On Tuesday, January 12, the annual mission team of 15 adults from the Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, NJ was completing seven days of distributing $30,000 worth of medicines, supplies and toys to several orphanages in Port Au Prince, Haiti. In mid-afternoon, they were engaged in sports with some orphans in a cinder block-fenced, open field near a new orphanage building their church had helped build. Nearby stood a used school bus, the transportation they used to get to and from their several places of mercy and which their home church had also financed in part.
At 4:53 PM, they heard a terrible explosion followed by ominous noises described by one of their party as sounding like Haiti was being bombed. Their bodies swayed uncontrollably as the ground swelled like the waves of the sea. The school bus rocked to and fro and nearly upset. Two mission group science teachers recognized that it was an earthquake and directed the group of about 45 missionaries and children to sit on the ground for a period of time, a wise move as several aftershocks rumbled through. Screams of terror and pain where heard over the walls from a nearby village—walls that by then had tumbled into ruins but hurting none of the group.
The group’s only hope of escape was the airport some five miles away through the unimaginable rubble of Haiti’s worst earthquake in 200 years. A motorcyclist was able to scout a path through the jumbled streets and the fifteen U.S. missions team members bounced their way over cinder blocks and through the carnage to the only airport, a journey that took five hours rather than the normal 30 minutes.
Back in Hackettstown, word had been received that the group was alive but needed transportation out of Haiti as soon a possible. Four hundred people gathered in the church to pray.
Arriving at the airport, the team was approached by the crew of an Icelandic airliner who quizzed them as to whether they were Americans and had passports. Since they all did, they were boarded on the plane at the very time church members were interceding for them back in New Jersey. Icelandic Air flew them to the Bahamas where American Airlines transferred them to Miami. The group arrived at Kennedy Airport at 5:30 AM Friday for a joyous reunion with family and then home to Hackettstown and another incredible welcome at the church.
Frank Procaccini, a member of the missions group, calls it all a miracle of God. He shared that the building where they stayed in the Capitol was demolished, and broken concrete now lies crushing the beds they had slept in. The safest place when the quake hit was where they were in the open field. The school bus they had financed was preserved and able to navigate to the airport. An airliner was there to take them home in less than three days. All fifteen team members stood in the auditorium of the Trinity United Methodist on Sunday morning, January 17, and shared their praise to the Lord who delivered them.
Frank was there, and, since I had opportunity to meet him, I asked for an interview for our radio program, “The Word and the World.” He agreed, and I’m glad for this first-hand report of God’s protection and guidance in the worst of circumstances. (You can listen to the full interview in our broadcast archives at our website http://www.wordandtheworld.org/ as of January 25, 2010.)
Pastor Frank Fowler, another member of the team, conducted devotions while awaiting deliverance in Haiti. His text was most appropriate for the team, and it is appropriate for anyone facing uncertainty:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)