Tent cities in Haiti (Photo courtesy Baptist Haiti Mission)
Haiti (MNN) ― Almost 700,000 Haitians who lost their homes in the 2010 quake are still living in squalor.
President Michel Martelly, a novice in politics, was sworn in a few weeks ago, in mid-May, and immediately he pledged to speed up earthquake reconstruction, develop the impoverished countryside, and build a modern army.
However, the action that was taken may not have been what he had in mind. In the first week of June, "The mayor in Port-au-Prince had the police force move out the people from two of the tent cities down there," says Ron Sparks with Baptist Haiti Mission.
Hundreds were evicted amid heavy rains and the looming start of hurricane season Wednesday. While it sounds draconian, there are two sides to the story. Sparks explains that "many of these people, who were perfectly able to get back to their own homes and start restoring their lives, were just kind of hanging out in the tent cities which has become a chronic, ongoing thing."
Where will these refugees go? According to the government, President Martelly has their relocation covered under his 100-day plan for resettlement. The idea is to close six camps on public land and launch a resettlement package for residents. The timing between the camp closures and alternative housing remains a question mark.
In the meantime, BHM teams keep plugging away on restoration projects. Sparks says, "Our team, as well as the many volunteer teams that have come along and worked through Baptist Haiti Mission, built 160 homes, some 30 schools, and another 30 churches."
Urgency is growing, now that hurricane season is here. Sparks notes, however, that their teams won't be forced into making panicked decisions. "If the hurricanes come again, as they did on the heels of the earthquake last year, then we just have to deal with that. It's kind of a way of life down there in Haiti, and we have to do the best we can day by day."
The changing landscape is kind of a reflection of what's happening on the spiritual front. "That's one way that I really believe the Lord uses to soften and open people's hearts to the truth of the Gospel: through hardship," Sparks says, adding, "We've been continuing to see a very positive response and openness to the Word of God and to the Gospel."
Baptist Haiti Mission focuses on partnering with local leaders to strengthen their community's church. Church leaders are faced with the task not only of rebuilding, but also keeping compassion fatigue at bay with resourcing partners. They need help on all frontiers. "We're always concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the missionary team and the Haitian workers. Beyond that, just pray that people's hearts would be open to the truth of the Gospel."