From the Ashes
Pastor Gerald Bataille looks weary. His voice cracks with the hoarse edge of someone who has not slept well for some time.
In the weeks following the January earthquake, the leader of the Tabernacle of Glory Pentecostal Church in Port-au-Prince has been working around the clock every day. But Pastor Bataille is not in the frame of mind to give up. His name means “fighter.” And that, say those who know him the best, is exactly what Pastor Bataille has shown himself to be. In the face of massive – even overwhelming – odds, Pastor Bataille has rallied his people to respond with energy, with compassion, with grace.
Less than three weeks after the quake, Pastor Bataille led a funeral service for 30 of his church members killed in the disaster. Some of their bodies had not even been recovered from the rubble. There were moments, he admits, that he felt like dissolving into tears. But he kept it together – not just for himself, but for all those looking to him for strength and leadership.
With such a heavy weight on his shoulders, it is remarkable, perhaps, that Pastor Bataille can stay buoyant. Yet he exudes genuine optimism, genuine hope.“People are seeing the love of Christ in us,” he says, barely pausing to talk as he helps to unload rice and beans at his church. “With World Relief’s help, we’re showing people the love of Jesus, not just telling them… and their hearts are touched.
The love of Christ is something that everybody needs and I believe this love can draw people to find hope and peace.“I pray: ‘Lord, this is the time… it is the time for change for Haiti.’ If we will turn to God, He will hear us. We have known so much pain, so much sorrow, but I really believe this is the time for a big change.”
Within hours of the most cataclysmic earthquake in Haiti’s history, the Tabernacle of Glory Pentecostal Church in Port-au-Prince became a place of refuge for thousands. The church – an impressive half-completed mini-amphitheater – became a central food distribution point for World Relief. Inside, thousands of bags of rice and beans – enough to feed more than 100,000 people – were readied for distribution to the neediest families.
World Relief set up a system with the church to distribute the food in bulk, primarily to trusted local pastors. Word soon got out. Hundreds of pastors and others lined up in the sun in the hope of receiving some rice to take back to their families and their churches. Meanwhile, children were served hot meals of rice and beans at the church’s feeding station – a lifeline for many families struggling to find any food.
Pastor Louis Ricot came to the church every day after the quake, looking for food. “My people have nothing,” he said with a slight shrug. “We have no help from anywhere else…”Pastor Ricot was just one of thousands of pastors desperate to help his people who were living in tents made out of sticks and torn sheets. “It’s very difficult because there are many people in Port-au-Prince who are hungry right now,” said Michael Jean Baptiste, a church mobilization officer with World Relief, working alongside the church. “I thank God that we’re able to serve Christian and non-Christian alike, because everybody needs help.”
Like many quake survivors at the Tabernacle of Glory, Baptiste questioned God: ‘Lord, thousands have died… why am I not one of them?’God gave him the answer: ‘I have given you the opportunity to live to help your brothers and sisters in this hour.’ “Pastors come to us and say: ‘I have to feed 500 people… can you help me?’” explained Baptiste. “These people love Jesus… Jesus taught us to give to those who are hungry and it is a grace for me to serve them.”
Meanwhile, in the church grounds, hundreds received medical care at a clinic set up under a shelter. Moms with their babies in their arms waited patiently, while a doctor and nurses from Colorado treated and bandaged wounds, checked eye infections and gave out vitamins.
“I feel that God is at work here,” one mother said. “Who else would do this for us?”