Help has quietly been going to Haiti since 1943 from Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM), located at 118 Courtland, Rockford. Since a devastating earthquake that has killed thousands of people since Tuesday, January 12, the world has been watching, and the mission’s hospital and staff are on the front lines in rescue efforts.
Ron Sparks is one of the board members of the Rockford-based mission, which in its 63 years has built 350 schools and churches in Haiti. BHM also has a hospital in Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, near the epicenter of the quake.
BHM has 14 missionaries in Haiti, and thankfully, none were injured in the earthquake.
One of them is Ron Baker, former Cedar Springs resident who is there with many members of his family. Baker has been in Haiti since 2003. He said he heard the earthquake and at first thought it was a large truck. “It continued to rumble and then the floors and the walls began to sway,” he said.
Unlike much of the city, the BHM hospital is still standing. According to BHM missionaries, the 70-bed facility has 250 to 300 people in the rooms, hallways, and many more waiting outside for help.
On Friday, January 15, Sparks was on the telephone to the federal state department trying to obtain landing clearance for a Haiti-bound plane with doctors on board. The phone was ringing steadily in the small Rockford office.
“We’ve had it non-stop since Tuesday,” Sparks said. People with medical backgrounds are calling the office, offering help, even offering to go to Haiti.
Sparks said, unfortunately, donations of items or sending people to the country, is not a good idea. Donations of financial aid are the most effective way to get help to Haiti.
On Saturday, January 16, the team of doctors was able to land, but most flights have been initially limited to military peacekeepers and search and rescue.
An email from one of the BHM missionaries sent at 1:12 a.m. Friday, January 15, described handing out tarps for shelters.
Chris Lieb, who is in Haiti through BHM, along with his in-laws, Rob and Patti Baker; his wife and five children, handed out about 100 tarps for people to use as shelters.
“It got very ugly as the last ones were dispersed. The actual process of giving out aid is going to be quite dangerous the longer it takes to reach people,” his father-in-law, Rob Baker, wrote.
Sparks said the best way to help is to pray and to donate money, which can be done right through the BHM website, www.bhm.org or in person at the office, downtown Rockford.
“As generous as it is to give hard goods, there is no practical way to get them there now,” Sparks said.