In Jan. 16 IssueBy Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
Three Russell Countians were in Haiti during Tuesday's massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has left as many as three million people displaced and more than 100,000 dead, according to reports.
Wendell Roberts, Phillip Marcum and Glenna Hammond arrived in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday with a team of 20 to begin a two week mission trip to the Caribbean nation as part of the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.
Most of Port-au-Prince's major landmarks were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, including the presidential palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, the United Nations headquarters, the city's jail as well as all local hospitals.
Roberts, who is pastor of Freedom Christian Church in Jamestown, along with Marcum and Hammond, who are members of the church, are among a group of 10 people in the church that travel to Haiti annually as part of the mission, according to Roberts' wife Cindy, who is principal at Union Chapel Elementary.
The group had know for three months that they would be heading to Haiti, but never did a group that has spent 25 years traveling to the country imagine what they encountered Tueday.
Although not in Port-au-Prince during the catastrophic earthquake, the three local missionaries, who were 100 miles north in Saint-Louis-du-Nord, felt the tremors of the quake as it rattled the ground for more than a minute.
Roberts said her husband and the two church members are part of a smaller 20 person mission team to go to the area as a group of 120 had just left the country.
“There are groups that go in every two weeks,” Robert said. “The next group on the 23rd was supposed to have 110 in it but that may be canceled.”
Following the earthquake, Roberts said she was contacted by her husband via satellite telephone and was able to talk with him for 30 seconds.
“He said they were all okay and that all the buildings were okay,” she said.
“At the time he was really worried about a tsunami approaching.”
After the quake a tsunami watch was posted for the area but no tsunami ever materialized.
“He said there was an astronomical amount of damage in the capital and there would be a huge amount of loss of life,” Roberts said.
Roberts, who has not talked to her husband since the just after the quake, said she is keeping up with the group, who has now begun relief efforts, through updates on the Northwest Haiti Mission Web site.
“They were taking a medical team down (Thursday) to go to Port-au-Prince,” she said.
Although the group went to Haiti to spread the gospel, Roberts said the group will now be doing much more than that.
“They're going to come back changed people,” she said. “I pray that the Lord will protect them and give them the strength they need.”
Roberts said what would be needed most is water as the rainfalls in the region pollute the wells and cause massive mudslides to go along with all the earthquake damage.
“It'll rain for three days non-stop,” she said. “People will have to go out and re-dig their wells. They will really need fresh water.”
Roberts said she didn't know when the three would be able to leave Haiti, she knew they would be doing the right thing in helping with the relief effort and that God had put them there for a reason.
She said that anyone wishing to donate money to the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti could send cash to the church and they would send it to the mission, along with their usual offerings given to the ministry.