January 12, 2010, is a day Haitians will never forget
“I heard a noise like a storm,” recalls Efanor Nore, World Concern Haiti Country Representative. He was driving with several other people through Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit on January 12, 2010. The road buckled in front of him and another car smashed into the broken concrete.
He’d snapped a photo of a large white building in the city just minutes before the earthquake, not knowing it might be the last photo of the building standing.
“This building totally collapsed after,” he said, “We couldn’t even imagine how many people died in there.”
Efanor spent the next 17 hours trying to get to his family’s home in Petit Goave, just south of the city, but the roads were blocked and he had to sleep in his car. Not knowing if his family had survived, Efanor spent the night praying. “I talked to God in my heart and said, ‘Give me strength … If I am still alive, I will serve the Lord,” he prayed.
“I saw many people—women, girls, boys, and men—coming out into the street and seeking a place to rest. They were covered with dust from concrete. When they saw our car, they asked us to take them to the hospital. I felt really powerless, then I cried,” he remembers.
“When I arrived at Leogane, where the epicenter was located … a woman lay down on the ground in the middle of the street, screaming and weeping. All the communication was cut around 2 to 3 minutes later.
“It was a nightmare.”
Port-au-Prince was in ruins. Cinder block buildings crumbled into dust. While there is no official death toll, the Haitian government estimates more than 300,000 people died in the earthquake.
World Concern’s Response
No World Concern staff were lost or injured in the quake, and the Port-au-Prince office sustained minimal damage. Sleeping in tents on the rooftop for fear of aftershocks, the staff went to work immediately, distributing emergency supplies—bottled water, food, and tarps—to families in need. Over the following weeks and months, World Concern implemented a large-scale response that assisted tens of thousands of people who were affected by the disaster. A massive outpouring of generosity from donors helped meet immediate needs for shelter, water, medical care, and income, as well as plan a long-term response. It was evident it would take years to rebuild Haiti.
In the months after the quake, transitional shelters were provided to families who lost their homes, and cash grants were given to families and business owners to restart businesses that were lost, among other activities.
Since 2010, World Concern has helped numerous communities prepare for disasters in Haiti, equipping families and communities to be more resilient in the face of recurring disasters, particularly hurricanes and storms. The goal is to bring the government’s disaster plans that are in place down to individual families, where training and equipping are needed most.
“Community members have to own the process,” explains World Concern Deputy Director of Disaster Response, Maggie Konstanski. “At World Concern, we don’t see disaster as a one-time event, but always aim to leave a community more resilient and protected than before.
“When communities are truly equipped with early warning systems, trained on how to use them, and they’re owned at the community level, and an effective, safe plan is in place, it does save lives,” she says. “The community wants to protect and save themselves. We’re giving them the knowledge and tools to protect themselves.”
Is there hope to rebuild Haiti?
Despite efforts from the Haitian community, aid organizations, and the government, the unique and extensive challenges in Haiti have prolonged and even crippled rebuilding efforts. Efanor believes only about 3% of buildings in Port-au-Prince have been rebuilt in 10 years. And an estimated 38,000 people still live in tents and makeshift camps that were set up after the quake.
Corruption, gang violence, political crisis, and drugs have left the city in a state of ruin he believes is even worse than 2010.
“Gangsters occupy many places downtown. Many areas are very high risk and not accessible. Even after the earthquake people were able to operate. Now … it’s not safe at all. Most people have fled downtown– no one would want to live there. All the businesses have moved out,” he said.
But as this Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the earthquake approaches, Haiti’s president plans to unveil plans on Friday to rebuild the presidential palace that was destroyed in the earthquake. The lot where the palace once stood has remained vacant since about 2012 when the damaged building was finally demolished.
“(The design) takes into account the history and culture of Haiti,” said Efanor, who believes, “It will be a wonderful building that will remind us of the capital city of Haiti.”
Is there hope for Haiti? Efanor believes so.
“Haiti is really resilient. Even at this time of political crisis … Haitians still have hope,” he said. “They think a new day will come where people around the world will use the example of what Haiti has faced over the past 100 years of suffering to learn … The time of Haiti will come,” he said. “We continue to be an example—positively. We face more than any civilization has faced in the past. We hope to use our past experience to move forward.
“Haitians want peace. And we want solidarity. And Haitians love God. We want people to keep loving God in spite of problems, disasters, in spite of poverty, we thank God – the creator of the universe, who has a plan for the world.”
Places like Kenya and Somalia have been devastated by extreme weather in the past few years. Not only do families live in ongoing drought, but more recently, flooding has decimated the sparse conditions that remained in Somalia.
