And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
This survival story isn’t about the skills and abilities of the people involved that helped them overcome the disaster that hit them that day—far from it. The people in this story were left with nothing but their belief in God as their country lay in tatters before them.
No, this story shows the absolute necessity of relying on each other, and helping each other out. John Donne said that “no man is an island unto himself.” When we come together, supporting and extending a helping hand for however brief a moment, the better part of our spirits shine, and we are that much closer to the heart of God.
On January 12, 2010, the world changed for the people of Haiti and, in particular, one school that had nearly 200 students. The epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake was approximately 16 miles from the Haitian capital of Port- au-Prince where the school was located. When their schoolhouse collapsed on top of them, 40 of those approximately 230,000 people who died in Haiti that day were children from the Heart of God International Ministries school, along with two beloved adult staff members.
Haiti is a poor country – the poorest in the western hemisphere. Over 80% of the people live below the poverty line and 54% live in abject poverty. There is no public education and two-thirds of the people have no formal job. Children orphaned or abandoned by extreme poverty, left to survive (or not) on their own, are the focus of the Heart of God ministry in Haiti.
Dave and Julie Young are the U.S. directors of Heart of God International – Haiti. Their heart has been for the Haitian people ever since Dave was stationed there for nine months after a previous tour in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Lt. Colonel Dave Young’s interpreter on this tour, a man involved in voodoo and other practices, found his heart turning toward God, but it wasn’t until an accident paralyzed him that he gave his heart to Christ. Through the financial help of the Youngs, this man was able to go to the Dominican Republic for surgery where God performed a miraculous intervention and healed him completely. Restored to health, his heart heavy for his countrymen, Pastor Dicksent returned to his people in Haiti and began preaching the gospel. With the help of Heart of God-Haiti, he opened the Helping for Christ Christian Day School in September of 2008.
On that fateful day earlier this year, Pastor Dicksent found himself in the rubble of the school—injured—with devastation around him as far as the eye could see. Suffering from his own wounds and exhaustion, Pastor Dicksent was soon ministering to over 5,000 injured and traumatized people. In shock, they turned to him for leadership and direction.
The infrastructure and social order of Haiti was destroyed. Hospitals in the capital city were leveled and control towers for the airport and harbors were damaged, which left them unusable for emergency aid. Roads into Port-au-Prince were blocked with debris, and communication networks were down.
For days Pastor Dicksent and his charges lived with minimal-to-no food or water, and there was none to be had where they were at. Realizing the seriousness of their situation, the pastor gathered 300 willing people, many of whom were children from the school now orphaned by the earthquake, and moved them to a new location, closer to the border of the Dominican Republic. They named this new location “Camp Victory”.
They were by no means safe, and thieves and opportunists were at every turn. There was nowhere to go for help. Government services were non-existent, and goods being sent to Haiti as charitable aid were either being detained in port or given to those willing to pay exorbitant bribes for it. With 300 people to care for, with himself and his wife injured and in need of medical services, Pastor Dicksent realized that the only hope of help was through the Dominican Republic, where money could be wired to him to purchase the food, water and supplies the children needed.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti have a long history of conflict. Haiti, a former French colony, and the Dominican Republic, with roots as a Spanish colony, have tensions that go back to those long-gone colonial days. The Dominican Republic is prosperous while Haiti is mired in poverty—even though they occupy the same island.
On his first trip across the border, Pastor Dicksent met a man by the name of Angel, a non-believer who soon became Dicksent’s bodyguard as he traversed between countries. As they became available, Angel helped Pastor Dicksent with the transportation of food, tents and supplies to the Camp Victory inhabitants, guarding him against the marauders and thieves that had been running rampant in the aftermath of the earthquake. (Angel has since become a Christian and still assists Pastor Dicksent to this day.)
It wasn’t until the third week in April that the first team from Heart of God International was able to make it into Haiti via the Dominican Republic. Their hearts sank when they surveyed the devastation of Haiti and the living conditions of Pastor Dicksent and the children.
The people of Camp Victory were living in a former soccer field in make-shift tents. One large tent was being used for the school. The portable toilets the ministry had purchased were gone—stolen. They were paying anywhere from $60 to $120 a day just for enough drinking water for the camp’s inhabitants. Pastor Dicksent was visibly fatigued and overwhelmed with the responsibility of 300 people who looked to him for answers.
