As aid workers frantically rescue survivors of Haiti's massive quake, several hundred miles north in the United States many churches and ministries are anxiously awaiting word about missing workers and missionaries.
In Florida, the state Baptist convention is praying for word that 18 of their workers in Haiti are safe, according to Baptist Press, the news wire service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Florida Baptist Convention says it has not heard from 18 of its 21 Haitian staff after the 7.0-magnitude quake hit Haiti Tuesday and decimated the capital Port-au-Prince. The other three Haitian employees were found unharmed.
"They are like our family," said Craig Culbreth, director of Florida's partnership mission department, who often travels to Haiti. "Many of them have small children. Some of their homes may be damaged and they are sleeping in the streets. It is a desperate situation there."
Meanwhile, the Baptist World Alliance announced Thursday that a prominent Baptist pastor in Port-au-Prince, Biene Lamerquea, died in the quake and is still buried under the rubble. Several other unnamed Baptist pastors are still unaccounted for, Gedeon Eugene, vice president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, reported to BWA.
"A lot of church members are now homeless," Eugene said. "They spend nights in the streets. They are starving."
The ministry Mission Aviation Fellowship, likewise, said it fears one of its national staff members is dead and two others remain missing, according to Mission Network News. None of its missionary staff, however, were injured.
On Tuesday, a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck at 4:53 p.m. ET 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, bringing down buildings great and small and leaving behind dead bodies throughout the city's streets.
Officials fear that the death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands, with some saying a toll of 100,000 and even 500,000 is possible.
ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance – whose members include Church World Service, Christian Aid and the Lutheran World Federation – are working together with local partners to help provide relief to the people of Haiti. The alliance of churches and related agencies helps coordinate responses to disasters and thus helps prevent overlap in relief efforts.
But not all news received by U.S. churches from Haiti have been bad. Several church denominations reported that their workers and mission teams are safe. Among them are the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which both reported that short-term mission teams present in Haiti are safe and uninjured.
And on Friday, the United Methodist Church reported that three UMC staff members were rescued late Thursday night from the rubble of Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. They were the Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief; the Rev. Clinton Rabb, head of Mission Volunteers; and the Rev. James Gulley, a United Methodist Committee on Relief consultant.
"Sam and Clint are on their way to the hospital," said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an UMCOR official, to the United Methodist News Service.
According to the international Red Cross, a third of the country's 9 million people may need emergency aid, a burden that would test any nation and a crushing catastrophe for impoverished Haiti.
The Caribbean nation is widely considered the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It is also one of the least developed. Most Haitians live on $2 or less per day.
Ways to Donate:
Text "HAITI" to 52000 to automatically give $10 to The Salvation Army's relief efforts
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