Earthquake Day in Port au Prince

Yesterday was absolutely terrible.  I’m going to share my whole experience because I’m hoping it will be therapeutic. In any case I think I’m going to have nightmares for a long time.

I spent the day in Port au Prince getting a loaner vehicle from the Toyota dealer and then taking care of some mission business. On my way out of town in the afternoon, I was on Delmas 9 (I think) and the loaner vehicle I had just picked up broke down. I called the dealer to come get it. Shortly after they arrived, the earthquake hit.

I’m ashamed of the first thought that went through my mind, which was “Cool, I’ve never been in a big earthquake before!” As the quake rolled on, though, I remembered the conversations I’ve had with the other missionaries about what an earthquake would mean for Haiti. Of course, it would be devastating. Construction materials and methods aren’t just shoddy, they’re suicidal, but now isn’t the time to rampage, just to tell you about my experiences.

I didn’t actually fall on the ground, but I stumbled around quite a bit. When the tremors ceased, a large dust cloud was rising from the building a few doors down. A 3 story school full of teenage girls had collapsed. I stood around looking stupid for longer than I’d like to admit. I looked at the truck from Toyota, tried to call my wife (the service was out) and looked around me at people’s reactions. Virtually everyone reacted in strange ways.  Eventually, I went to the school and started working to pull trapped students from the wreckage.

The work was very hard because I was working by myself. People would come up and shout into the wreckage, “Is so-and-so inside?” at the top of their lungs repeatedly. I would ask for help in moving rubble and they would say they have to find their own people. One guy stayed and helped, on and off. I got one girl out, who was very frantic. I told her to stop shouting and pray for help. She was about 10 feet deep under the collapsed cement roof of the building. At one point I went and borrowed a hammer from someone to break up the large piece of cement that she was trapped behind. The aftershocks scared the crap out of me, and I really didn’t like being under that cement slab.  There was an obviously dead woman under the slab with us.

When the girl was out, I took my hammer and moved over to find the next trapped girl. All I could see was her face and left arm, and she frantically called out to me. I asked her to calm down because it would help me to work and asked her to pray for both of us. She calmed down and became very brave. I was having trouble seeing her where she was jammed under the slab. I pulled out a very large piece of rubble that didn’t really help Jacqueline at all (her name was Jacqueline). There was some sort of object behind that rubble and when I went to move it it turned out to be another girl’s bottom. The girl cried out but I could barely hear her – her whole head was underneath rubble.

At this point I began to realize that I was in over my head. All I had was a hammer, and it was quickly becoming pitch dark with twilight fading and no electricity anywhere. I tried to borrow a flashlight, but it was impossible. I had a moment of feeling intense helplessness. After thinking and praying for a minute, I told Jacqueline that I had to leave her and find more help. I couldn’t do anything without a flashlight, and she needed to keep praying and remember that her parents were coming to look for her.

I walked 4 or 5 miles to a place where I could get a bus, then got on one eventually made it home just after 9pm. On my way home, I resolved to return to Port au Prince the next day with 2 trucks full of tools and workers to do whatever we could. I met a guy on the bus who was holding a sandwich. He had left his house to go buy a sandwich when the earthquake hit. He returned to his home to find it flattened, then went to the school that he teaches at to find it flattened. With nothing left but a sandwich in his hand, and $7 in his sock, he set out for Cap Haitien to be with the rest of his family.

I slept a little bit last night even though I kept thinking of Jacqueline and her classmate stuck in the rubble, in the dark. This morning all of the workers enthusiastically loaded all the tools we could use into the trucks along with food and water and set off for Port au Prince. I took them to the school and quickly made my way to the place Jacqueline and the other student were but both of them were dead.

Some of the local people had been working through the night to rescue their loved ones. They had found lighting and hack saws and had already pulled some people out, including a lot of bodies. We joined their efforts with our power tools. Quickly, we pulled out two more living girls and then a third. The fourth and fifth were a lot more work and each had a severely crushed foot. After that, there were no more cries for help, even when everybody went quiet in order to listen. Lots of dead bodies were still stuck, but getting at them would require large machines.

At that point, I decided to tackle the problem of the growing pile of bodies, which were starting to smell. A volunteer from the community collected all the identifying information he could, and the various family members all signed off. It turned out to be a mistake. The General Hospital, which houses Port au Prince’s only government run morgue, has been destroyed. After we had already loaded the bodies (10 or so) the problem was explained to me. I saw some nuns driving by and asked them where I could find a morgue and they told me that they buried their dead directly, and they heard talk of a big hole being dug out by Ti Tanyen for the others. So we unloaded the bodies back into the lane, where I’m sure they still remain.

We spent an hour boring a hole through a floor into a collapsed chamber to try to rescue a 2 year old child but the cries had stopped before we even began.

We’re not going to go back tomorrow because I strongly suspect that most people that can be rescued have already been rescued, and buildings that still have survivors will have plenty of volunteers from now on. Today was by far the most important day for rescues.