The next day, the team hit the road running. They spent the large part of the day in the Dominican Republic, purchasing medical supplies, deworming medication, mosquito netting and spray, sheets, and cooking supplies. Other team members began showing the camp inhabitants how to dig a trench line so there was a better sanitation system in place. A medical clinic was set up and the people tended to. In addition, a solar-powered generator donated by Solutions from Science was put into production.
A neighboring camp had a water purification system that ran on batteries. They were soon able to coordinate with the other camp, offering to share with them recharging capabilities in exchange for water purification for the water for Camp Victory. This saved them considerable money and insured that clean water was available for the children. On April 28th, this system was put into place. Several camps in addition to Camp Victory were able to benefit from this arrangement.
Even though the team returned to the United States, there was more work to be done. It was apparent to all that other arrangements had to be made for the pastor, his family, the teachers and children of the school. Hurricane season was right around the corner, and more secure facilities had to be found. The team had located some property and a building to rent while in Haiti, and the decision was made to pursue renting the building for what would now be an orphanage, school and church.
In early June, Heart of God heard from Pastor Dicksent that they were able to move into the new Helping for Christ Victory compound. World Vision and Food for the Poor agreed to provide rice and beans for one year for the people there—77 children and 12 adults. Where they had been subsisting on one meal a day, this new arrangement enabled them to once again secure three meals a day for themselves and the children.
Haiti is still politically unstable. While parts of the country are recovering, the political corruption is horrible and the tariffs on anything brought into the country outrageous. Goods being sent from the United States never seem to make it to the people.
When I asked Jan Ross, President of Heart of God International Ministries, how they were able to assure people who donated that their money was actually reaching the orphanage, she explained that the team from HGIM-Haiti had put safeties into place. They make sure there are solid, trustworthy connections before shipping goods to the orphanage. They try to keep most of their support monetary and wired to Pastor Dicksent directly for his use to meet the many needs of the children in the orphanage. He keeps meticulous records and receipts of all purchases and sends photos back to Heart of God, cataloguing everything he is doing.
Actually, the crisis is far from over. After ten months, there are still thousands of homeless and tent cities all around. Heart of God is looking for a more permanent site to house their orphanage since where they’re at is not in the best of places. Their lease was for a year, and there are no guarantees they can remain where they’re at once that year is up.
The children have beds, uniforms, and they are back in school. But without the assistance of not only the team members of Heart of God, but also the incredibly generous donors of time, money and supplies to the ministry, these people would not be where they are today. Likewise, when disaster strikes where you are, it’s the helping hand of a neighbor or a stranger from two states away the enables you to not just survive, but to go on. We have seen this spirit of generosity in our people time and time again. It is a part of who we are, and it is the better part of who we are.
Providing for the children in Haiti is not easy. The ministry has determined that it takes $45 a month per child to provide the necessities—food, clothing, housing, medical, and educational materials. There are 77 orphaned children in the compound, several of whom have endured the amputation of one or more limbs as a result of injuries suffered in the earthquake.
Times are tough for all of us. Some of us can barely make ends meet. Some of us are better off. If you feel led, either individually or through a group at your church, to make a donation or to become a monthly sponsor, there’s no more ethical ministry than Heart of God International Ministries. Their policy states that 100% of all donations go to the recipients. No administrative costs are withheld from designated donations. The ministry employs other fundraisers and personal contributions by the Board of Directors to cover the overhead costs of the organization.
We welcome you to join in this amazing work. Many of our readers have made kind and generous donations, and we thank them for that. For more information, please click on the link below. It will take you to the “Charities” page on the Solutions from Science website. At the bottom of that page is a click-through link that will take you to the donation page for Heart of God ministries.
UPDATE: As of this date, Pastor Dicksent is facing a life-threatening condition which requires surgery as soon as possible. He has gone through evaluations over the past few weeks and it has been determined that he needs a valve replaced in his heart. He must travel to the Dominican Republic from Haiti to have the surgery performed. Unlike our medical systems in the U.S., payment must be made up front for anticipated medical costs associated with all procedures done in the Dominican Republic. Although the surgery can be done employing less invasive procedures, it is still a very costly and delicate operation. After negotiating with his health care providers for a reduction in price since he is in full-time ministry, the surgery will cost $11,000 plus an additional $1,500 for travel and medications. The surgery needs to be done as soon as possible. We are hoping it will be scheduled within the next two weeks. We are currently working to raise funds to cover the cost of the surgery. Any support you may be able to provide to help meet this need would be greatly appreciated. Also, please pray for Pastor Dicksent during this time and for everyone at the Helping for Christ Victory Center. Pastor Dicksent is the spiritual leader of this group and he is greatly needed.