By Lora Chance
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – The situation in Haiti is hitting close to home for members of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Savannah. Pastor Bill Roen takes Ascension members and others on a mission trip to Haiti twice a year.
"I'm just an old Haiti hand now," Roen told WTOC. "I've been there at least 20 times. I regularly lead groups of people down there on work trips. They're usually non-denominational, mixed groups of people who are concerned and want to reach out to help other people, some of the poorest and unfortunate people in the world, in the name of Christ."
While it is not an official ministry of the Ascension congregation, many members choose to support the International Village of Hope, a non-denominational Christian organization dedicated to helping the children of Haiti.
The International Village of Hope built and continues to operate an orphanage and two schools in Haiti: the Marechal Christian School and the Heroes of Savannah Christian School, named in memory of the Haitian soldiers who lost their lives during the Siege of Savannah in 1778. Both schools are located near the epicenter of Tuesday's earthquake.
"This congregation deeply cares about this," said Roen. "Many people in the congregation have adopted children in these schools and regularly give to these children to give them a better education and food. Members here have gone down to nail desks together, put roofs up, work with the children and the schools, play with them, laugh with them."
Church members have tried to contact Pastor Jean Gasnel Anilus, the principal of the Marechal and Heroes of Savannah schools, and Sue Witt at the orphanage in Port-Au-Prince but haven't heard back from them directly.
A Facebook post reports Sue Witt is in Port-Au-Prince. "She and the children/staff with her are safe. Their security wall is down and there are some other structure issues, but overall their building is in decent shape..."
Ascension members are praying and hoping for the best. International Village of Hope is continuing their financual support of the schools and orphange at their budgeted rate until they learn how much rebuilding and additional help will be needed.
Roen said additional help wil definitely be needed.
"If people want to help, we are ready to be the conduit through which their help can move to Haiti," said Roen.
Those who want to help, can direct gifts to "Haitian Relief" at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, #6 East State St., Savannah.