This has been a very emotional experience for me. The bodies stopped bothering me after a while, but I think what I will always carry with me is the conversation I had with Jacqueline before I left her. How could I leave someone who was dying, trapped in a building! That’s so wrong! At the very least, she needed someone to sit and comfort her in her last hours. But if I hadn’t found my way home last night, then today I wouldn’t have been able to bring the CWH crew in. Still, leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She seemed so brave when I left! I told her I was going to get help, but I didn’t tell her I would be gone until morning. I think this is going to trouble me for a long time.

136 thoughts on “Earthquake Day in Port au Prince

  1. Don’t be hard on yourself Chris — sometimes you have to put the common good ahead of the individual. You did the best you could.
    My heart is aching for those schoolgirls and their families, and all the suffering people there tonight. May God grant you a decent night’s sleep so that tomorrow you can continue with your important work. We are so proud of, and humbled by, the person you are

  2. Thank you Chris for being there and being His hands and feet in this desperate time.

    I have no words that are good enough on this day. I will keep you in prayer.
    God Bless You

    zanme ou

  3. This earthquake was worse than the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. I think the death toll there was between 70 to 80,000. These natural disasters are so heartbreaking.

  4. Chris, we were stunned at what we saw on TV this evening and literally speachless at your experience with the thought of a 3 story building full of girls collapsing. As an old medic, dont feel sorry for the dead but try to save the living wherever possible. Hope and help is on the way. The Navy dispatched a carrier, the Vincent, today & it will arrive tomorrow with water, food, medical help & choppers. The Marines have or will dispatch a brigade of troops tonite; hopefully they will bring an engineering battalion with heavy lift cranes to help remove slabs, etc.
    Jean & I are friends of your folks and we are proud of you and your workers in what you have tried to do down there. God bless all of you and keep working. We intend to send some money.

  5. It’s hard to imagine the tragedies that are unfolding infront of your eyes. God had you in the right place at the right time when the quack struck. You were safe. The car broke down and kept you out of the city! You were able to rescue the one girl from physical death and were there to pray with Jacqueline and save her spiritual life. In times of panic your reactions were perfect. I pray for God’s peace and comfort in your times of sorrow. A member of Vernon Alliance Church we are and will be praying with you.

  6. I’m so glad you and your family are alright. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope it does help theraputically for you. Can’t imagine what that must have been like or how it feels, but I know you did what you could with what you had.

  7. Chris, I wish I could take away the pain you are feeling over Jacqueline. My heart goes out to you. You did what you needed to do and because of that, you were able to return with help and more lives were saved. Don’t forget that. Be gentle with yourself. Our prayers are with you.


  8. Words escape me…

    I have to agree with “gramma rolling” above. “sometimes you have to put the common good ahead of the individual” Because you left Jacqueline yesterday and got home last night, you were able to come back today with more help and get those other girls out of the rubble.

    Our prayers will be with you & the rest of those that were with you today as you try to process all you saw today.

    Thank you for being God’s hands today!

  9. I feel that you did the best possible thing.

    Jacqueline must have been terrified the first few minutes… then you arrived.

    We all think twice about what we “should of done” or “should have said” but that’s history now. You tried to help. I’m sorry to remind you, but there are a lot of people who wouldn’t.

    I’m Proud of You.

    Love Danielle,

  10. I am in Rotary with Jerry. Just know we are all thinking about you and all in Haiti. We know you are doing all that you can do. Take care.

  11. Chris, we’ve not met, but I know your parents, and I organized a fundraiser for CWFH a few years ago at the bank I work at in Portland. I want to join the chorus of people telling you that you did everything you could for Jacqueline. Also, you and Leslie are doing a great service to the world (in addition to everything you do already) by giving us these reports that help us to connect with what has happened on a more personal level. We’re having another fundraiser at my work on Friday to raise money for Mercy Corps, an organization here in Portland that is sending aid workers to Haiti. I hope everyone will give what they can.

  12. Chris, I echo what others have written. Especially in terms of being gentle with yourself. I’m relieved you and your family are safe. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Please be kind to yourself.


  13. Chris,

    What you are experiencing can scarcely be comprehended by anyone from the outside. It is unspeakable. If you were not deeply affected by it, you would not be human. May the Lord be close to you and all the brothers and sisters in Christ during the difficult times ahead. Grace and Peace to all.

    I hope this is OK with you, but I’d like to repost your comments above on my blog I think it’s important for everyone in the US to understand the gravity of what has befallen Haiti and your first person account of what happened should be required reading for we comfortable Americans.

    Wayne Cummings (know you from DuPage Vineyard, Illinois)

  14. Chris & Leslie,
    I thank God you are all ok and I pray daily for Haiti. Your blog was very heart wrenching. It’s hard to imagine what’s going on there so thank you for sharing. Your help did have meaning and I pray that God will use this horrible event to bring more help to Haiti now and in the future.

