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Local efforts: Antioch church sends team to Haiti

Jan. 22, 2010

By Caty Hirst
Staff Writer

From individuals putting their lives on hold to organizations rallying relief, the Waco community has banded together to ensure Haiti receives help from Central Texas.

Antioch Church in Waco sent a team of 15 to Haiti on Monday. Heather Bonney, the regional manager of Africa and East Asia and the disaster relief coordinator for Antioch, said the team consists of one orthopedic surgeon, four family practice doctors, two nurses, one physician assistant, one certified nurse assistant, a translator, three wilderness survival specialists and three relief coordinators.

Dr. Brian Byrd from Fort Worth is on the team and is updating his blog with news from the team's service.

"Finishing up a day of seeing Haitians previously unseen. Awful injuries. Terrible wounds. We're making a huge difference," Byrd said on his blog.

Thursday, the team worked in an orphanage, where many of the children had yet to receive medical attention.

"Just left the orphanage where 30 of the 75 kids had died," Byrd wrote. "I saw the rubble heaps where some remained. Awful smells. A few of the kids were in awful shape."

Bonney said the team will return to the United States early next week and Antioch will continue to send teams to Haiti. The teams are also self-sufficient. They carry in their own food, water and medical supplies. All of the supplies are either donated or bought with donations.

"We will have another team on the ground there to continue their work," Bonney said. "We overlap the teams so the work continues uninterrupted."

Although they do not know yet how long they will stay, Bonney said Antioch is assessing the possibility of sending long-term teams to serve in Haiti.

"We love Jesus and we try to emulate him and we see from the Bible he always went to help the people that were hurting, to love them and serve them and give them hope," Bonney said.

Neil Niller, executive director of World Hunger Farm in Waco, said World Hunger Farm is focusing their help on transporting supplies from the Dominican Republic to the areas in Haiti that were most devastated by the earthquake.

"We have been working in Haiti for about 30 years and we have a Haiti counterpart organization, World Hunger Relief Haiti, and we are mostly trying to help them respond to the crisis in the capital city," Niller said, "Our Haitian counterparts who are there have vehicles, but what they need is money for fuel and money to buy the supplies that will be transported."

World Hunger Farm is collecting donations to wire down to their organization in Haiti, to offset the skyrocketing prices of supplies and gasoline.

"We are encouraging people, if they feel compelled to provide some sort of financial help, to remember the long-term needs, such as clean water supply and economic development," Niller said. "Ultimately those are the needs people are going to need help with in the long term."

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco and the pastor of Church Under the Bridge, said Mission Waco sent $31,000 to Haiti.

The money was raised from a Christian foundation, local donors and Mission Waco's project funds.

Along with Niller, Mission Waco is interested in the long-term development of Haiti.

"We have been over there for 20 years, and when the crisis goes away we are going to be there," Dorrell said.

"And hopefully people will realize it is the development that will be needed down the road."

Mission Waco is sending a team to Haiti in about six weeks to drill clean-water wells, repair broken and contaminated wells, build up their medical clinic and build a vocational school.

All of these organizations are in need of help from the Waco community and Baylor students.

"Number one is pray, we just believe in prayer and really believe it is making a difference," Bonney said.

"Our team has seen so much favor with the locals there and other organizations, so we want to keep praying. Number two, if they want to give that's great. Their donations will be used with integrity and will go far to help."

Niller also said giving is an important way for people to help and says fundraising ideas are always welcome.

"If other people have ideas for fundraisers and would like to partner with us on that, we would be open to that," Niller said.

However, Niller stressed that people with specialized skills, such as doctors or engineers, should be the only relief staff in Haiti until the initial chaos is over.

"It is not advisable to go if you don't have those skills," Niller said. "You will be consuming resources other people need to survive."

Dorrell said one of the biggest ways people can help is by genuinely caring.

"The word compassion means to suffer with. It is not just about texting the ten dollars and being done," Dorrell said.

"We forget it. We don't care. We are apathetic."

Dorrell said that to try and walk in the pain of those in need will transform the way people look at life, and help them learn and grow in unbelievable ways.

People can go to, and to donate financially.