Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > 2010 > January 2010 > News - January 2010
‘We were spared to help,’ Haiti volunteers believe

Haitian children eat a meal distributed by Bolivian United Nations peacekeepers.
UN Photo/Marco Dormino.

A UMNS Report
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
UPDATED 5:45 PM EST | Jan. 19, 2010

They arrived in Haiti the day before the massive earthquake that rocked the nation Jan. 11, and only got back home to Indianapolis six days later.

Gary and Kay Walla describe their ordeal in Haiti via Skype.

But Kay and Gary Walla, mission volunteers from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, are ready to go back to Haiti when the rebuilding starts.

“We are raising funds for immediate medicine and food needs, and gathering building supplies for a future trip,” Kay said. “We are looking for medical personnel who are going there now and willing to transport what we’re collecting.

“The Haitians are a hardy people. They can sleep on the ground, but without food and medicine, they’re going to die.”

The Wallas went on their first mission trip to Haiti in 1999 and “fell in love with the place,” Kay said. Since then, they have traveled there once or twice a year, mostly working on construction projects.

‘The wall came crashing down’

Arriving in Haiti Jan. 11, their team of nine was ready for a typical mission experience, painting classrooms and installing electrical lights in a school and orphanage in Fondwa.

“We stayed in the guesthouse, a half mile from the school of about 450 kids and the orphanage of 50 kids,” Kay recalled. On Monday evening and Tuesday morning, they visited the orphanage and the school.

“It was the longest night of the world. But the heavens were filled with beautiful stars, and our faith gave us strength that we were not alone.”

After lunch, the volunteers sanded the rooms they intended to paint the next day. “We walked back to the guesthouse about 4 p.m.”

Suddenly, Kay recalled, “a tremendous sound like a jet hitting our roof occurred. The building swayed and tilted, light appeared through gaping cracks, and the inside wall came crashing down into our room.”

They moved as far from the building as possible and reassembled with their teammates, who reported the orphanage withstood the shock and the children were OK physically.

“It could have been much worse,” Kay said. “Had we been at the school when it hit, all of us, with 450 children, would be gone. Had it occurred while we were at dinner at 6, all the sisters and the team would have been buried in the dining room in the bottom level of the guesthouse.”

The team began rationing remaining snacks. They got clean water from the orphanage. “As the dew fell and the temperature dropped, we got colder,” she said. “It was the longest night of the world. But the heavens were filled with beautiful stars, and our faith gave us strength that we were not alone.”

Their next concern was letting their families know they had escaped injury. “We were totally isolated from the world. Cell towers were down, we had no radio contact and the roads were blocked.

“We had devotions before settling down for another cold night on the mountain,” Kay remembered. “As we sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ we heard the Haitians echoing in Creole. The stars were brilliant again and no rain, thank God.”

The long road home

“We could see no way anyone was coming for us. But a blessing came down the mountain on a motorbike, a Haitian Academy doctor.

We invite you to join the dialogue. Share your comments.

Post a comment

“After tears and hugs all around,” she said, “he went to the injured in our community, setting a leg and an arm with sticks, cleaning wounds. He took our families’ numbers and vowed to return to his clinic to use the landline to reach someone for us. He did just that, reaching our daughter, Carla, who in turn passed the good news along that we were OK.”

Early the next morning, they hiked a mile up the mountain and rented motorbikes to get to the nearest town.

“We went to the village of Leogane, which we learned was 90 percent destroyed.” Their contact in Leogane drove them to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince Saturday morning.

“We looked like the refugees we were. Not in a bed since Monday and lacking toiletries, we simply said, ‘Thank God, we are alive and here and there is hope we can get out.’

“The airport was an exciting drama: huge planes arriving with pallets of food and supplies, search-and-rescue people coming in, and small planes evacuating injured.”

The Wallas arrived in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon.

“We ache for all Haitians,” Kay said. “They are a warm and friendly people whose compassion accommodated us.”

Supporting emergency relief!
Share this site with your friends.

What are the needs now? “Prayer is number one,” she replied. “Next is money for medicine, food and shelter. Down the road, we will need volunteers to help rebuild schools, clinics and orphanages.

“We believe we have been spared to help.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


Gary and Kay Walla describe their ordeal in Haiti via Skype

Downloadable video resources from UMNS and UMTV


Photos from team in Haiti

Related Articles

Worshippers remember Haiti in prayer, song, gifts

Survivor: UMCOR trio kept faith in Haiti ruins

Haiti quake survivor vows return following her ordeal

Hope in God supplants grief in Haitian congregation


Earthquake in Haiti: The Church Responds

God, Why? Small Group Study

St. Luke's United Methodist Church

Comments will be moderated. Please see our Comment Policy for more information.
Comment Policy

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW