Uncommon Courage During Haiti’s Crisis

by | Feb 3, 2010 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

How
a Pennsylvania pastor led a four-man team into the quake zone in Port-au-Prince
to save a handful of orphans.

Psalm 27 was posted on the orphanage wall.

At
the Rescue Children Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a small sign was
hanging on one of the building’s concrete walls on Jan. 12, the day the city
was leveled by a devastating earthquake. It was a verse from Psalm 27, written
in English and Creole: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord
will take care of me.”

Those
words have rich meaning today, not only to the 11 children in that orphanage
who survived the quake but to Randy Landis, a charismatic pastor from
Allentown, Pa., who helped lead a dangerous search-and-rescue mission when he
learned about the calamity. He knew the children had survived the quake, but
when phones went dead he had no idea if they had food, water or protection from
falling debris. So Landis and a small team of men from Lifechurch of Allentown
sprang into action.

“At one point I cried for 45 minutes. I
just felt I wanted to do more than I could do to help.”—Pastor Randy Landis

While
most Americans were still learning the facts about the disaster, the men packed
400 pounds of medical supplies, said goodbye to their families and caught a
flight to the Dominican Republic. Two photographers from MSNBC tagged along.

Landis
told those reporters: “I don’t think Jesus would be in America sitting and
watching television. If He had a way to get to Port-au-Prince, He would get
there. He would be a first-responder.”

These are the 11 children who survived Haiti’s earthquake after the Rescue Children’s Orphanage was damaged.

The
odds of this ragtag team actually getting into the quake zone were not good,
but a string of miracles made it possible. On the flight to Santo Domingo, the
guys met an Haitian doctor who knew key people in the Haitian embassy. When
they arrived in the Dominican Republic and went to the embassy, they were
ushered past lines of people and into an official’s office. He promised safe
passage through the border into Haiti.

The
men rented a vehicle and loaded it with tents, gasoline, potatoes, bananas,
vegetable oil and other supplies, and then drove more than four hours on rough
roads until they arrived at the orphanage.

When
they pulled up in front of the building they found the children and four adult
workers sleeping in a courtyard under the stars.  The compound’s walls had collapsed, and the 7-bedroom structure
was cracked and uninhabitable. The men called out the names of every child to
make sure they had survived.

All
the kids were accounted for. There had been no casualties.

Landis
tried not to cry in front of the kids, but he’s been shedding lots of tears
since that emotional reunion. “I haven’t cried that hard since my daughter was
born with Down syndrome,” Randy told me last week. “At one point I cried for 45
minutes. I just felt I wanted to do more than I could do to help.”

Each
day after the quake, things grew more volatile because people in the area were
without food, water and electricity. Up to 100 people a day came to the
orphanage seeking help. Sometimes they simply wanted to recharge their cell
phones so they could try to call missing relatives.

“We
were about to run out of food,” Landis said. “And at one point there was
another 4.5 aftershock.”

This Haitian boy is all smiles after the Life Church team arrived from the U.S. to aid the Rescue Children Orphanage.

It
soon became obvious that the men could not keep the children at the Rescue
facility, which Lifechurch had started operating in 2009. Through another
series of small miracles, Landis learned about an orphanage operated by the
Tampa-based Love a Child organization in the town of Fond Parisien. He soon got
approval to transfer the orphans from Rescue to the Love a Child facility.

Said
Landis: “Our kids were a little apprehensive when we drove into the Love a
Child compound. It had horses and swing sets. But then all 70 of the Love a
Child orphans came out to greet us. They started embracing everyone.”

Landis
actually went back to the damaged Rescue orphanage and set up a makeshift
relief center that is still being used today to treat victims of the quake. In
fact, it has been tagged by the United Nations as a designated “safe place.”
The Rescue facility has been compromised structurally, but Landis is already
making plans to build a new orphanage for his kids. He came home last week for
a few days but is planning to go back to Haiti on Feb. 11.

Meanwhile
the children from Rescue Orphanage are reminded daily of the promise from Psalm
27:10 that used to hang in their former home. When everything around them
shook, and even their national palace crumbled, the Lord gave these Haitian
children a future and a hope.

J. Lee Grady served as editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now contributing editor. You can
follow him on Twitter at leegrady. If you’d like to contribute to Lifechurch’s
work with Rescue Orphanage in Haiti, go to www.lifechurchlv.org.

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