  15. Thanks for your honesty Chris
    I know there is nothing I can say that will take away your pain. I know that throughout the ordeal you prayed for knowlege of Gods will for you and the power to carry that out and as such you did what God directed you to do. As a person who has lived in Haiti and has lived through some horrible times, somewhat like this, I know that hard decisions have to be made. I know in Haiti when it gets dark and chaos is already in full force that inocent people get killed for no reason and I know you know that. You took care of yourself, your family and the future of Clean Water For Haiti by ensuring that you made it home alive. There is no cowardice in that as a matter of fact it is common practice in emergency response. You did what you could and in fact more than you had to by coming back. You saved lives this day and each day that you provide clean water for the People of Haiti you save even more lives. I have walked with you in other times of horror, like when Tony Got shot in our yard and I know that you respond in a level headed fashion first considering others until it is unsafe for you. This is no different. You Made the Right Choice!!! You made the decision, with God’s help, to live another day and to fight the good fight.
    Se pou Gras ak Lanmou Bondye kontinye touche Nanm ou e kenbe ou an sekirite!

  16. Love and prayers to you all, Chris. May you feel God holding you up and leading you through the next hours, days, weeks…

  17. It sounds like God put you in a specific place in order to save the lives of these girls. I pray that He will encourage your heart and strengthen your spirit. Know that you, and the rest of Haiti, are being prayed for.
    Stacey Anderson (friend of Canaan Christian Community)

  18. I am so glad that you are safe. I followed you guys on blogspot. Please remain strong and continue your work, you are a blessing to the people, know that you are in our prayers.

  19. Chris, go easy on your self. You did the best you could with what you had and God knows that. He chose you to be the one to talk & pray with Jacqueline and now she is in His loving care. He kept safe and able to bring help as soon as possible to save more lives. Praying that God will grant you peace and rest.
    Mom & Dad Lockhart

  20. Dear Chris and Leslie,
    I am a friend of your Mom and Dad at Columbia Pres. There have been many prayers for you and your family going out in the last 24 hours, for your safety. My prayers will now change and concentrate on your being able to accept the things your cannot change, and be thankful that you acted on the things that you could change. This tragedy will be one that will be with you for a long time, but you brought spiritual help to one person yesterday, and returned to help with more supplies today. Our prayers continue for the country of Haiti, the rescue efforts and, and the hope that through God people like yourself will bring comfort and help to those who need it so desperately. We will be sending a check to Water for Haiti to help in the future need for safe drinking water.

  21. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
    2 Corinthians 1:3-7

  22. Chris, thank you for humbling all of us and giving us a real account of what is going on over there. Your courage is very inspiring!

  23. Nothing I can think of to say sounds like anything other than a cliche. May God give you strength, rest, peace as you continue to help those you can reach in the days ahead. Our prayers are with you and Leslie and Liv – and all of your staff.

  24. Guys this my first time on your page and I think I’ll just say : God Bless ya’ll and I’ll pray steadly for ya’lls strength and blessings. Cant even image the emotional toll this taking on you guys alone and the loveones that have pairished and are still unfound. Gods Speed
    Jacky mills Pensacola,Fl

  25. Chris, I don’t know you but I know what you are going through. You did the right thing. Your safety and that of other rescuers is paramount. I know you will never ‘get over’ this, it is a life changing experience. You have been very brave to share the experience so truthfully, I hope it has helped. It certainly puts our simple lives into perspective……….there are people in the UK complaining about not having public transport due to snow, grow up I say.
    God speed to the world wide rescue services and let’s pray for more survivors.
    Thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  26. You wonderful young man …… dud all that you could. She was not alone. God was holding her and welcoming her home.

  27. Chris,
    My heart is heavy for you and Leslie and the people of Haiti. Please know that you are in my prayers.

    I can understand how terrible you must have felt leaving Jacqueline. But she wasn’t alone in her last hours on this side. Jesus was with her.

    We can trust His heart of compassion for all these suffering and hurting people.

  28. Chris,
    By putting your experiences out, you did the best thing to help yourself and certainly to enlighten others. You were exactly where God wanted you to be and when He wanted you there. Without going into detail, I truly understand what you are feeling right now. You’ll never forget it but you will learn to live with it and God will work you through it. I contacted Leslie by email so she can get you in touch with me if you need to talk. Just know that much love and many prayers are being sent for you & yours and Canaan Orphanage as well as the rest of Haiti. God bless & keep ya’ll

  29. Chris,
    I am friends with the Craig’s, who are on there way as soon as they can.
    I am moved to tears by your account. Please rest in the knowledge that you did what you could with what you had at the time. I will be praying for you in the a days to come, as you minister to the Haitian people.
    Blessings upon you!

