“I don’t think Haiti is a lost cause” | WORLD
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“I don’t think Haiti is a lost cause”

An American missionary describes Haiti’s descent into chaos

Children at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Associated Press / Photo by Odelyn Joseph

“I don’t think Haiti is a lost cause”

Stability and safety in Haiti have continued to spiral downward since Prime Minister Ariel Henry said last week that he planned to resign. Gangs on Monday killed at least 12 people in attacks on two upscale neighborhoods in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti confirmed it is working to coordinate private flights out of the country for more than 1,000 U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, more than 1 million Haitians are on the verge of famine, according to The Associated Press.

Mark Stockeland is the founder of Haiti Bible Mission, located in Jeremie, about 120 miles west of Port-au-Prince. With the mission of “empowering indigenous Haitian leaders through leadership development,” HBM focuses on training young Haitians as leaders in their communities. It provides them with professional education and classes in finance, marriage, and business.

For the past 15 years, Stockeland has split his time between Haiti and the United States. He last visited Haiti in January. WORLD asked Stockeland to describe the current situation in the country and what might lie ahead. His responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Based on what you’ve heard, what are the conditions on the ground in the capital city of Port-au-Prince? I’ve got contacts who have called and told me that there are dead bodies in several places from the shootings. There haven’t been people going around picking them up. At least 10,000 families have left Port-au-Prince and come to Jeremie. Ten-thousand families. What’s a family in Haiti—four to six people? That’s a lot of people that have come to our area.

The living conditions in Port-au-Prince are terrible. They’re not thriving. And there’s a lot of fear. People have had their places taken over, their vehicles taken over, their houses taken over.

We just adopted two boys, and we’re waiting on some papers. That agency was taken over by the population because they got kicked out of their homes. They were looking for some shelter.

How does the situation on the ground today compare to what you’ve seen in the past? I used to walk around Port-au-Prince with my family when we moved. I remember taking tap taps [shared taxis] and buses around Port-au-Prince, staying at hotels, and going out to eat. To think you can’t even go anywhere in Port-au-Prince, and not just there, is so different.

The current crisis escalated in 2021 with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. What kind of president was he? I think he was a good president. He gave us paved roads. He rebuilt the airport in Jeremie. He gave us electricity for the whole city of Jeremie, like 16-20 hours a day. And some people didn’t like him. And I think part of it was he was trying to help Haiti more than people realized.

What was the result of the power vacuum left by his death? We have just been in a deep dive of gangs taking over, material shortages, increases in food prices. I mean, I remember paying $20-$25 for a sack of rice a couple of years ago. Now it’s $82 for a sack of rice. The price of concrete has tripled. Two-by-fours have tripled in price.

What can Christians do to help Haiti? No. 1 is, first, to pray. Second, is to find good organizations and partner with them. And then the third thing I would say is to invest in Haitian men and women. Like, I’m here in the U.S. raising funds, telling stories, talking to you. But I’ve got a great team of men and women on the ground that are actually doing the ministry. It doesn’t stop when the missionary goes. My goal was to go and empower and invest in leaders, and now they’re the ones running it. Yes, I need to send them money every month, but they’re the ones doing the work. It’s Haitians helping Haitians.

You can believe the news as far as how bad things are. But I don’t think Haiti is a lost cause. I think we just have to be careful where we’re giving our money, careful what we believe—what we say. And I just want to be the kind of person who would speak life because our words have power.

I believe God has a plan for Haiti.

Mark Stockeland (right) and Haitians working with Haiti Bible Mission

Mark Stockeland (right) and Haitians working with Haiti Bible Mission Courtesy of Haiti Bible Mission

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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