Philippe Armand remembers well the day of the earthquake. Philippe, a former school teacher, is working this week as a translator for a team of Illinois volunteers serving in Haiti. He has done so several times since the January 2010 quake, which killed more than 200,000 in his country.
Philippe was in a meeting when the ground began to shake in the late afternoon January 12. The group thought it was a plane crash, since the meeting was near the Port-au-Prince airport. But when they went outside and saw the great cloud of dust covering their city, “We just thought it was the end of the world,” he says.
He started walking home, desperate to see if his wife and children were ok. All the way home, he saw death and destruction- “I can’t stop crying,” he says, recalling the hour-long walk home. “I tried to call my wife; I can’t because there was a problem. You can’t find anyone on the phone or text message.”
He remembers seeing one large house in ruins and thinking about what might have become of his own small home. When he finally got there, everyone was safe and the house was still standing. But fear had set in. Philippe says people lived outside for a long time, because they thought at any time, the shaking could start again.
Baptist Global Response (BGR), a ministry partner of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, arrived on the scene soon after the quake, first to deliver food and later to help rebuild homes and churches. Including Phillipe’s church, Damien Baptist. And because school was out indefinitely, Philippe found a job as a guard at the BGR compound. That’s how he met Bob Elmore, the leader of this week’s team and several others over the past couple years.
BGR built several hundred homes, and other mission teams left their mark on Haiti too. But the change isn’t just physical. “After the earthquake a lot of people accepted Jesus,” Philippe says.
“Before the earthquake, there are many religions, many voodoo priests. After the earthquake, even the voodoo priests cry out [to] God. ‘God save me! If I am alive right now, [it’s] because of God.'”