PORT-au-PRINCE, Haiti – Pictures of an utterly devastated Haiti have long disappeared from newspapers and TV screens. However, the plight of the Haitian people is still very visible. The newest tent cities in the capital city of Port-au-Prince are becoming more permanent. This is happening not through government or NGO efforts to help people rebuild, but from those who live in the tent cities, desperate to find some sense of normality.
The tent city directly opposite the National Palace is now woven between damaged buildings and national monuments. Roofs are no longer just plastic sheeting, but iron or tin to protect from torrential downpours experienced every year in the wet season. What was initially a temporary solution for many has become long term as the weight of relocating these communities is too heavy for the nation’s leaders to handle.
The spiritual climate in Haiti after the earthquake is changing. One month after the January earthquake, Haitian President Preval decreed that for three days from February 12 – 14 the nation would fast and pray to the “good God.” The annual Kanival (Mardi Gras) was cancelled. Instead, throngs of people marched around the national palace worshiping and praying to God over the three days.
American Rodney Gephardt and his wife and three children live and work in Haiti. Gephardt was based out of Port au Prince for the first seven weeks after the devastating earthquake. Gephardt facilitated mostly medical teams, treating more than 20,000 earthquake victims.
When asked about the present spiritual state of Haiti , Gephardt said,
“I believe that because of the earthquake – and therefore the amount of people who turned to God during times of prayer and fasting, that spiritual curses (as a result of Voodoo practices) over Haiti were broken," he said. "But now the people need modeling and teaching. The people need a ‘Moses’ to lead them, whether that is done by many people, local pastors or just one person.”
People are asking for Creole Bibles, Gephardt said. He recalled one hot day when handing out the few Creole Bibles he had. He and his partner were resting under a tree when a Haitian man walked up to him and said, “I’m ready.”
Rodney thought, “Ready for what?”
The man persisted, “I’m ready.”
In his hand the man held out a tattered New Testament written in French and Rodney realized he was being asked for a Creole Bible. When he gave the man the last one he had, the Haitian immediately began reading aloud from Genesis. A group of children who had been throwing rocks and yelling loudly, Gephardt said, suddenly became silent as they came and gathered around the man to listen.
The Bible says, 'For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.'”