Amassive 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Haiti on January 12, 2010. In the blink of an eye more than 200,000 people were killed and more than 1 million displaced. The quake also destroyed or severely damaged schools, businesses, and government offices. Suddenly a major portion of the population of Port-au-Prince, the capital city, was homeless.
The epicenter of the quake was just outside Port-au-Prince, which is home to more than one third of the nation’s population. This was just one of a series of natural disasters, mostly earthquakes and hurricanes, to strike Haiti, the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. In 1946 an earthquake 10 times more powerful than the recent one hit near the northeastern corner of Hispaniola. The summer of 2008 saw four different hurricanes or tropical storms ravage Haiti.
Haiti’s written history dates back to 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered and claimed all of Hispaniola for Spain during his famed New World voyage. During the late 1600s, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France, which named it Haiti. Native Indians originally inhabited the island, but as they slowly disappeared Spain and France brought in African slaves to help run the sugar plantations. During the late eighteenth century the French Revolution in Europe freed all the slaves in Haiti. When later attempts were made to reinstate slavery, the Haitians revolted and declared themselves independent from France. In 1825 Haiti officially gained its independence.
Adventists in Haiti
French and Haitian Creole
Roman Catholic, 80%; Protestant, 16%; other, 4%.
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 146th Annual Statistical Report—2008
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s work in Haiti began in 1879 when John Loughborough sent a box of Adventist literature on a ship to the port town of Cap Haitien. Loughborough didn’t address the box to anyone in particular, so the ship’s captain delivered it to an Episcopal missionary living in the city. The missionary distributed its contents to some other Protestant missionaries, one of whom, a Baptist minister, handed out some of the pamphlets to his congregation. Two members of that congregation, Henry Williams and his wife, started keeping the Sabbath as a result. It was another 10 years before they met an Adventist. In 1892 L. C. Chadwick visited Haiti and baptized the Williamses.
From these humble beginnings, the Adventist Church in Haiti has grown and is strong. Today more than 300,000 Adventists, some 4 percent of the population, live in Haiti. There are close to 1,000 churches and companies, 270 elementary schools, two secondary schools, a university, and a hospital. Many of the churches have three or more services to accommodate all the people who attend.
The earthquake, however, took its toll. More than 600 Adventists lost their lives, and more than 100 church buildings were either destroyed or left nonoperational. One of the hardest hit areas is home to Haitian Adventist University, Adventist Hospital of Haiti, and the local office of theAdventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA quickly helped turn the university into a displaced persons camp, which was flooded with more than 25,000 people seeking shelter. The Adventist hospital took in as many people as it could, but had to perform some procedures outside, as one wing was declared unsafe.
This quarter a special Thirteenth Sabbath Offering is being taken to help rebuild the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti. This offering will go to repair damaged churches and schools and will also help replace buildings lost in the quake. The Adventist Church in Haiti has been shaken, but has not been destroyed. Please pray the church will continue to grow and spread the message of Jesus’ love to the people of Haiti.