As relief teams attempt to reach earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, a multinational medical and water sanitation team from HCJB Global Hands in Ecuador is praising God for its arrival in the Haitian capital Friday, Jan. 15.
"The situation is really desperate, and safety is an increasing problem as people get more frantic for water, food and medical help," said Martin Harrison, a British water engineer on the seven-member emergency medical response team in Florida, on Thursday. "We want to get on with the job, but we're daunted by the very serious nature of the situation. Please pray for the team and that God would protect us and get us there in his perfect way and timing."
"We are certain that the medical people we are slated to relieve are so very tired after this now 48-hour marathon in the hospital," said family physician Steve Nelson on Thursday as the team waited to catch an emergency flight at the airport in West Palm Beach, Fla. The team arrived in Port-au-Prince Friday morning.
Another ministry, Samaritan's Purse (SP), is sponsoring the HCJB Global team in Haiti and handling its logistics. SP is centering its medical relief efforts at a 100-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince operated by a local partner, Baptist Haiti Mission. The hospital, 20 miles from the quake's epicenter, suffered only minor damage and has electricity from back-up generators.
Members of the HCJB Global team include Ecuadorian surgeon Leonardo Febres, German surgeon Eckehart Wolff, U.S. anesthesiologist Paul Barton, U.S. family physicians Steve Nelson and Marcos Nelson, Harrison and International Healthcare Director Sheila Leech, a British nurse who heads the group. Most have assisted after previous disasters elsewhere such as in quake zones of Indonesia and Pakistan, Lebanon after war, and flooded areas of Mexico and Ecuador.
Likewise, the SP team consists of veterans of many disaster responses, but even they were shocked by what they encountered upon their arrival. "The streets are full of people who have no homes to go back to," said Dr. David Gettle, a medical adviser. "They're running out of food, fuel and water. The situation is desperate and tense, and there is tremendous suffering."
A cargo plane chartered by SP has made several flights to Port-au-Prince since Wednesday, transporting 11 members of its own disaster team along with rolls of plastic for temporary shelters, blankets, hygiene kits, jerry cans, flashlights, water purification sachets, water purification kits and two community water filters.
The primary goal of HCJB Global's team is to bring medical aid and clean water to the injured while also addressing the spiritual needs of the Haitian earthquake victims. "This is an opportunity to show God's love in a tangible way," said HCJB Global President Wayne Pederson. "We feel privileged to play a small part in this emergency operation."
The 7.0-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday, Jan. 12, even as an HCJB Global Voice engineer was in Port-au-Prince to do technical work for partner ministry Radio Lumière. The engineer and three others (two from the U.S.) escaped injury.
World Gospel Mission (WGM) is sending Paul Shingledecker to Haiti on Saturday to assess the damage at Radio Lumière, get it back on the air and meet with church and radio leaders to begin building a long-term strategy for assisting Haiti. Shingledecker, who served as a missionary in Haiti for 23 years, will also be checking on radio staff members, some of whom are feared dead.
"The station is still standing," said Tim Rickel, WGM's vice president for communication. "It is structurally sound, although many things have fallen off the shelves. All of the radio towers are also standing." He said the station has back-up generators to supply electricity, but they are dependent on diesel fuel which is in short supply.
Radio Lumière, a WGM partner ministry operated by the Evangelical Baptist Mission of South Haiti, consists of nine radio stations and a television station. It covers 90 percent of Haiti with the message of Christ's love.
Another HCJB Global cooperating ministry, radio station 4VEH, operated by One Mission Society (formerly OMS International) in Cap-Haitien, was undamaged.
"We want to be able to show the face of Jesus as we work with our hands. We trust the name of Jesus will be lifted up in all that we do," said Steve Nelson.
Support of HCJB Global's efforts will help provide medical supplies and basic necessities such as sleeping bags, flashlights, tents and emergency water filters. Plans are under way to send additional teams in the weeks to come.
Since 1931, HCJB Global's passion has been to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Using mass media, healthcare and education, and working with partners around the world, HCJB Global has ministries in more than 100 countries. Together with local partners, the ministry airs the gospel
in more than 120 languages and dialects. Thousands of listeners and healthcare patients are meeting Jesus. Local believers are being trained as missionaries, pastors, broadcasters and healthcare providers.