Riding through the rough streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, seven months after the devastating earthquake, I had hoped to see more recovery, fewer tents. Disappointment swept through me. I could see little evidence of change in the capital city. Where had the two-billion dollars of international aid gone? The look of desperation was still etched on so many faces. I drew some comfort, however, knowing that I would soon arrive at a place where visible progress was being made.
That place is a resettlement camp where Heaven’s Family has been serving since January. Believers from several Port-au-Prince churches have been living on some church property there, about an hour north of the city, since they lost everything on January 12. Heaven’s Family helped purchase 20 additional acres at that site to accommodate more families, and we’ve been providing them with food, safe water, and tents.
I came this time to help lead a team of nine from all over the U.S. We arrived at the camp with one simple mission: to spend a week working side-by-side with our Haitian brothers and sisters to build basic, concrete homes. They’ve been living in tents since the quake.
Using contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund, we purchased cement, cement blocks, rebar, and roofing materials—enough to construct at least two duplex houses where four families can live. When we arrived, the foundations for four additional duplexes were already under construction using labor and materials provided by the Haitian believers themselves.
We came to serve, but our brothers and sisters at the camp served us much more. Their humble, Christ-like example of service to us—and each other—was overwhelming, and gave us a taste of what it must have been like to be part of the church written about in the book of Acts.
We knew our hosts would feed us every day, of course, but none of us expected to eat so well. When we wanted to wash our own clothes, they begged us to allow them to wash them for us. They prepared our tents (and dried them out after a downpour soaked our belongings), and even cleaned our dusty luggage! When we asked pastor Lyonel Joseph, the spiritual leader of the camp, if we could pay those who assisted us, he said they would rather receive their reward from Jesus, and served only out of the joy in their hearts.
Just like the first-century Church, the Haitian believers share all things in common, serve each other rather than themselves, and contribute from their meager resources to benefit the community of believers. We were humbled and inspired.
The camp residents made our construction work a joy as well. Although there were no power tools, over 100 men, women, and even some children joined with us, working shoulder to shoulder. Building the homes was tediously slow—comparable to 10 people cutting the grass of a football field with nail clippers—but through hard work, persistence, singing, laughter, and plenty of sweat, we witnessed a miracle of sorts. As we stood in lines passing bucket after bucket of stone, sand, and cement, homes began to emerge. Yet something else was also being built, something transcendent. We deeply sensed God’s love building up the hearts of His people.
As each day passed, the awareness of God’s hand at work could be felt by everyone on our team. On our final night at the camp, that feeling reached its peak during a very special church service. One of our team members, John Moret from Baton Rouge, had brought a new guitar with him, intending to give it away. Earlier in the week, he learned that pastor Lyonel played, but didn’t have a guitar. So, during the Thursday night tent worship service, John presented the guitar to pastor Lyonel. As Lyonel translated John’s words for the congregation of about 200, their faces slowly lit up as they heard each translated sentence. It seemed as if a million volts of static electricity hung invisibly in the air—we could all feel it.
The next moment was one none of us will ever forget. As Lyonel began to skillfully pluck a few notes, all that energy hanging in the air seemed to fall on those under the tent—and they began shouting with excitement. Pastor Lyonel’s first few notes evolved into a song of praise, and the people joined together in one voice. We experienced an intensity of worship that lifted us above the tattered tent, above the crumbled ruins of Port-au-Prince, right up to the throne of God. I have never witnessed a gathering so full of love for our Lord and for one another—truly a glimpse of heaven.