Random thoughts on Life, Leadership, & Messy Spirituality

“Our Haiti Work” in Local Newspaper

This article about our Eagle Pointe work in Haiti appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal Newspaper:

ACWORTH – Howard Koepka, lead pastor of Eagle Pointe Church on Old Stilesboro Road, didn’t hesitate to mobilize into action when he heard of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January.

Koepka, 42, knew only one person with ties to Haiti: a friend in south Florida. He got his friend on board and convinced five church members to join the two to deliver 15 suitcases filled with supplies to Port-au-Prince six days after the earthquake. Since then, Koepka has taken a second disaster relief trip and is planning a third in late May.

The pastor of the 400-member Acworth church said the devastation left in the wake of the earthquake in the Caribbean nation is vast. Most buildings collapsed and people are still in need of aid and medical attention, he said.

“It was pretty horrible. The devastation was just unfathomable,” recalled Koepka. “I’ve been in disaster relief before – hurricanes, mudslides in Costa Rica – but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw there.”

On Feb. 28, Koepka returned with 10 church members for a weeklong trip back to Port-au-Prince. At night, they slept outdoors at Quisqueya University. During the day, the team distributed aid to victims from a 40-foot shipping container they sent ahead of them that was loaded with food, water and medical supplies donated by members and friends.

Beverly Lense, a Canton pediatrician, was one of the Eagle Pointe parishioners who traveled to Haiti on the second relief trip. Most of the serious injuries had been treated by then, but many Haitians were in need of medical aid, she said.

“All the hospitals and a lot of medical clinics had collapsed, and people just had nowhere to go for medical care,” said Lense, 44.

“There were still lots of wounds that needed to be taken care of that hadn’t healed, fractures that hadn’t healed and then just routine stuff – high blood pressure, scabies, fungal infection – where just nobody had any access to care or supplies.”

Lense plans to return to Haiti for Eagle Pointe’s third relief trip with a team made up of about 10 church members.

The first trip caused Koepka to immediately think of how more people can contribute, he said. He said he is currently coordinating the upcoming trip, finding out what supplies are needed and what other churches and medical teams are interested in lending a hand.

“I was talking to a bunch of churches before our second trip and I asked a couple hundred pastors if they’re helping in Haiti and they were like, ‘No,'” Koepka said. “I was like well why and they said, ‘We don’t know anybody, we don’t know where to go, where to stay or what work we would do.'”

As a result of his conversations, Koepka said he has been able to find more volunteers from the U.S. and other countries. He has also created a new Web site still under construction, HaitiConneXus.org, to recruit more organizations to the cause.

“There’s no way that Eagle Pointe Church, any church or any group alone is going to do a whole lot,” he said. “The problem there is so enormous. It’s really overwhelming when you sit back and think about the magnitude of the problem there.”

Given the great need for help in Haiti, Lense said she remains hopeful that the country can rebuild.

“There’s hope, if people cannot forget about them and people continue to go down there and offer assistance,” she said. “It’s going to be a longstanding need to rebuild the system and get these people routine medical care.”

Koepka said of his church’s continued donations, “It’s just mind blowing to see the people of our church and how they’ve responded, let alone their friends, co-workers and staff who they’ve told about it and how those people have stepped up.”

Anyone interested in donating aid to Eagle Pointe Church is asked to e-mail howard@eaglepointe.org or call (770) 421-1643.

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