  30. Chris & Leslie,

    My heart grieves for you both as well as for the families of all those people. I truely cannot imagine what you have experienced. Your description of your feeling of helplessness touches me. It really depicts how helpless and depend completely upon our Lord and Savior we are. My prayers are with you and your family. God knows how to heal and comfort you and those around you. It is amazing that you were able to function at all. Praise God for your giving hearts. (We are missionaries doing a filter project in Tanzania….Tal sent me your info…)

  31. Chris, thank you for being you. Keep talking about what you are doing, seeing and feeling. It is important for you to communicate your feelings. This is the only way you will be able to heal from the experiences that you are going through. Leslie keep talking to Chris when ever you see him, these types of experiences can devastating on a person. Our prayers are with you and the people of Haiti.
    Les, Maryann, Samantha, Stephie and Sarah

  32. On Behalf of my family, Thank you for being there for those people. I just got a thought in my mind that I needed to share. I had recently seen a sermon and it was about someone who did what they could. And how as Humans that is what we aught to do. And that line came to me as I posted this to my facebook. “You did what you could”. God would be proud of you for that. No one is perfect no one can fix everything, but You DID what you could!! Instead No One could have chose to help and to be there to comfort them, but you Chose instantly to help and You helped alone, and you did what you could. That makes you a hero. Thank you and May God Bless you and Heal you so that you may continue to show his love now when it is so important. My prayers are with you and the area and country.

  33. I am sobbing and sobbing as I read. I am so sorry for your experience. You did the best you could. God Bless to you, your family and to all the people of Haiti.

  34. Chris, you are a gentle, generous, kind soul who did everything you know how to help these people that you don’t even know. You gave, and helped, and saved lives; please remember that.

    Unfortunately, because you are a gentle, generous, kind soul, you will suffer for the losses of so many people, and for what you could not do to save them. This is the hardest part of caring, and being sensitive.

    As your whole community suffers, please be gentle with yourselves. I can recommend something for PTSD, which millions of people there will now be dealing with in addition to a lack of resources, shelter, and health care. There is a treatment called EMDR that many of the responders will be trained to help with as part of a greater counseling and relief effort. It’s a simple and very effective method for helping with the nightmares and horrors of what you’re living through. Please, when you have the opportunity to do so, check around your area, and see if it is available through a red cross center or relief workers (or even a ministry). It was used for rescue workers after 911, and is used for survivors of plane crashes, kidnapping/hostage events, and war veterans… all the fun ways to get PTSD.

    I feel enormously for you now, and send you love and strength.
    I wish for peace for you,

  35. Hi Chris & Leslie,

    We’ve not officially met – I’m Doug & Adele’s son. Just want you to know that our hearts go out to you and the people of Haiti right now. We are praying for you.


  36. Chris, Glad to know you, Leslie, and Olivia are okay. Saddened at the loss in Haiti.

    All you can do is what you can do – and you have done more to help those in need than most of us will in a lifetime.

    God Bless & Best Wishes,

  37. Hi Chris, after reading your post my heart began to cry for those who experienced this tragedy. I commend you for your bravery and charity to the people of Haiti. Your contributions to the people of Haiti exhibit characteristics of a “Good Samaritan” and a heart of love. God Bless You.

  38. Rollings,

    I was unaware of your mission until today. I saw the link to your blog on a Facebook post from a friend in Virginia. We live in San Diego. Your message is far reaching. Please know that you are impacting many for Christ, not only in Haiti but here in the US. Amidst the horror, “Be still and know that I am God.”


  39. Take comfort in those that you were able to extract from the rubble. It is not ours to decide when/if it may be someone’s time to meet the Lord. My heart is heavy for all of the people of Haiti and those that are there on the ground trying to make a difference. My prayers are with all of you.

  40. Chris, I’ll pray that you feel peace. You are only one person and by mobilizing others like you did, you were able to save more people. Know that you gave Jacqueline the help that you could, and like Angela, who posted before me, wrote, she was not alone, God was with her. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m glad that you are ok. God bless you and the work you are doing.

  41. Chris, regardless of the tragic outcome, you are a hero. Please try to take some comfort in the fact that those young women who were still conscious died knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that a HUMAN BEING cared about them, along with their God. My God does not expect anything more than that you just do the best that you can and that your heart be filled with unselfish and caring intentions. I am praying to Him for comfort and healing and strength for you and your family.

  42. Dear Chris and family:
    We’re glad you’re OK. We’ll be praying for you through your personal tragic experiences, and for CWH to be able to somehow deal with this and continue on serving the Lord .
    You have been so faithful, and you have been a tremendous inspiration to us, even though you don’t know us.
    We are Cup of Hope International and we also train people to implement the BioSand filter around the world in their own ministries.

    We praise the Lord that He knows personally each one who is suffering so tremendously, and we feel pretty helpless, except for our ability to pray.

  43. We would like to publish your blog post in Island Tides newspaper here on the coast of British Columbia. Can we have your permission with proper credit to Clean Water for Haiti and your blog?

  44. Chris –

    We’ve never met – I don’t even know you. I can’t imagine how sad your heart is right now . . . mine breaks for you. Thank you for making the hardest decision of your life and leaving those girls two nights ago to get more help and tools. If you hadn’t left would the other girls you and the help you found, be alive right now? I pray that one day the pain you feel will be lessened but never forgotten. Remember them and continue to minister to their families.

