Baptist Haiti Mission

Returned missionaries share Haiti stories

January 28, 2010 // 0 Comments

Rockford residents knew more about the earthquake in Haiti before missionaries and Haitians did, said Cliff VanKoevering, of the Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) in Rockford. VanKoevering was with several volunteers with the mission in Haiti during the earthquake and the 6.1 aftershock. At a press conference held Saturday, January 23, VanKoevering, John Bredeweg and George Meppelink, all just returned from the ravaged country, shared their experiences with members of the media. VanKoevering goes to Haiti every year and performs maintenace work on vehicles for BHM. He was working on a dump truck when the quake hit. “At first I thought the truck had started running rough,” he said. When he saw the ceiling start to come down, for a moment he thought the truck’s dump unit had risen and was tearing up the building. “Immediately after the earthquake there was this eerie sense of stillness,” he said. Then came the dust clouds and the pandemonium. Because communications systems were destroyed, no one on the ground in Haiti knew the extent of the quake, or who was safe. VanKoevering said the worst of what he saw is too graphic to share. What impressed him the most was the resiliency of the Haitians and how quickly the missionaries were able to reorient themselves into relief work. From one day to the next after the earthquake VanKoevering switched from relatively routine work of fixing vehicles to emergency relief delivery. At the BMC compound and hospital near Port-au-Prince the structures survived surprisingly well, allowing the missionaries to provide desperately needed medical services. The resiliency of the Haitian people impressed VanKoevering and others. They said it was amazing to see people who had lost everything—homes, possessions—show up for work every day to offer their help. VanKoevering said it wasn’t difficult to return to the United States and felt that the window of time when he, Bredeweg and Meppelink could be of service had passed. “It’s hard for people to relate to what it is like there, how limited are the facilities,” said Ron Sparks, board member of BHM. VanKoevering said he believes it was time for the next level of relief workers to take his place, whether it be medical help or rebuilding. “Long after Haiti is out of the […]

Rockford mission helping in Haiti

January 21, 2010 // 0 Comments

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 […]