FORT WORTH—Perhaps it’s the helpless feeling of looking at a frail, premature baby through the clear, plastic shell of an incubator or the unease of getting an unexpected call from overseas when a loved one is serving his country in harm’s way.
It’s that tight feeling that vacuums all the air from a pair of lungs and grips the heart like a vice.
That same desperation accompanies waiting for word of survivors in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti’s capital to the ground on Jan. 12.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral student Precois Norcilus knows that feeling all too well.
When the Haiti native first heard of the quake, he was focused on a homework assignment. He said the magnitude of what had happened in his home country, where much of his family still lives, didn’t hit him right away. Norcilus said he thought, “Are my parents OK? Yes.”
“I didn’t check,” he admitted.
Norcilus said he realized how devastating the quake was after speaking with fellow student and Haitian Azer Lilite on campus. The two turned on the television and found what everyone else in the world watching television had begun to see.
“When I looked, I was very, very devastated,” Norcilus said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. How is my family? How are they right now?’”
With communication impossible for several days, it wasn’t until Jan. 14 that Norcilus was finally able to speak with his father, Francois Norcilus.
Francois Norcilus bore good news, and sorrowful news. While his immediate family survived the earthquake, one of the younger Norcilus’ aunts and her grandchild did not. Two cousins had broken limbs and two were still unaccounted for, as of the Jan. 14 phone call.
Lilite, also a doctoral student at Southwestern, said he received similar news.
“My youngest sister still lives in Haiti. She’s married and has three boys. I haven’t spoke to them since the quake, but my younger brother spoke to them right after the quake. Last night somebody called us from Haiti and told me they are all fine,” Lilite said.
While Lilite said his sister did suffer two broken legs in the disaster, the news of other family members may be grim.
“There is one cousin we are grieving. There is more possibility for him to be dead than alive. He was a professor and was teaching when the school collapsed,” Lilite said.
No news, he added, is the hardest thing.
Lilite’s family is still waiting to hear from some other cousins with whom no one has spoken since before the quake.
“No news is scary. We only want to hear good news or bad news,” Lilite said. “No news is painful.”
The grievous news both men received would have been far worse, they said, had all their siblings been living in Haiti.
Instead, the men said all but two of the brothers and sisters have come to America to study and learn so that they can one day return to Haiti to teach and care for their people, and in turn share the gospel with them.
“Most of my family [is] here going to school,” said Norcilus, who is working on his Ph.D. in Christian education. “One of my youngest brothers, his dream is to be in the medical field. Another brother is in the Baptist Missionary Association seminary in Jacksonville, Texas.
Norcilus said he hopes that by his coming to study in America, he will not only further his own knowledge, but will be able to take what he learns back to his country and invest in other Haitians.
“The passion of those people back home, they want to learn, but they do not have the resources. My dream is by 2020, even half the kids in my father’s school can go to university or trade school,” Norcilus said.
Lilite agreed, saying Haitians like himself and Norcilus have come here to further their education and get jobs so they may help fund the work back home, improve the lives and opportunities of their fellow countrymen, and to share the gift of Christ with them as well.
“There is an unknown side of Haitians: The courage and the will of Haitians to live well. As our motto says, ‘union makes strength.’ We want to be able to live. Not survive. Live,” said Lilite, who will soon complete his Ph.D. in music.
By coming to America to invest in his education, Lilite said he hopes he can be one link in unifying his nation and showing them real life in Christ.
“Part of what brings me here is that I want someday to have Haitians who can sing well, who know things of the world, who can worship and be fruitful. It will take not just the dream, not just the will, but it requires action. It requires protection. It requires the providence of God, because mostly, all the things that we have done from 1986 to today, in one day, it’s gone. Even our national palace,” Lilite said.
TEXAS CHURCH CONNECTIONS
Dale Norris, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Mabank, has taken his church members to Norcilus’ father’s schools and churches several times to build buildings, see to medical needs, and preach the gospel.
“We’ve been involved in maybe five trips now,” Norris said.
The Texas pastor explained how Francois runs two schools, two churches and one health clinic in Creve, Haiti, a sewing school for women, and a mission church, which is now destroyed, in Port-au-Prince.
“He has 1,000 students from first grade up to 12th. We support maybe 10 of those kids. We pay for a particular student, $15 a month,“ Norris said. “It is an oasis in the desert. They get a good meal when they come. If they don’t go to school, they don’t get a good meal.”
And once physical needs such as hunger are met, said the younger Norcilus, they can then begin to minister to the spiritual needs of their community.
“We have a saying back home that ‘a hungry man doesn’t have an ear.’ It’s really a good thing that people can see to their physical needs and with that they can share with them the gospel,” said Norcilus, who still travels back to Haiti to preach crusades with 2,000-plus Haitians in attendance each night.
Though the earthquake that took the lives of countless thousands of people is a tragedy in the highest regard, Norcilus said he is confident that God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, will use it to his glory.
“The best way we can help is pray for those who are hurting because even though the situation is tragic and painful, I believe something good will come out of it.”
Byron Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gun Barrel City, has taken groups from his church to Haiti to work with Norcilus and his ministries several times since 2006.
Jones said each time he and his mission teams go to Haiti, they find people eager to know more about Jesus.
“We’ve seen probably hundreds saved in the Vacation Bible School programs down there. I’ve never seen so many people hungry for the Word. They’ll sit 20 people to a bench and are so receptive,” Jones said.
Norcilus said he also plans to make a trip to Haiti in July, if not one sooner, as well.
With the destruction of Haiti’s capital, the loss of so many lives and the ravaging effects of such a disaster, Norcilus said the opportunity to share Christ’s love and salvation is just waiting for bold and willing takers.
The trip is tentatively set for July 30-Aug. 9. Norcilus said anyone interested in going may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was obtained with permission from the Southern Baptist TEXAN, the newspaper of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.