    God bless.

  45. Hey Chris… it’s your cousin Mike in Florida. My mom told me what happened and sent me to this site. Man, I can’t imagine what you are going through right now.
    Keep up the great work… and thank God you weren’t hurt. You’re a hero in many peoples’ eyes.
    I hope some day we can meet… your mom was always my favorite aunt. She was quite the hippy back in the day (lol).
    Stay safe… my prayers are with you. -Mike Meengs

  46. I haven’t stopped thinking of you all there. You are my hero, Chris, and you will make it through this. I’m so happy you have so much support. Hopelessness is everyone’s biggest enemy there. Don’t let it infect you.

  47. Thank you very much for sharing your honest story. What impresses me so much about you, Chris, is that you made a choice when one had to be made. You made a choice then dedicated yourself to being of the most help you could be. That takes courage, Chris. Your tenacity and dedication to your work coupled with your honesty and realism impress me more than you can imagine. Thank you thank you, Chris. You inspire me to live a life with less fear and more commitment.

  48. Weare so worried about our little encounters…God is always soooo God even in the worst of situations..How often we forget that he is ALWAYS with us!!! God bless you for being there too!!!

  49. Chris, You were very brave to even go in that building to try to save people. You did what you could with the tools you had. You saved many others and you are a hero for the actions you took. My heart goes out to you and the people of Haiti. I am Joels neighbor, and you helped me with my vw this past summer. I am proud to know you.


  50. You were in a decision where all of your choices were difficult. Had you stayed with Jacqueline and the other girl, yes, that would have been a comfort to her, and I do not doubt God would have blessed you for this. But in coming back with a crew that was able to rescue a number of others, I believe God will bless you for that, too. Impossible choices. “Who saves a life, saves the world entire.” You saved lives. I will pray for you.

  51. You were one man alone, with no tools. You tried, you did what you could, you went back. That’s all anyone could ask of you then, even Jacqueline, I think. Don’t beat yourself up for not being superhuman or supernatural. You did what you could.

  52. hey chris, yup, as others have said go easy on yourself as you did the right thing even though it is difficult to fathom. we are miles away in europe but what do you suggest is the best way to help these people who have lost so much?


    • Hi Neil,

      If people are interested in helping with immediate relief needs we would recommend donating to the Red Cross. They have a specific Haiti fund set up. If people would like to help with the long term rebuilding efforts that will need to be done after the relief work has ended please donate to Clean Water for Haiti. We have already been working in Port au Prince and will continue to do so when things have been cleaned up and people work at re-establishing themselves there. The filters are a long term solution for families that don’t have access to clean water.

  53. You shouldn’t be hard on yourself. you tried your best and did what you needed to do in order to help. If anything you should feel some sort of pride for helping people. From the comments above it is clear that you did a fantastic job. What we have been reading on the news and seeing on TV is absolutely horrifying to see, therefore I cannot even begin to imagine what you are going through.

    May God be with you- you are in my prayers…

  54. I honestly don’t know if leaving was the right thing to do. Only you can say whether it was fear and emotional exhaustion that drove you away from the school, or if you left because you truly thought you could do more good by going home. Either way, you were pushed as far as you could go, and you made the best decision you could in the circumstances. Whichever way you chose, you would have second-guessed that decision for the rest of your life, and that is the hallmark of a compassionate person.

    What surprises me is your comments about the other people on the street- that they didn’t stop to help. This is similar to what I saw on a video taken immediately after the earthquake. People milling around, people running through the streets, but very little direct action to aid the survivors as they cleared themselves out of the rubble.

    A little more support for you, the help of a few neighbors with even basic tools, would have made all the difference for those girls.

    What happened? Why didn’t people stop to help the strangers directly in front of them?

  55. Tens of thousands died in Haiti this week, most of them anonymously. Thank you for sharing Jacqueline’s story with us, and bestowing her death a measure of dignity and humanity.

  56. Chris,

    If there were a god, s/he would not be visiting this horror upon the poor people of Haiti. All we have are our own hearts and hands, and you put yours to use yesterday with great courage and love. If you can know that and accept that, I believe it will bring you peace. You’re my hero Chris.

  57. Chris,
    I met you randomly in Seattle in 2003 and ever since have followed your work in Haiti. You are truly someone who God works through, and you have inspired my own faith. I can’t add anything to what everyone else has said so well, but I agree that you did the best you could and hopefully you will come to accept that. We are only one pair of hands and one heart, and you gave of yours to the utmost. Know that you and the mission and all the people of Haiti are in my prayers.

  58. Chris thank you for telling your story! It had to be hard to tell, to say out loud to everyone that you left Jacqueline behind. This goes to show what kind of person you are, a Truthful, Loving person that did all he could, and left Jacqueline in God hands and not your own, you left her with the comfort of her prayers to God. I believe that God was with her and comforted her in part because you. Keep her close to your heart and know that Jacqueline is with God now knowing that because you did what you did many more people were saved. Chris you were exactly where God needed you at that moment! God Bless you and your family!

