By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Dr. Jack Jacob and his congregation at Liberal’s First Southern Baptist Church heard word of the catastrophic earthquake that had hit Haiti. After more than a year of ongoing mission work in the area of the epicenter of the quake, they had grown to love the country and even more so, the people they were helping.
When Jacob learned of the earthquake Wednesday (Jan. 12) morning, he feared for the lives of the orphans and Sherrie Faussey, the woman who has been lovingly caring for the Haitian orphans. Faussey was instrumental in helping the the FSBC form a plan to build an orphanage for 27 orphans left in her care after a series of hurricanes destroyed the previous orphanage they had lived in.
With the epicenter approximately five miles from the school and orphanage, Jacob was aware a tragic outcome was possible, but he and the FSBC kept praying.
About 36 hours after the earthquake hit, Jacob finally received word from Faussey. However, he said, the news was bittersweet.
“Our missionary friend has been found and is alright,” Jacob said the evening of Jan. 13. “She did lose one of the orphans, a little boy named Peterson. The building that we have been working on stayed up and is providing their shelter as the school fell down.”
The fact the building withstood the quake is, in and of itself, miraculous. Jacob attributes the standing structure to the knowledge and will of mission team member, Gary Staiger, an instructor at the Area Technical School.
“The orphanage that we are building down there was undamaged,” Jacob said after a trip to Haiti last month. “It was the only building in its area that wasn’t. The school part was and when it collapsed, it did kill one of the kids. The only thing that was damaged at the orphanage was a well we put in. It shifted the opening and drew the pump down into the well. But it is still working.”
Jacob believes constructing the building to American standards saved the structure from the same fate much of the area experienced.
“I think because we are not really building it to their standards, we are building it to ours,” he said. “We put over a ton of rebar in each ceiling/floor. What they usually do is take cement, pour it in there and stack blocks and pour cement over the blocks. When it rumbles and shakes, the cement on the other side falls out and then the blocks fall out. That is actually what killed about 50 percent of the people in the country. When we built it, we didn’t use any block in the ceiling/floor. We just literally laid a ton a rebar and poured cement over that so it tied it all in together.”
With the orphanage well underway, more work was done when the team returned to Haiti during the week of June 5 through 13.
“What we did this time we went down is we took down some solar panels and put them up on the roof and wired them in so the solar panels charged their batteries,” Jacob said. “Over night when there is no sunlight, they can run the batteries. We put in the solar panels and moved the batteries and converter up to the third floor and then wired the entire first floor and part of the second floor and connected them to the little bit of city power they get and put in a back up generator, so they pretty much have uninterrupted power.”
The power will definitely be an important part of the next phase of the project, Jacob said.
“It is in preparation for one of the things we are doing,” he said. “They started building a back wing on the building and eventually that will house their medical clinic. Eventually, they will have uninterruptible power for their refrigerators for medicine.”
Jacob is thrilled with the progress of the orphanage. However, he said, the rest of the country has not experienced the same good fortune.
“It is going to be a 20 to 25-year clean up process,” he said. “They are removing debris and demolishing by hand. We saw 10 guys with sledgehammers tearing down a three-story building. If you want your building torn down, you hire 10 guys with sledge hammers and two guys with wheel barrows.
“I have never seen this before in my life, but they actually run those wheel barrows up and down ladders,” he explained. “They manually sort through the rubble and if there is a complete cement brick, they will chip it out and reuse it. It is a ridiculously slow process.”
Jacob and his mission team at FSBC are by no means finished with their task. They will be returning to Haiti in a couple of months to continue their labor of love.