Melbourne High School Graduate Dr. Jay Threadgill, Pastor of Church on the Rock, is working tirelessly to assist people in the earthquake-ravaged region
The physical and emotional devastation in Port-Au-Prince is beyond belief, but those who worked to bring hope and reformation to the country before the earthquake are now redoubling their efforts to restore the city and more importantly help the people. Some reformers work through the political arena while others focus on the spiritual and moral foundations of the nation. Myria Charles, a Haitian entertainer and bank credit manager, believes Pastor Jay Threadgill is one such individual, who was called to bring a spiritual and cultural transformation.
These days Charles spends every moment she can at the Fishers of Men Ministry compound assisting others. The organization includes schools, orphanages and clinics, in addition to Church on the Rock, which before the earthquake had more than 8,000 in weekly attendance and served as the mother church to 24 other churches in this impoverished nation.
Each morning at dawn, thousands of Haitians gather for worship and inspiration in a service led by Pastor Jay. Despite the fact that many lost their families they still don their Sunday best, even though it is Tuesday and come to the open-air service conducted on the 22,000 square-feet slab of concrete, the site of a planned new sanctuary.
Just two miles away the former sanctuary and class facility lies in rubble.
Pastor Jay and his staff arrived there minutes after the quake, only to discover that 30 of his second year Bible College students were trapped.
Many lived for days, communicating through the rubble, but they could not be saved.
They are among the more than 227,000 who perished in the January 12 earthquake. Some of their bodies have yet to be recovered.
“I sat and cried for two days, then I felt God impressed on my heart it was time to start rebuilding,” said Pastor Jay as he welcomed nine members of the Trinity Presbyterian Church Medical Mission Team, who volunteered for a six-day trip in early March.
Restore and rebuild
With Port-Au-Prince in chaos, heavy equipment and building supplies are precious commodities in what resembles a bombed out war zone. Yet, Pastor Jay is not deterred. Seven days a week, as the throngs gather, they begin their day with songs and worship.
Threadgill encourages his parishioners. “We sit here with no house, no money, but what we do have is a loving and prayer answering God…the way to get rid of anxiety is to prayer and thanksgiving!”
Space Coast residents Scott Cerasale, Jim Rathmann and his 19-year-old son James Todd spent three days helping a professional tent company raise a massive tent donated by a Seattle church that will protect people from the unrelenting sun and rain. Cerasale regrets that his team had to leave the day before they could see the look on the Haitian faces as they arrived and enjoyed the shelter.
Pastor Jay hopes this team will return to help build houses with steel roofs. “We are now in the phase of rebuilding – the most extensive stage,” he said.
A lifetime of Service
Pastor Jay, who graduated from Melbourne High School in 1972, and his wife Linda have been living in Haiti for nearly a quarter century, building the Fishers of Men Ministry. They occupy an eight-acre compound just south of the Port-Au-Prince airport. More than 100 students attend the main Morning Star Christian Academy, the second largest private school in the nation; some 200 additional students, enrolled in preschool through 12th grade college prep programs, are absent. They have either been relocated or are missing. Morning Star also operates satellite schools where 2,500 children a day are taught and fed, thanks to donations primarily from churches in the U.S.
Though relatively small, their vision is large. “We are training and raising up the next generation of leaders with a solid foundation, both spiritually and academically,” said Pastor Jay. “My wife worked very hard to get Morning Star accredited in the United States,” where most of their students go to continue their education.
Teacher Daniel Thelusmond is optimistic. “It’s going to get better!” he encourages his students. “Though critics may say, ‘what are you talking about? Look around – your home is gone, your sister is dead!’ But it is your attitude that will help you endure and become victorious.”
A Helping Hand
Three days after the quake, Pastor Jay realized he had to treat the thousands who were injured, so he converted a classroom into the Fishers of Men Ministry Clinic.
Droves of professionals-doctors, nurses and teachers-have fled the country and the only way he could staff the clinic was to make a plea to the American churches that support his efforts.
Impromptu American medical teams, usually a doctor and several nurses, have been rotating in on a weekly basis to treat patients. Dr. Michael Carey, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach, organized one group.
On one particular day in March, Melbourne urologist Dr. Hank Nelson was assisted by three nurses, Cindy Ellis, from Holmes Regional Medical Center; Melbourne Surgical Center nurse Mary Ainsworth and Leigh Dickens, a Viera VA Outpatient Clinic R.N.
Bob Maust, a Melbourne Merrill Lynch financial advisor assumed the role of medical assistant and logged in 134 patients suffering from a variety of ailments including stomach aches and diaherreah; hypertension; and infected wounds.
Volunteer Myria Charles translated the Creole her people speak for the medical team. “They are all skin and bones, malnourished and they need food and vitamins,” said Nurse Mary Ainsworth, cradling a toddler. The team treated more than 400 people over three days.
Since opening the clinic, Mormon, Muslim and Jewish medical workers and teams have provided services. All are needed and all are welcomed.
Myria Charles said, “The Haitian people are a good people, they want their dignity back and they want to work,” she said. “If you give me one fish I come back for more fish, but if you teach me to fish I am set for life.”
To support Fishers of Men International, visit FomRelief.com. They are located at 2IEME Rue H. Lechaud, Delmas 31, Port Au Prince, Haiti.
If you are interested in serving on a future mission trip, contact Kim Register, Director of Missions, Trinity Presbyterian Church, at Kregister@trinitypres.net.