  59. Chris: I grew up going to church with your sisters and was fortunate enough to hear you speak about your work in Haiti a few years back. I hope that sharing your experience here does help ward off the nightmares; as others have said, it sounds like you did all you could. Perhaps you’ve noticed, but The Atlantic magazine’s much-read blog picked up your story today ( Let’s hope the attention translates into more assistance. In the meantime, my thoughts are with everyone there.

    – Raul

  60. Chris …

    May God strengthen your spirit, comfort your heart and shoulder your tears.

    My prayers are with all people of Haiti and those coming to their aid.


  61. Chris,

    Jacqueline had a voice to talk to at least, and she was brave. You did the best you could. None of us really knows how we would react in extraordinary situations. I am sitting here in central PA, with all the safety and comforts of home, and all I can do is send money to the charities and pray. It is people like you and Leslie that are doing the real work. Bless you.

  62. Nice comprehensive detail of the events that have unfolded in Haiti, and continue to unfold, since the quake first struck. I hope that efforts such as yours help to encourage others to open up their pocket books and donate to the needy.

  63. May the Lord continue to be with you and guide you; I feel you did such a wonderful thing for Jacqueline, in that you caused her to pray, and to turn to the only one who could have helped her in that situation. I feel that was your only purpose and it was well served; death was meant for her and there was nothing you could have done about it. It is wonderful to know that you helped her die in peace, as she began trusting in her faith, which brought her the peace and the braveness that you remember….I am writing to spread some information that was made known to me on facebook; it reads: Hey everyone. My friend’s sister and stepmom are stuck under the rubble of some buildings. She needs to get word to send help to dig them out. If anyone can reach anyone in Haiti to let them know, please spread the word. They are: 1. Adeline Porcena Thadal – stuck at Impasse Beauboeuf #10 2. Katia Juin – stuck in bon repos, route molleard, ruelle antoine #17

    I hope you or anyone else is able to assist. Thanks and may God be with you.

  64. I agree with Abby to some extent…I am a Buddhist. We all have a Buddha nature and you displayed yours perfectly in that situation. The important thing is that you TOOK ACTION, the best actions with the wisdom you had at the time to save as many lives as possible. I can understand how you feel over Jacqueline..but please forgive yourself. You did the very best you could. It is the heart that matters and you acted with your heart. I admire your courage and thank you for saving lives.

  65. Dear Friend in Christ,
    Remember that our creator has hard-wired us to protect us absorb the shocks and traumas we experience. When you are on the “other side of the event” you will be able to look back and see the series of stages we go through. I am truly amazed at the fortitude which God has given you – you immediately went to work, in shock, and managed to give hope to other human beings, to speak their names and offer them the rescue you were able to, until the night fell and darkness interupted your work. You were an answer to their parents prayers. God knows and understands; one day we will see how this outpouring of Good Works will have an effect on the everlasting Kingdom, but for now we are grateful for every brick you lifted and the efforts made. This is a work of long-suffering. Thank you for this soulfelt update.

  66. Praying for you, your family, and team. Blessings… and thanks for your Faithfulness. Thanks for sharing, and helping connect us with the reality of tragedy. Keep shining as a beacon of light; you’ve got a lot prayer support in this new time of trial. With thanks for God’s providential care for CWH.

  67. Chris and Leslie, You don’t know me, but I am a fellow adoptive parent (mine are from China). I have no direct involvement with Haiti other than wanting to adopt another child with Haiti as my top choice at the moment (yet no income to do it as a single mom with a bad job). Even in this detachment my heart is SO broken for these people. I cannot imagine how this must grieve your heart and especially you Chris for being so horrifically close to the destruction and death. I can just imagine you will be having some nightmares for a long time. I will pray for you all. Your daughter is beautiful and I’m glad she isn’t old enough to understand or remember this tragedy. I am so frustrated that I cannot do something. I have had almost no work for the last few months and don’t even know how I will pay my bills or buy food. I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore, though. I feel so blessed to have all that we do when these equally deserving people not only had such a difficult living situation but now must add this unfathomable tragedy and devastation. The effort from other countries seems to be huge and I just hope the effort doesn’t die down as time goes on and that people will carry on until there is some order restored. Sorry to ramble – I just feel so badly for the Haitians and those who serve God helping them, and your web site just brought me even closer to this disaster. PRAYING!

  68. You acted on instinct, and you are fallible like anyone. Decisions have so be made. Learn from your decision and hone your instincts. But your work is inspiring and I will pray that your strength remains to help these poor people. Stateside we are sending out as many messages as possible trying to get more people to donate. God Bless.

  69. “How beautiful are the feet of those….” Thank you for doing the work that you do. You were God’s hands and feet and heart and eyes – do not be discouraged in doing good!

  70. I think you should have gone back and continue working to free Jaqueline…it’s what I would have done. I couldn’t have been able to sleep knowing they were in that situation.

