A church in Haiti distributes food as hunger needs surge in chaotic political situation.

Easter food distribution meets immediate need

Serving those in need sometimes requires a change in plans. Texans on Mission’s long-time ministry partner in Haiti shifted gears in recent days to respond to immediate hunger needs.

“Hunger has not been our focus” in Haiti, said Ernie Rice of Stockdale, Texas. “But right now it is just a desperate situation. … Haiti is full of hungry people.”

Mickey Lenamon, CEO/executive director of Texans on Mission, said: “There is incredible need right now in Haiti. We have long-standing partners there who are meeting needs in the name of Christ, and we’re coming alongside them to multiply ministry.”

Rice’s work in Haiti began through Texans on Mission’s (TBM’s) response to a 2010 earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people. Since then the work of his nonprofit, Good for Haiti, has focused on working with a church in the mountains by supporting general and technical education, along with strengthening the Christian presence in an area once dominated by voodoo practices.

Recent unraveling of the political situation in Haiti has brought on the need for immediate hunger relief, he said. Gangs have seized control of transportation and communications infrastructure in the Caribbean country. “The gangs are in total control” in the capital, Port-au-Prince, Rice said.

The Guardian newspaper reported Monday: “A month after a coalition of criminal groups called ‘Viv Ansanm’ (Live Together) plunged Haiti’s capital into chaos with an audacious offensive against the state, the fighting continues – and in recent days has begun shifting to places long considered oases of calm.”

Rice’s work is in one of the oases of calm, at least for now.

“We’re just sending funds now before banks shut down,” he said. “We dumped everything we had” into Haiti in recent days, Rice said of an initial fund transfer sent to the church. As a result, the pastor distributed food and supplies to church members after its Easter worship service.

Texans on Mission has sent more funds to support the immediate need, he said.

The situation is so volatile that the ministry does not send additional funds into Haiti until it confirms the pastor has earlier funds “in hand.”

Referring to photos of the first food distribution, Rice said in an email to Lenamon: “It is hard for me to see the faces of my friends drawn with hunger and stress. Their thinness only magnifies the need in my mind and makes me very grateful” for Texans on Mission’s help.

The violence and chaos in Haiti has been centered in Port-au-Prince and other populated areas. “My mission is way out in the countryside, up on a mountain,” Rice said. “These are good, hard-working, stoic, hospitable, loving people. There is a remnant there that is pursuing God with all of their might.”

Good for Haiti built the technical school for woodworking and sewing in 2019. Local residents were trained to teach the classes and continue the work.

“When I got there, the voodoo presence was still strong,” Rice said. “But as Christ has been preached it has really pushed back the voodoo.” And that change has caused an economic boom because the area is “now considered a safe place to build.”

Hunger is the immediate need, but the ministry continues to stress a holistic approach.

About one-third of the population is unemployed, so the church’s primary and technical schools are key to the community’s more general wellbeing.

“The students and the staff get a meal every day,” and the ministry also pays the teachers, Rice said. “Helping the teachers make a living is another way to feed people and to strengthen the community” because the paid teachers are able to help provide for others.

Through the church, people are being fed immediately and educated to provide for the families and community in the years ahead.