Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Direct Message from Haiti

 Nannie Hester

I was forwarded this email from our church's partner mission, Christ Central.  Although I received it early this morning, it was written a few days ago.  I read it to my fourth graders this morning as we have been talking about the tragic devastation in Haiti.  I felt it was important for them to hear of the experience from someone who had done so first-hand.  I know this is pretty long.  However, I do ask that you read it all the way through. 

Haiti Friends,
This is a first hand account of the awful reality of being in the recent earthquake.  This is a testimony of that experience  from Melinda Hester who is a fulltime missionary to Haiti from Edisto Island, SC.

In His Service,
Donald C. Lyons
Haiti Under God
1135 Wesgate Road
Walterboro, SC 29488

Email from Nannie Hester
It had been a good day at the Medical Clinic, and we had seen over 130 patients. I am always the last one out, along with two of our Haitian employees who clean and prepare the building for the next day. Each time we leave, we laugh and joke, and I tell them, “Let’s go, we aren’t sleeping here tonight!” After lockin...g the back door, we began down the sidewalk beside the building on our way to the front gate. I was looking forward to walking my dog and then settling in to a good DVD movie with my cat napping on my lap. But before we could get to the street outside, the ground began shaking and trembling and heaved in horrifying and sickening waves. Screaming for my two friends, I tried to get away from the building and out the gate. Every time I attempted to stand, I was thrown to the ground. Sounds of concrete block breaking and tumbling, metal twisting and grinding, and glass shattering were deafening. It seemed to go on for an eternity, as I watched the columns of the covered seating area beside me literally dance back and forth. What was probably 30 seconds felt as if it was unending. Fear gripped me. As soon as that first shaking subsided enough to stand, I stumbled to my employees and we held on to each other and made our way out into the street. I stood, trying to catch my breath and overcome the intense trembling of my entire body, and watched cracks appear and radiate out over the roadbed. We managed to make our way into a nearby field of banana trees and lay down on the ground, along with others who had been in the street when it happened. Screams, prayers and pleas were all being made by each of us. When the trembling eased up enough to stand, I saw Teresa Price, our Physician’s Assistant at the clinic, running down the street to me, screaming, “Jim and Sandy are in their house and it fell down!” We raced around the corner to find the two-story apartment building was now only one story and was leaning toward one side. Terrified, we both ran to look for Dr. Jim Wilkins, our Medical Director, and his wife Sandy. It looked as if no one could have survived such devastation. Amazingly, we found them in the adjacent field, unharmed after they jumped from their porch balcony as the building went down. Shocks continued, and we all had to stop each time and sink to the ground until each one was over. Holding each other with relief, we were able to run to the remaining houses on the compound and find the other missionaries, all of whom were unharmed. I went to my house, a new apartment building, to try to save my dog and cat. Walls were cracked, and huge chunks of concrete block were gone. I could not get the front door open and stood helplessly, listening to my dog cry in terror. We all gathered in the yard of the Guest House, while the tremors continued. Afraid to enter any buildings, we tried to begin to form a plan, knowing that injured people would soon begin pouring in. We ran to the clinic, hoping to get supplies and medicines. We found our pharmacy and storage room destroyed, but the clinic itself was still mostly upright. Terrified to enter, but knowing the materials were needed, Dr. Wilkins and several others went in and quickly grabbed all they could so we could begin to help the wounded. We set up a temporary area in the Guest House yard, found a generator to power lights since darkness had descended, and began caring for the hundreds that came. The injuries were horrendous, with fathers holding young children who had deep lacerations to the bone, old people with broken arms, a woman with both feet broken at the ankles and one foot almost completely cut off. The pain and fear were deeply etched in their faces. While the ground continued to shake all night, we worked, setting broken bones, suturing huge punctures, and trying to save lives with the limited amount of materials we had. I delivered a baby, and then later found a father walking around holding his child. This toddler was cold to the touch and had died several hours earlier. The father was in such a state of shock that he didn’t even know it. Another child died in my arms. The ground was covered with blood. The smells will never be forgotten. Cries of pain and fear were heard all around. It was a surreal setting, almost unbelievable. I went back to the clinic that night, with others, to try to find more supplies. The building groaned and shuddered while we were inside. We worked through the night, and watched the sun come up over a land where all structures were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Four days have now passed since that terrible night, and we have finally had sleep and clean clothes. I was able to get into my house through a back door, and found my dog, passport and prescriptions. I could not find my cat, and I am certain she was crushed when large objects tumbled down. There was not time to take anything else, as the building groaned around me. I have lost everything, but thankfully escaped with my life. Food and water are scarce, as is gas and diesel for the generators. But our little band has worked on, and there are people trying to get to us and bring medical supplies. Cell phone service is down, but we are grateful for the satellite internet. It is our only contact with the world. We are told by others who come from Port-au-Prince that the city is a total loss, with bodies littering the streets. Looting has begun and we are sure an epidemic will break out with no way to dispose of the dead. We have found one of the small school buildings that we think is structurally sound, and plan to open the Medical Clinic in a few days. People are coming to the gate each day, begging for care. Our volunteer team is still here, since there are no flights out to the U.S. yet. I am fully convinced that God intends for us to rebuild Christianville, and we have begun working toward that goal. The Haitians depend on us for help. They have lost everything, and most families have at least one dead. The tremors are less often now, sometimes hours apart. We are sleeping outside, since we can’t know if another large one will come and destroy any building we stay in. In the midst of such horrific events, we are marching on, committed to the Haitian people and the work God has sent us to do. We ask for your prayers as Haiti begins the long and painful process of rebuilding. Donations can be made to Haiti Under God, 148 Tranquility Lane, Edisto Island, SC 29438. It is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization, and all contributions are tax deductible. Feel free to e-mail me at haitinannie@hotmail.com.