    • Nadira,

      You prove true the old proverb, “”Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

      It’s so easy to say what you would have done when you are saying it from the safety and comfort of wherever you are right now. You say, “I couldn’t have been able to sleep knowing they were in that situation.” Then how did you sleep last night ? or tonight? Why are you not on a plane or a boat to rescue the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people still alive and trapped under the ruble? You are a foolish woman to say such a thing. For all you know you would have been so overwhelmed by events that you could do nothing more than curl up in a fetal position, in need of rescue yourself.

      Do you not know how devastating your comments could be to a man already in anguish over an impossible situation? You should be ashamed.

      Chris, please do not let this person’s callous words rest in your spirit for one second.

  71. I am praying so God may give your heart and mind peace during all of this. I have never met you but I just read your story and it made me cry for Jacqueline and everyone that is going thru this. But I will continue to pray for you and your family and Jacquelines family too. God Bless you and help you in everything you are Haiti.

  72. Frankly, I don’t know if I’m more stunned by your actions or the people who can somehow defend your actions in the name of God. Not the God I’m familiar with.

    • I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I struggle when those opinions attack others, especially in situations such as this. It’s easy to be critical from the comfort of your own home and to say that you would do such and such. When you are in a moment of crises you do what you need to do. Chris saved one girl that night and returned to save others the next day and pull out many that were already dead. What did you do? Also don’t forget that Chris had a wife and a child at home that he couldn’t communicate with. He didn’t know if we were okay, and he knew that I knew he was there but had no idea where exactly or whether he was okay. Until you hold a loved one after something like this you can NEVER understand the decisions that get made. You just can’t. Please also remember that out of respect for the dead and injured there are a lot of things we have not shared. I pray that you never have to face the realities that are here right now.

    • Not the God you are familiar with? It seems doubtful that you are familiar with the one true God at all. If you were, you would know how vile and offense your self-righteous condemnation is.

    • Geri, I’m confused by your response. You are criticizing someone for helping people? Please reread the part where Chris explains that the reason he left the girl was precisely to go get more tools to help get her free. Nadira, if I were you, I might reread that part, too.

      Sometimes people will say things on blogs that they would not say to someone’s face. Please consider the story more closely next time before you publically critique someone with an honest and noble heart.

      Chris and Leslie are already flooded with e-communications, so I would ask that my comment not be responded to on this forum.

      Thank you for listening as I defend my friend.

  73. You are both doing amazing things, and living through a stunning situation- along with all of the people there. You helped. You continue to help. is it perfect? no, but perfect is impossible. You made sure you did everything you knew how to do, and then tried to do more past that. That is more then most of the humans on the planet ever do.
    Your story of what you went through on that day has been passed around, and will continue to be passed around, as it helps those of us so far away understand a bit more. it breaks my heart, but it also makes me think about being better, and doing more.
    Hang in there, keep your heads up, know you are doing good by these people and yourselves. There are some friends of your Brothers here in CAlifornia thinking about you guys and trying to help in our own way too- thanks to this posting.

  74. Keep up the Great ….. Amazing work Chris and Leslie. The shoes you walk in are your own. No one can fill or walk in them but you. Your eye’s and ear’s are your own and no one can imagine what you hear and see and how your feel. Hug each other and appreciate (I know you do) the blessings you have to the excursion of all comments.

    we pray for the people of Haiti

  75. Chris,
    My heart goes out to you with your decison you HAD to make. You did the the right thing. You helped Jacqueline and were able to calm her, and to pray with her. You had to go get more help and you knew it. Please dont question yourself…give it to our Lord. He knows what you did and what you tried to do. If you had stayed by yourself with the conditions you yourself could of been hurt or killed.
    Geri, as for your condeming words I feel sad for you, Chris saved a life and went for help to save more. Be at peace with your decison Chris. I have been to Haiti with Medical/Dental teams. I know the buildings and the structures, its amazing how any of them stood in the first place. Thank you to and Leslie for all your wonderful work you do in Haiti.. May God bless and keep you safe. I can only imagine what we dont see and what you are presently living.
    God Bless

  76. Thank you, so much for pulling people out. *misty*
    sounds like you did comfort jacqueline, and from what I’m reading in the nyt, medical help for people with sepsis wasn’t really available at the time. Then you went and helped more. I am glad there’s people like you on this planet with us.

  77. Chris, thank God you are okay! I was thinking of you and praying for your family the minute I heard the news. I’m so sorry for what you have been through and will pray for the peace that passes understanding. You’re awesome…but you are not Superman…you did all you could. Thanks for being there.

  78. Leslie, we are so very thankful that you and Chris are safe!

    I am writing from your mother’s church in Armstrong, BC, where we will be holding you in our prayers and sending financial assistance. May the God who weeps with you in your pain grant you continued courage.

