Shantella Y. Sherman | 2/4/2010, 4:43 p.m.
€The first thing that strikes you are the children crying endlessly and women screaming, and then the sight of dump trucks piled high with bodies being transported to mass graves€ and of course there is the smell of death and dying €" the decaying bodies dominate the air.€
Evangelist Mondrea D. Jacobs€ description of what she saw during her 9-day mission to Port-au- Prince, in Haiti, is unimaginable. One would have to see the devastation in order to believe how fragile life has become for thousands of Haitians.
Jacobs went to see for herself. She partnered with the Famine Relief Foundation and Mission Ranch Orphanage, and joined two ministers on a mission to provide emotional and medical support.
The founder of Never Say Never Ministries, Jacobs described the carnage in Haiti following a massive earthquake.
The native Washingtonian, who grew up in the Shipley Terrace area of Southeast, spent ten days in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, known as Cite Soleil, working with members of the Famine Relief Foundation and Mission Ranch Orphanage.
€Pastor Matthews called and said €do you want to go to Haiti?€ I felt like it was my responsibility to go because God had brought me out. There was so much I could offer them. I had been raised by a single mom, I had six siblings and barely enough food growing up, so I knew what it was to need that type of compassion,€ Jacobs said.
Jacobs, 46, said that her ministries had a long-standing relationship with Haiti and the Ranch before the earthquake, but felt a special calling to go to offer both emotional and medical support. She was happy to have answered the call once the devastation became apparent.
€I decided to go this time because I felt a strong connection to the Haitian people. I saw that many injuries ran the full gamut from life-threatening to minor scrapes; however, with a lack of necessary triage, even minor scrapes have the potential to become life threatening,€ Jacobs said.
THE CALL AND THE CARNAGE
The 7.0 seismic earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 and reduced its capital city Port-au-Prince to heaps of rubble, brought with it a particularly acute brand of devastation. In addition to disrupting a period of relative peace and economic progress, the earthquake dismantled the nation€s seat of government.
Jacobs said that many survivors had no help in freeing themselves from the wreckage, creating deep gashes in their flesh.
€There were people who had been trapped under tons of concrete or cinder blocks and without the help of others, pulled themselves from beneath metal and concrete. With 10 thousand pounds or more weighing down on them, they got out but left a lot of flesh and bone behind,€ Jacobs said.
The Ranch, headed by Mark Dreibelbis, and run by Waldorf-based pastor Wayne Matthews, initially facilitated an orphanage, a medical clinic, and a ministry before a string of hurricanes hit the country in 2009. All that remains is the clinic.
And as more Haitians succumbed to preventable deaths caused by a lack of medical treatment, health advisors turned their attention to the possibility of disease caused by mass body removals to little more than open pits. Jacobs said that the lack of government oversight in burial and body removal could create a whole new set of medical issues, especially if the weather changes.
€We witnessed the removal of thousands upon thousands of bodies that were simply dumped into big holes. Initially it was believed that this was necessary just to remove the bodies from the streets, but the bodies are not being identified or tagged, just picked up and dumped in mass graves. Some of the holes being dug are not even six feet in depth which will make for an extreme situation should the rainy season begin,€ Jacobs said.
And while Jacobs said that she and the staff of the Mission Ranch cried every night they were there, they were all able to temporarily stave off the reality of their tasks, and offer what they could.
€You have to take time and steal away to exhale and think good thoughts. Take time to be grateful and talk to people. We went to help, but we also needed comfort, counseling, and prayer when we encountered the types of suffering we did,€ Jacobs said.
She said she went specifically to pray for people and to bring food and medical care, but found herself on the front lines of care, assisting with surgeries where doctors did not have anesthesia or proper facilities.
STEREOTYPES HINDER RELIEF EFFORTS
As a reformed prostitute and drug addict, clean and sober for more than twenty years, Jacobs said she has borne witness to despair and founded Never Say Never Ministries to help others. She opened ten outreach centers, providing clothing, food and reassurance to people in need around the region. Jacobs later extended her reach overseas, partnering with other ministries, including the Mission Ranch.
Jacobs said that when the earthquake hit Haiti, she felt an overwhelming need to help, but could not determine how.
Jacobs believes that she was personally able to pray with and administer first aid to more than a thousand Haitians working both day and night during her stay. She is less than impressed with Red Cross efforts on the ground, noting that with the exception of a few red-hat clad Haitians representing the organization who showed up at the Mission Ranch, their presence in the streets was minimal.
News reports of looting, crazed, and violent Voudon (voodoo) adherents have run as a parallel undercurrent to news of the dead and dying. From a distance the reports seemed plausible, though once on the ground, Jacobs found a totally different story.
€The Haitian people are just as thirsty for Jesus as they are for food and water. Haitians are not God-less people; they know God. These people need hugs and a human touch and someone to pray with them, but because they have been betrayed as believers in voodoo, a lot of churches are afraid and have refused to go there. It is not about money; it is about going out among the masses. How can you say you serve Jesus and the Living God when you are afraid to get on the front line? If you are scared, you are not serving God,€ Jacobs said.
Among stereotypes of lawlessness, reports of constant looting and violence abound. Jacobs notes that few media outlets report that Haiti€s prison was also severely damaged in the earthquake, allowing a full stream of convicted felons, including rapists and murderers, to blend meekly into the throngs of the displaced.