Nou Kapab ("With God We Can")

By Joe Walters, vice president of Young Life Latin America

After the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, the first thing Chedrick Caneus, national director of Young Life Haiti (called “Jenn Vi” in Haitian Creole), did was confirm the safety of the Young Life team. After informing us that "all our leaders are alive, thanks to God," Chedrick, along with his family and these leaders, started responding to the many needs flooding in around them.

The reputation of Young Life in Haiti is such that, immediately following the earthquake, many made their way to Chedrick's home, which also serves as the main office for Young Life. The house is located in Delmas, one of the main areas of significant damage. Chedrick is not only the Young Life national director, but also the headmaster for a school of 1,600 students. The Good Shepherd school and its church were destroyed, as were most of the leaders' homes.

For several weeks after the quake, many of the staff, volunteers, Young Life kids and their families lived in tents pitched in front of Chedrick's house, and used this as a home base for ministering to those who needed help. At that time Chedrick said, "We live outside of our house under a burning sun during the day and an atrocious cold at night. We [have to] to sleep on sheets on the ground." During those early weeks, Chedrick gave food and water to about 100 people every day.

The people came to the house because there’s an established trust with Chedrick and the Young Life team. “Despite all the difficulties we try to keep our smiles,” Chedrick said. “Every day we receive the visits of leaders and young people who expect with hope [that we can help them]. Their faces explain very clearly they’re already suffering from hunger and thirst and they’re waiting for the help of heaven, like God’s people who were in the desert.”

With this help, there is hope. There’s a slogan the Haitian staff adopted this past year, “Nou Kapab” which means “With God WE CAN!” They are living out this truth hour by hour, day by day. The team continues to bring hope and healing to a hurting country, just as they did before the quake.

For the long term

Young Life has had a presence in the lives of Haitian kids since 1982, when Charlie Scott, longtime Young Life staff, started the school in Pele. Seventeen years later in October of 1999, Chedrick officially began our ministry to kids living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It’s not an overstatement to say the work has exploded ever since. Today we have seven full-time staff, 30 student staff and about 100 volunteer leaders, all Haitian. Here’s a snapshot of our work in Haiti: we’re in seven cities, and we have 16 clubs with about 1,000 kids attending each week. This is a world-class team doing a phenomenal job of reaching lost teenagers with the Good News about Jesus.

“[Haitian kids] need people to come and help them know they’re not alone — that God is always with them,” Chedrick said. “We represent God in the world. For me, I represent God in Haiti; I am the eyes of God in Haiti, I am the hands of God in Haiti.”

The last 11 years have been amazingly fruitful ones in Haiti, where hundreds of kids have come to know the Savior’s love. While obviously tragic in its devastation, the earthquake will not dampen our spirits, nor our call to the kids of this country. Young Life is committed to being here for the long term — in the rebuilding of homes and buildings, but even more importantly, in the rebuilding of lives.

Overcoming

Hardship, of course, is not isolated to Young Life Haiti. Throughout the mission’s history, Young Life leaders have experienced devastation, unrest and turmoil around the world — and helped kids and adults overcome these tragedies.

We’ve seen the social and political upheaval in Africa. We’ve endured natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. And we’ve witnessed the persecution of believers in certain Asian countries. Throughout all these, the mission has been committed to the long-term care of the spiritual and physical needs of people in these communities, and we will continue to do the same with the dear people of Haiti.

The family responds

Over the past few months, we have wept with joy and with sadness over what Chedrick has shared. The Young Life family around the world is standing with him and the Haitian team during these very difficult days. We continue to collect donations to help them with any immediate physical needs. We’re also committed to helping rebuild their homes, their church, their school and their meeting places. This second part will take time, but it will happen.

The Young Life website has created a Haiti Update Page* for the latest updates, and a recovery fund has also been established if you’re in a place to help financially. These funds will:

  • Help our team in Haiti with immediate needs of food, water, medicine, temporary shelter, etc.
  • Help with the reconstruction of homes, Young Life offices and club rooms.
  • Support the Young Life ministry in Haiti. Financial support will help ensure uninterrupted funding of our staff and leaders there.

I’m very proud of Chedrick and the staff and volunteers in Haiti and I ask you to continue praying for their safety and health and for the future recovery from this devastating earthquake.

Through it all, Chedrick’s faith remains buoyant. “I thank you very much for everything,” he said. “I want to [assure] all of you that we are more than ever decided to continue to work for God in Haiti in reaching the kids for Him. If we are still alive after the quake, it is the fruit of a miracle and we have a debt to God (to work for Him). We were made for this … and with God we can!”

*For more updates on Haiti and to give to the Haiti recovery fund, go to younglife.org and click on the Young Life Haiti Update link in the Quick Links box.