Ramon Crespo was rushing around Wednesday afternoon trying to pull things together before he and colleagues at Lifechurch in Allentown, Pa., where he is the pastor, were to try to make their way — somehow — to the church’s orphanage in Haiti.
“We lost [contact with] our building,” Crespo said after a magnitude-7 earthquake Tuesday crumpled most structures in Port-au-Prince, the poverty-stricken capital of 8 million people. He and three other staff members from the nondenominational church were desperate to get to the site as quickly as possible, taking with them food, medicine and a tent to house the 11 children and five staff members.
They don’t know what they’ll find when they get to the orphanage, which the church operates along with with Hope Point Community Church of Spartanburg, S.C., and Rice Bowls, a nonprofit ministry that partners with orphanages in underdeveloped communities around the world.
“We’re expecting the worst,” said Crespo, whose mission is just the spearhead of an effort that will see his wife, Luz, and numerous other church members flooding the Santos neighborhood, where the orphanage once stood, in the coming weeks.
They’re not even sure how they’ll get there, because most flights to the country are canceled, and communications remain difficult.
Crespo planned to take the team on a flight Wednesday night to Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. From there, they hoped to find ground transportation and a route through the devastation.
Luz Crespo said the orphanage was hard to find even before the earthquake — it had no sign, for fear of attracting kidnappers. Most likely, she said, the Life Church team will have to get to Santos and start asking random strangers where the Americans have the orphanage.
The Life Church mission is one of hundreds being undertaken by churches, service groups and charitable organizations across the United States.
At Three Angels Children’s Relief in Salem, Va., Vanessa Carpenter was also trying to get to Angel House, the orphanage she founded in Port-au-Prince.
Carpenter said a “good portion” of a house for handicapped boys and adults collapsed, as did the orphanage’s new surgery center. Fortunately, all of the boys were safe.
“I appreciate anything we can do to create consciousness” of the plight of Haiti’s struggling children, he said.
By Bill Dedman and Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. NBC station WSLS of Roanoke, Va., contributed to this report.