Worship goes on beside damaged Haitian church

Pieces of walls painted a bright green give a hint of the joys that once took place inside St. Martin Methodist Church and school. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the jagged concrete blocks are part of a massive pile of rocks.

Congregants hold an outdoor worship service.

Congregants hold an outdoor worship service.

Even an earthquake doesn't stop worship, however.

This Sunday, several men are busy trying to find ways to string tarps and sheets over the child-sized school benches and folding chairs wedged in between the ruins of the school and church. School notebooks and graded math papers not held down by rocks are flying in the wind.

Before the 9 a.m. worship begins Jan. 24, the chairs and pews are full. Those who cannot fit under the shade are standing in the back under any piece of shade they can find.

"All you are seeing now is through the power of our Lord," said the Rev. Moncul Jean, one of the pastors in the Port-au-Prince circuit. "None can prevent God from doing his work, and we are happy to welcome you here today."

Steadfast in service

Before the earthquake, the church had a membership of about 100, and 300 children attended the primary school.

Lucienne Bazile and Noel Zierne are both at St. Martin Methodist Church on this bright, hot Sunday, even though seeing the rubble brings back bad memories.

The two were just finishing choir practice with three other friends on Jan. 12 when they felt the first tremors.

Noel Zierne shows where she was trapped in the rubble of the church following the earthquake.

Noel Zierne shows where she was trapped in the rubble of the church following the earthquake.

"We were just having prayer to end our time together," Zierne said. She and Bazile were in a doorway and that saved them from being crushed. Their friends were farther back in the room and all died. Three "brothers" pulled them out, Bazile said.

Readings from Job

On this Sunday, "Sister" Paulette Holly, 82, makes her way slowly to the front of the makeshift pulpit-a small wooden table and a couple of large pieces of concrete. Holly is a deaconess for St. Martin and for many years worked at a Methodist clinic in another part of the city. She was not seriously injured in the earthquake, but she is sleeping outside and now uses a cane to help her walk.

Members of the congregation stand to read passages from Psalm 46, Job 2 and 24, and Luke 13.

The Rev. Marco Depestre, secretary of the Methodist Church in Haiti and superintendent of the Port-au-Prince circuit, gave the sermon.

"In Psalms 46, we learn God is our refugee and strength. Job reminds us to remain faithful," he said. "Suffering is part of human life.

"Here in the ruins of St. Martin Church and school we know God wants us to be here," Depestre said.

Bazile and Zierne know that too.

"It is grace from Jesus ... great grace that I am alive," Bazile said.

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service on assignment in Haiti.

News media contact: David Briggs or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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