Haitians Keep Churches Alive amid Tragedy

Amid countless piles of rubble and the stench of death permeating Haiti, Christians throughout the devastated country are still able to find something to sing about.

"Our missionaries tell us in Port-au-Prince [people] still put on their best clothes and walked to church this past Sunday," Assemblies of God General Superintendent Dr. George O. Wood said in a recent Haiti update.

Church buildings throughout the Caribbean island were destroyed by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit two weeks ago. Some pastors have set up chairs and makeshift stages outside as temporary locations for worship services.

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Though millions of Haitians have lost everything from families to homes, many continue to gather outside in tropical temperatures to worship God.

Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, last week visited the country that he knew very little about before the earthquake. The scale of loss and devastation has left him shocked and heartbroken. But in the midst of dead bodies on the streets and starving Haitians, Driscoll found local pastors and believers who were still able to smile.

"It (joy) is from the Lord," one local pastor who lost his wife told Driscoll during his visit.

Coming across a temporary church where hundreds of chairs were organized in an open space with no shade, Driscoll commented on the devoted faith of Haitians.

"It was so amazing in the midst of devastation to see the people that love Jesus also love the church and no matter what were committed to being the church and being mission on the church," he told his Seattle congregation as he debriefed them.

"If you really love Jesus, you love the church. If you don't love the church, you don't love Jesus," he said.

U.S. missionaries and church leaders continue to release reports of Haitians congregating to worship services and local pastors not giving up on their call to preach the Word of God.

"In Psalms 46, we learn God is our refugee and strength. Job reminds us to remain faithful," the Rev. Marco Depestre, secretary of the Methodist Church in Haiti and superintendent of the Port-au-Prince circuit, said in a recent sermon to dozens of Haitians, according to the United Methodist News Service. "Suffering is part of human life."

With churches described as critical to providing both physical and spiritual aid, a group of well-known pastors, including Driscoll and James MacDonald, have launched a new initiative to rally help from churches in North America to rescue and restore the church wherever it is ravaged by natural disaster or human tragedy. Called Churches Helping Churches, the initiative is intended to complement humanitarian aid flowing from groups that often rely on networks of local churches.

Currently, the death toll from the Jan. 12 earthquake is over 150,000 in the Port-au-Prince area alone, a Haiti government minister said.

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