Gary Hyppolite acknowledged that — even more than a year after the 7.0 earthquake which rocked the island nation of Haiti — not much progress has been made in the country's recovery.
"It's been a very rough year for Haitians," said Hyppolite, 45, who was born on the island, and is now trying to help Haiti through Bethel Mission Outreach, a ministry sponsored Southside Christian Fellowship in McDonough.
"Over one million people are still living in tents, with basically nothing. All of their belongings are still in plastic bags. It's a tragedy," lamented Hyppolite, a Stockbridge resident. He said he returned from Haiti on Dec. 30, and was supposed to head back Monday, until his flight out of Atlanta was cancelled, due to inclement weather.
Hyppolite said he is anxious to return to the disease-ravaged country that was nearly decimated the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. "It took the lives of over 230,000, some say more," Hyppolite said. "Even this past week, some were still recovering bodies. The cholera outbreak is still ongoing, and a lot of people are affected. Thousands have died, and something like 150,000 are infected."
Hyppolite makes regular visits to Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti, as part of the non-profit Bethel Mission Outreach. He said the Christian ministry has been working in Haiti since 2002. He spoke gleefully about its continued efforts to uplift the Haitian people.
"For us spiritually, I have to say things are looking up," Hyppolite said. "People are very receptive of our approach to the gospel."
The ministry has a church in Haiti called My Father's House Church, he said. The outreach effort hosts worship services for various Christian denominations, in a program known as the International House of Prayer, or IHOP.
"This is like the foundation of everything that we do," Hyppolite said. "We believe that the problem of Haiti is not on the economics, and it is not on the political, it is prayer. us spending time in the presence of the Lord, we believe we can help them.
"We spent Christmas in Haiti with the poor," he continued. "We worked all year, collecting empty shoe boxes and taking them to the church, or people who work with us ... and then, we purchased items and filled the shoe boxes with the gifts. This year, we took 767 shoe boxes [to Haiti]."
Hyppolite's pastor, Eddie Mason, of Southside Christian Fellowship in McDonough, said he was impressed the tenacity of Bethel Mission Outreach and its members. "The ministry has just been amazing," Mason said. "We've seen all kinds of people crying out to the Lord. We see prayer and education as a way to really bring change to the whole nation."
Mason, too, said efforts to provide for Haiti have been both inspiring, and discouraging. "I think that there has been a tremendous outreach to Haiti," the pastor said. "I am a little bit frustrated at how hard it is to get things into the country. We also are understanding that there has just not been a lot of progress.
"Yes, there has been a great outpouring, but I don't think there has been a whole lot of progress," continued Mason, who plans to travel to Haiti later this year. "It's just a place, internally, that continually needs our prayers and help. They've got a lot on them."
Mason said the outreach ministry has other programs that have proven successful in Haiti. He said an orphanage is being established. Hyppolite added that there is also a feeding program, which provides meals to children five days a week, and a school that is growing in the region.
"In 2006, we started a school, and we were meeting in a makeshift tent," said Hyppolite "We've been able to build a school this year."
The school was built on the parcel of land in Croix Des Bouquets that, a year ago, was covered in rubble, he said. It was completed in September 2010, and houses 287 students in first-through -sixth grades. The school's name is Ecole L'amour De Jesus Christ, which translated from French to English means, "Love of Christ School." The facility, he explained, took seven months to complete, using existing resources.
"We also have an electricity project that will benefit 103 families," said Hyppolite. "We installed electrical poles. People in this area, they basically would have gone without, if it weren't for an organization coming in to bring these power lines."
The ministry plans to aid in the building of several small –– 333-square-foot –– houses, which are being built and given away to needy families, said Hyppolite.
"It's a struggle, but we are excited that the Lord has given us the opportunity to serve," he said. "The Haitian people are loving, courageous people. It's incredible what these people have been through, but are still at it. I cannot imagine — I just know that these people are unique. I've learned so much, personally, this past year."