Some Oklahomans doing mission work said they hope to travel to Haiti this week and provide emergency assistance. Jake Lenhart, a youth pastor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City, said he hopes to travel with Christian Service International Ministries. Lenhart’s family already planned to move to Haiti this summer to work as missionaries. He and his wife, Tiffanie, a registered nurse, have two biological children and an 8-year-old son who was adopted two years ago from Haiti. The living conditions in Haiti were dire before the earthquake, he said. "The average person makes $2 a day, half the adults are illiterate and 80 percent are unemployed,” he said. "There’s no fire departments, no first response teams, no FEMA. There’s nothing.” Matt Bennett, director of People to People Ministries, planned to travel to the Dominican Republic today, in hopes of driving into Haiti, where the ministry operates 50 International Pentecostal Holiness Churches and seven schools. "We’ve learned that our staff is OK, but the country is just in devastation,” he said. "The country was already in a terrible state, and it’s hard to imagine what’s happening now.” Bennett urged Oklahomans to donate to organizations responding to the disaster. "There are many organizations, some right here in Oklahoma City, that are helping, that have always helped in Haiti that will need additional resources at this time,” he said.
‘Lost my heart in Haiti’Missionary Wayne Ray of Paden looks at the images of Haiti not only with his eyes, but with his heart. It’s a heart, Ray said, he lost in the impoverished Caribbean nation more than 30 years ago. At the invitation of a minister in Haiti, Ray made a visit to the country. "I lost my heart in Haiti in 1979 when I saw little kids with swollen bellies,” he said, "and hair that should be black but instead had a rusty, copper look.” Ray’s Missionary Outreach Inc. has 37 churches, many schools — including some in very remote areas — and five orphanages. He oversees five directors, who are ministers, and they in turn have several teachers they oversee. Ray is in Oklahoma now but was supposed to be in Haiti. "Some things” came up and delayed his return, he said. He travels to Haiti about three to four times a year for a week to 10 days. Because of communication issues he has not been able to reach his directors. Although he wants to return right away, he is not sure when he’ll be able to. So he prays. "My prayers are that somehow God can eliminate some misery that I know is going on and trust that something good can come out of this,” Ray said. "The Bible says the Lord has His ways in the storms, and I know he does in the earthquakes as well.”
Haitians’ needs will be ongoingOtis Garrison, U.S. director for Mission of Hope in Haiti, said he spent the day Wednesday helping to coordinate disaster relief efforts through the independent Christian organization. He said Mission of Hope has an orphanage with 63 children about 15 miles outside Port-au-Prince. The building sustained some damage in the earthquake, but nothing major. Garrison said he travels to Haiti all year long but just happened to be at his Oklahoma City home when the disaster occurred. He said the organization’s leaders in Haiti have been supplying meals to victims with food from Mission of Hope’s warehouse. He said there was more food at the warehouse because the organization’s 1,300-student main school and 55 other sponsored schools in the country had been on holiday break. He said Mission of Hope is constructing an orphanage village that will house 240 children. Garrison said ongoing concerns in Haiti will be homelessness and lack of clean water, food and medical supplies. He is emphasizing the need will be ongoing, not just a few days or a month. "It’s a tragedy because we’re talking literally hundreds of thousands of people who were left without homes, nothing,” Garrison said. He said he has been working to help the people of Haiti since 1999, and he believes in the Haitians’ indomitable spirit. "The people are some of the most amazing people in the world and because of that, they’re going to get through this. They are resilient and they are used to hardship. Still, this is devastating.” Contributing: Staff Writers Susan Simpson and Bryan Painter and Religion Editor Carla Hinton
• Population: 9,035,536
• Capital: Port-au-Prince
• Languages: French; Creole
• Geography: Caribbean; western one-third of the island of Hispaniola. SOURCE: CIA WORLD FACTBOOK