Humanitarian leaders in Haiti urge prayer for the country following the assassination of its president.
“Pray that the peace of God will descend on Haiti,” said Dr. David Vanderpool, founder of Live Beyond, a humanitarian disaster relief organization whose work includes medical, feeding and clean water ministries. “Pray that the people of Haiti will turn to Jesus as their Savior.”
Tensions have been high in the Caribbean nation since July 7 when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his private residence in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.
Police say a group of mercenaries, most of them Colombians, was behind the attack, which is assumed to be politically motivated.
Moïse’s wife also was shot multiple times but survived. The couple’s children hid during the attack and were not injured.
Moïse’s assassination came just two weeks after the head of Haiti’s judiciary branch, Supreme Court Judge René Sylvestre, died of COVID-19 on June 23.
According to Haiti’s constitution, the head of the judiciary is the successor to the president. The constitution’s further line of succession has been interrupted because Moïse dissolved the country’s parliament in January 2020 after a legislative election due in October 2019 was never held.
‘No clear line of succession’
“Now there is no clear line of succession,” Vanderpool said.
The situation in Haiti has long been fraught, Vanderpool said. He and his wife, Laurie, moved to Haiti in 2013 following a massive earthquake in 2010 that created the greatest humanitarian crisis in the country’s history.
In the years since, they have built a ministry that includes a surgical ward, a maternal health program, a school and church with a feeding program that serves 6,400 children each day.
But the work has not been easy.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in Haiti, and several years ago, a foiled attempt to kidnap Laurie from the couple’s home in Thomazeu left her battered and bruised. The experience taught the Vanderpools that justice in Haiti doesn’t exist and only reinforced their desire to serve Haiti’s poorest citizens.
“If an American doctor and his wife cannot get justice, the poor certainly cannot,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking to see how the poor suffer.”
The nation’s understaffed police force combined with rampant gang violence contribute to the sense of lawlessness in the country, but Vanderpool said those issues are not to blame — sin is.
“The country primarily worships voodoo,” he said, “and the consequences of worshipping Satan are anarchy and chaos.”
When the Vanderpools arrived in Haiti, they suffered violence at the hands of voodoo priests who wanted to prevent them from proclaiming the name of Jesus, Vanderpool said. They persisted, and “now many of them are believers and members of our churches,” he said.
Live Beyond’s ministry continues, with most daily operations managed by Haitian nationals. Travel to Haiti for leisure, missions or other reasons is strongly discouraged. The U.S. State Department rates Haiti a Level 4 security risk country — its most dangerous designation — due to risks associated with kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and COVID-19.
“The U.S. Embassy cannot help with protection and security of Americans in Haiti,” he said.
So in addition to prayer, Vanderpool said those who want to help the Haitian people can give to humanitarian efforts already established in the country.
“Haiti is poorest country in the western hemisphere and has been so for decades,” Vanderpool said. “About 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day—a level of poverty unheard of in the U.S. and not seen in very many countries worldwide.”
Poor suffer most
The poor suffer more when problems happen “upstream from them,” like the political turmoil happening now, Vanderpool said.
A 40% increase in child malnutrition means aid groups like Live Beyond could meet even more needs with additional financial support.
“We feed 6,400 children now, but we could certainly feed 10,000,” he said, describing many of the children as “on the edge of survival.”
And as the hunger needs are met, children and families hear the gospel, and that’s the ultimate solution to the problems Haiti faces, Vanderpool said.
“Impacting the people of Haiti for Jesus, that’s the key,” he said. “If the people of Haiti will turn to God, the current confusion will be replaced with the fruit of the Spirit — peace, love, joy. In my mind, that’s the solution.”
Find more information about Live Beyond’s ministry and Vanderpool’s book, “Live Beyond: A Radical Call to Surrender and Serve,” here.