World Concern snapshots of 2019 could fill a book. You gave so much, and we are so thankful for you! Enjoy these photos that show a few of the many ways you transformed the lives of children, women, and men who live in poverty beyond the end of the road.
Your gifts resulted in 8,717 lives being reconciled to Christ
Honoring our friend and country director of Bangladesh
We want to thank you for giving generously this year! Because of you, practical needs were met for families, and that was life changing. Meeting those needs opened the hearts of men, women and children to hear about the love of Christ and receive His grace. That transformed everything for them—both now, and for eternity.
You know the drill. Your shopping is done for the holidays. You’ve got wrapping well in hand. Your list is nearly crossed off. You’re sitting down for a well-deserved cup of coffee flavored with self-congratulations on your organizational skills.
The power of gratitude wowed me when I first met our new neighbor, Della. She was in her 80s when we moved in next door, and she greeted us with a beaming smile and a litany of how happy she was to meet us. In subsequent encounters, which were frequent, she never failed to talk about how grateful she was for her life and how much God had blessed her.
Della radiated joy. And I thought, “That’s the way to live!” Even as dementia took her memory, she continued to do a little dance and recite her gratitude on a daily basis.
“Seek to cultivate a buoyant joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life.”
I love the words Maclaren uses—buoyant, joyous, crowded kindnesses. I can’t help but smile thinking about the picture he paints.
So many kindnesses. So much love. A God who crowds us with His kindnesses. A God who tells us to be grateful because He knows it will make us joyful. We can be buoyant—able to stay afloat no matter what—when we are grateful. This is the abundance of life God wants for us!
Joy is not something we produce. It’s something we find in the presence of God.
How do we get into God’s presence? We worship Him. We thank Him. (Psalm 100:4)
Being thankful is our way of saying, “You are good, Lord. And what You do is good. What You choose for my life is good. I trust You.”
Expressing gratitude is like planting a seed, and joy is the fruit that grows from it. We plant a seed without seeing its fruit. We just trust that something good will grow from it. It’s an act of faith. And the harvest we reap is joy.
A life filled with thanksgiving is a life that gets better and better. And I’m not talking about faking it, speaking in Christianese, or posing. I’m not saying we should ignore the trials we’re in.
I’m talking about thanking God (along with being honest about how hard it is) in the middle of those trials—if only for the fact that He promises He is with us during them. I’m talking about being on the lookout for things to be grateful for—regardless of what’s not going well on any particular day.
Not Just an Ancient Teaching
Aside from the fact that we are commanded to be grateful in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:18), gratitude is just a healthy practice for life. Even modern-day psychologists report this. In 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude through a psychological lens. He found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. Being grateful impacts the overall experience of happiness, and these effects tend to be long-lasting.
Author Ann Voskamp said, “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.”
If we want good mental health and a good life, gratitude needs to become a habit.
Lessons in the Power of Gratitude
Westerners who go on short-term mission trips often comment on the joy they see in people they work with. We are astounded that someone who lives in poverty can be joyful. But the same lessons of gratitude that apply to us apply to everyone. A lifestyle of gratitude doesn’t take away problems, it just makes them easier to bear.
William in South Sudan is an example of a grateful person. He was unable to provide enough for his family until he learned to fish. Now he has food for them, and an income.
William said, “I’m really thankful to God because I tried different things until I found this really was the main source of my livelihood. I previously didn’t know how to fish, so I asked people to show me and also learned by observing. Fishing is very beneficial to my family.”
Hla (name changed for protection) is another example of the power of gratitude. She lost everything when her home was burned to the ground and she escaped Myanmar with her family. After walking for nine days to reach Bangladesh they entered a refugee camp. The work she had in Myanmar was not available in the camp, but she was given an opportunity to learn how to sew and she took it.
Hla said, “If I learn this work, I can keep my children safe. I can provide them an education. No one can steal or buy my skills.”
Instead of complaining over her circumstances, Hla expresses gratitude for aid workers. She said, “Without God, how can we live? God has created us and sent us into this world. He is giving us everything and feeding us. He is doing this through His agents.”
An Evergreen Virtue
Thanksgiving is a great time of year to be reminded of the power of gratitude. We generally make our “I’m grateful for” list sometime around this holiday. And at our house we go around the dinner table and say what we’re thankful for while feasting on turkey and favorite side dishes.
But gratitude isn’t something we take out of the closet for a certain holiday every year. It’s something that should be at our table, and on our lips, all year long. It’s evergreen.
Our neighbor Della lived to be 97, and I never tired of her grateful litany. In fact, I sought it out. Her joy lit up our lives, every single day.
Let us know what you’re grateful for in the comment section below. Share what you do to maintain a grateful heart. We’d like to hear from you and share your thoughts with others.