Newton resident safe after Haiti quake

COVINGTON -- Newton County resident Roger Hall arrived in Haiti with a group of 14 other men on Saturday to make repairs to a church in a small village north of Port-au-Prince. Three days later, on his birthday, a magnitude-7.0 earthquake hit the capital city, bringing unimaginable death and destruction.

Family, friends and fellow members of Sandy Creek Baptist Church received word Thursday that the men are unharmed and are now praying for their safe return.

"Their last communication let us know they are safe and not injured and they are together, trying to make their way to the embassy," said Roger Hall's wife, Pierrette.

Hall said she believes her husband may be the only Newton resident in the group. Most are members of Sandy Creek Baptist Church, which sends missionaries to Haiti at least once a year.

Hall said she and the other spouses and family members are living off faith in a higher power and working on getting the men out of the country.

"We're doing very well. We've got faith that they're going to be home and be fine," she said. "We've got some different government officials and agencies working with us to try and get them to the right place to be evacuated." Hall said she doesn't know when or how that will happen.

The church is raising funds to cover any expenses that may be incurred to bring the men home. Donations can be made through the Bank of Madison. Checks should be made payable to Sandy Creek Baptist Church, designated to Mission Rescue Fund and mailed to P.O. Box 271, Madison, GA 30650.

Max Levy, pastor of a Haitian ministry at Gateway Community Church on Brown Bridge Road in Newton, said everyone in his congregation has family in Haiti.

Levy's family is safe, but he has lost several friends, he said.

"It's heartbreaking," he said. "It almost makes you cry. This country is not prepared for this devastation. It is a poor country."

The church may be collecting donations in the near future, he said, but right now, it is too difficult to get the items shipped into the country. Levy encouraged anyone who can to give to the Red Cross or other reputable relief organizations who have better access.

Members of Crosspointe Christian Church in Conyers are also relying on their faith as they wait to hear word from their friends in Haiti. Wendy Zehner, children's minister at Crosspointe, was planning to leave on a mission trip to Haiti on Jan. 22 along with several others. Zehner has been on several trips there, including one in October.

"We have many friends there," including staff members with Haitian Christian Mission, an organization the church has partnered with for mission trips, she said.

While the leader of the mission, Pastor Etienne Prophete, is safe, the whereabouts of many staff members are not known, Zehner said.

"One of the young men that was missing has been found, and he and his family were alive," she said.

Among those missing is a 29-year-old Haitian who served as Zehner's interpreter during her October trip. Workers at one of the Haitian Christian Mission medical clinics saved the man's life when he was a teenager, and he wanted to give something back, so he signed on as an interpreter, she said.

"It's heartbreaking. These people woke up every day to a nightmare, but now they're just living in hell. There's a lot of questions in your mind. The only thing you can hang onto is just to wait for God to show up and do some miraculous things. I know he's working through so many people there right now," she said.

Zehner asked the public to consider donating to relief efforts, including the Haitian Christian Mission.

"If you would like to donate to the Haitian Christian Mission you can be assured all those funds will go to medical care and feeding of children. That mission has so many thousands of people that depend on them," she said.

Haitian Christian Mission has teachers in 52 schools scattered around the island, 57 churches with nearly 10,000 worshipers, two medical clinics and several nutrition centers that feed more than 1,000 children every day.

Donations can be made by mail to P.O. Box 56025, Indianapolis, IN 46256, or online at www.hcmsupport.org. Crosspointe is also accepting donations by mail or in person at 4550 Ga. Highway 20 S.E., Conyers, GA 30013.

The international Red Cross said a third of Haiti's 9 million people may need emergency aid. Death toll estimates have been at 100,000 and higher, but no firm numbers have been given.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.