    With you in Spirit,

    Rev Bari Castle
    Zion United Church

  79. God has shown you his work that He does everyday and you had taken part in carrying out your human effort, stay Blessed and draw more close to God, feel the presence of God in your heart and Peace, Prosperity, Hope and Care shall be given to YOU ALSO In The Name of Jesus. Amen

      • Thank you for asking! We live an hour north of Port au Prince, so we’re not in an area that was directly affected by the quake, and we’re about an hour south of the Artibonite Valley where the cholera outbreak started. Our area had some cases of cholera, but not as many as the harder hit areas. We actually took a 4 month sabbatical last fall/winter when our daughters adoption was finalized and it was a much needed break. We made a point of getting some post traumatic stress counseling, not only for the earthquake, but also for other things we’ve had to deal with in the past few years. Since being back in Haiti since January things have been going fairly well for us. We have had some mission issues to deal with but we’re moving through them as best we can. We really appreciate prayers and are encouraged when people want to know how we are, so thank you!

  80. Chris, thank you for documenting your expiriences. I have a personal favor to ask. My father In-Law (Gerard Duvivier, AKA “Trouble” or “Mr. Jay”), lives in Leogone (75 Portal Sierra). We have not heard from him, our hope is it’s because of the lack of the ability to get outside communications.

    Can you please ask about him in Leogone? We would greatly appreciate your assistance.

    Thank you!!!

  81. Chris & Leslie,
    A friend told me of your blog this morning. I must say, you are stronger than most people. I am very pleased to hear that you 2 and Olivia are ok. I wanted to let you know that my family & I are keeping ALL of you there in our thoughts and prayers. Blessed Be friend. Stay safe and know that what you are doing is awe inspiring.

  82. Hi Chris and Leslie, I have been receiving CWH newsletters and following your blogspot for about six years now since Barb J (my dear college friend) sent me the first note about your mission. You’ve done amazing work under much adversity. As to the situation with Jacqueline, you gave her a name so she could die with dignity and in peace with prayer, which is the most and best thing you could have done. Step back to the day you were there and know that you had no surety that she would pass on from unseen injuries that likely could not have been addressed even if she were freed, but rather that she would still be alive when you returned. You can’t prevent what you can’t predict. You gave her peace and hope. May we all be so blessed to have that in our last hours here. Please continue to consider the safety of your family as your first priority, as this horrific tragedy unfolds and likely spreads beyond PAP. The world needs more Chris and Leslie’s. Be safe. My prayers are with you and also with the Haitian people.

  83. Chris…. Be proud of yourself, you tried your best and think about this for a few moments…

    God, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    May God bless you my friend.

  84. I just want to let you know that everyone is praying for you and the people of Haiti. My school raised 12,000 dollars yesterday and every single cent will go to the relied effort. Stay strong.

  85. Hi Chris – Just so you know, your description in that first post really put me there with you and fired me up about helping out. I’ve been talking to lots of people about it and encouraging them to help. Without that kind of first hand description – especially with all its difficulties – it is basically impossible for us “over here” to see this as anything more than another headline. I’ll be reading some excerpts in church tomorrow as I encourage people to help the relief orgs. Then in a couple months I’ll come back and say “Ok. What are we going to do long term?” We prayed for you guys at dinner tonight.

  86. I read your post several days ago and wanted to respond, but didn’t want to do so without thinking it through first.

    I think you have rationalized what you did that day. It’s understandable. I certainly don’t envy you being in the position you were in. But at the end of the day, you left two dying girls alone and went home to bed without letting anyone else even know they were there.

    I don’t see how you can possibly feel peace about that.

    • I think you have to go back to Chris’s story and re-read it. He took care of her spiritual needs and that is what was most important before heading home to see if his family was still alive. He doesn’t have to justify himself to anyone but our Creator, who thankfully is very forgiving, merciful and gracious. Let us not judge eachother or be foolish with our words. Let us thank God for each day that we have and use it to the best of our abilities. May God grant us each the peace that only He can give.

    • Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…You (Jesus)are with me…He is always there…be at peace…

  87. And what was it that you did at the “end of the day” John? And at the end of all the days since? Blog? One of my favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    “Citizenship in a Republic,”
    Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

    I’ve been worried about you Chris. Glad you and your family are safe. Thanks for being someone, “In the arena.” You’re doing great stuff.

  88. God not only sends special angels into our lives, but sometimes He even sends them back again if we forget to take notes the first time! Stay strong and keep up the good work! You were in the place for a reason. Keep your faith we will keep you in our prayers.

  89. Chris, your report is so moving–to say the least. I read about it in the piece by George Pakcer in the Jan. 25 issue of THE NEW YORKER. Upon reading it, I had to go to your blog. And here I am. I am a poet for many years–more than 40–and I feel I must memorialize Jacqueline in a poem. I will acknowledge you and your work when I write the poem. I will also send it to you. Thank you for your work.

    Cheryl Clarke
    Jersey City, N.J.

  90. Chris, we are neighbors of your parents here in Vancouver. Our prayers continue to be with you and Leslie during this very trying time. May God continue to bless you as you faithfully carry on His work. Henry and Shirley Stubbe

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