is in the midst of all the daily struggles and pressures that I experience the reality of God’s mercy and faithfulness.  His grace is indeed sufficient!