Haiti Church Leader

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As Haiti continues to deal with the aftermath of the January 12th earthquake, one church leader has the task of helping fellow Haitians who have lost loved ones and homes, while he too is homeless. He is living in his car, and traveling the area encouraging others to stay brave—and focus on rebuilding. Chuck Long reports.

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(Locator: Port-au-Prince, Haiti)

The Rev. Gesner Paul. President, Methodist Church in Haiti: “My name is Gesner Paul. I am the president of the Methodist Church in Haiti.”

When the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, the Rev. Gesner Paul had just gotten out of a meeting with colleagues Clinton Rabb, Sam Dixon and Jim Gulley. They headed to the Hotel Montana for another meeting. Paul headed home.

The Rev. Gesner Paul: “Well the only thing I felt was my car was shaking, and twice the car just left the ground as if you were lifting the car. Boom! Boom! And I saw some people coming out of their houses and crying ‘Earthquake! Earthquake!’”

His colleagues were buried beneath the rubble of the Hotel Montana for days. Rabb and Dixon later died.

The Rev. Gesner Paul: “I was supposed to go to the Montana Hotel with them to that meeting. But for one reason or another, I did not go. They went on their own, and then on my way, about two minutes from my house, the earthquake occurred. And a wall nearly fell on my car. I was saved from Montana Hotel and saved from that wall.”

“I was not too far from the parsonage where I am living now. I’ve been living in the yard now, with some friends who lost their homes. I have to take care of them, and we sleep in our cars and just on the ground.”

“To me, if there is one thing that the people need now is courage. Because if something like that happens and you are discouraged, that means you’re not going anywhere. After the earthquake, life continues. And if you have to rebuild, you must do that. Because you still have people living in the country.

“So I think they need courage. They need people to stay beside them, so that they can take the future into their hands. I always preach to say to the people don’t believe that when something happens it comes because you’re going to be discouraged because there is nothing else to do. No. When it happens, you take it and you change what is bad to good. Not what is bad to worse. And it may take years…but we can do it.”


Teams from the United Methodist Committee On Relief have been working with Rev. Paul to asses needs and coordinate aid.

Donations to support UMCOR's Haiti Relief efforts can be made to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325. You can donate online or write checks to UMCOR with "Advance #418325 Haiti Emergency" in the memo line. The entire amount of each gift will be used to help the people of Haiti.

Read more: Haitian Methodists, UMCOR assess volunteer needs

Posted: February 10, 2010