Please know I am not pushing any specific mission or outreach.  Pray, and do what you feel called to do.   I just felt this email was too important not to share with you dear friends.


  1. Truly, the suffering is unimaginable. Thank you for posting this--there is a similar firsthand account written by a young missionary mother on the Beth Moore blog. It helps to have specifics to guide our prayers.

  2. What about donations to Episcopal Relief and Development? They have an excellent track record of using the money for those who need it.

  3. Oh Bevy, this letter is so heartbreaking yet offers hope because they are moving forward and helping those in need. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Just yesterday I met a Haitian missionary and his family. The wife is pregnant with her 4th baby and so the husband is here getting his family settled in the US before he goes back. It is a dire situation. Even those who survived the earthquake have body parts (arms & legs) that are literally decaying because of lack of medical care. Please pray and GIVE whatever you can.

  5. This is so sad-I have tears in my eyes.
    I am and will continue to pray-Thank you so much for sharing...can you keep us updated with Nannie's emails?

  6. Thank you for posting this Bevy, I'm awaiting permission to share it with my students.

    It is absolutly heartbreaking!


  7. Wow, this really brings it home. We see it every day on the news and the Web, but to hear actual accounts from people you know is eye-opening. Those poor people had to deal with a 6.1 aftershock today. So very sad.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing- it is so good for us to hear first-hand accounts.

  9. That is inspiring-you're so good at blog-inspiration if you know what I mean. The LP store that I work at is at home, I'll be sure to mention it soon in an upcoming post!!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this. My in-laws lost a minister and friend in the earthquake. He was part of the UMCOR with the United Methodist Church and died in the rubble before being rescued. There were ups and downs last week as he was reported as being alive and then later reported as not making it. I feel for my husband's old community and all who knew him. He was there to do such good work only to lose his life. No one understands these things; we just have to trust in the Lord.

  11. WOW, thanks for sharing. Knowledge is power and all first hand accounts of the situation in Haiti will surely serve to guide us as we pray and show us just what we can do to help.


Thanks for your sweet comments... They make my day just that more Golden!