Hello, my name is Katye Clark. I am the Operations President at LOAF Ministries, based in Les Cayes, Haiti. Ends Cycling rode for our organization in June 2019 during the Wagon Wheel Bike Ride 2019. Crazy to think it’s been four whole years! Since we last saw you, Nathan and I have gained guardianship of 3 more Haitian girls (we already had one) and 1 Haitian boy, we’ve had two biological children, bringing our total kids up to 8! So much has transpired since the last time we were together, but I’ll focus on what’s been going on for the past year or so.
It has been a year since we left our home in the early morning with only a few backpacks crammed full of our most essential items. Haiti had been sinking further into political turmoil for the past five years. Political protests began to intensify in 2018 when the government suddenly hiked gas prices (they were quickly forced to change course) and then again as the huge embezzlement scandal of the PetroCaribe fuel program became known. The people wanted then-president, Jovenel Moise, to resign from office, but no matter how loudly and violently they took to the streets, he never budged. In July 2021 President Moise was assassinated in the middle of the night by Colombian mercenaries; since then, the country’s downward spiral has only accelerated as a number of gangs have filled the vacuum of power in Port-au-Prince.
Anti-government sentiment had grown through the years for many reasons, one being a complete lack of action against “out-of-control” gangs. Without any real government structure, Jovenel’s power grabbing, and the following assassination, the gangs put a chokehold on the capital. The economic impact of this was felt around the nation. In short, the gangs controlled (and still control) all of the major highways and extorted commerce and transportation to finance their territorial battles.
In August of 2022, the Haitian people made a united effort to get their country back from the grip of the appointed prime minister, Ariel Henry, who took over the presidential role without election when Jovenel was assassinated. Besides largely ignoring the plight of the people, Henry was also a suspect in the assassination. This led to a complete lockdown of the country. Roads were blocked with flaming tires as means of protest throughout the country. People filled the streets in record numbers yelling, chanting, begging for control of their country.
While these protests had a sincere motivation, they often turned violent, with many protesters and bystanders being injured or killed. Businesses were ransacked, and houses of wealthier people were pelted with rocks. During this time, it was very dangerous to be in public places; we could only leave our home once or twice a week to fill our five-gallon jugs with drinking water or go to the grocery store to see what was even left to buy. Resources became increasingly scarce, and prices continued to skyrocket.
On September 7, our home was a victim of one of those protests. As the masses passed by, our home was hit with rocks and glass bottles, as I ran with my kids to hide in a safe room with no street-facing windows. It seemed to go on forever, and we began to wonder if they were trying to break through the gate of our apartment complex.
Finally, I got word from our neighbor that the group was moving on. At the same time, the air was filled with the gunshots of the police ringing out to break up the crowd. Keeping my children huddled and low, we stayed hidden as we waited for the crowds to disperse and the gunshots to go silent. We were not the intended target of this attack (it was a politician’s home just down the road from us), but it was too close for comfort. Sadly, this traumatic experience has shaped the way my 3 young 6-year-old girls see Haiti.
Widespread protests continued as one of the main gangs in Port-au-Prince made the decision to completely block the national fuel terminal until the prime minister stepped down. This further escalated the economic problems of scarcity and price increases. As a result, protesters began targeting banks, businesses, and large organizations with warehouses full of food throughout the country. The next few weeks were spent with little sleep and lots of worry and prayer. We listened anxiously for people in the streets even in the wee hours of the morning. Many people lost their lives as police tried to control the protesters and prevent widespread destruction.
On September 19th and 20th, a World Food Program warehouse close to our home was the focus of such a protest. When police prevented their entry, the crowd was routed down our street, and we once again hid in a back room as we listened to the bullets outside. I prayed for our safety and for us not to inhale the tear gas being used to disperse the crowds below. We watched men scale our two-story exterior walls, and while that day it was to get away from the police, could we be the target tomorrow?
Major cell phone companies were running out of diesel fuel to power their cell towers, and we faced the likelihood of losing phone and internet service, which would leave us completely cut off from the outside world. These events led us to make the decision to leave our home. So, early on the morning of September 21, 2022 we piled into our car and left our home, praying to make it safely to the airport in Les Cayes. We hoped to make it to Port-Au-Prince and get our 4 Haitian girls to the U.S. on humanitarian parole. The drive, which would take 15 minutes on a normal day, took over 2 ½ hours that morning as our Haitian ministry partner negotiated his way through a series of roadblocks guarded by men armed with rocks and machetes.
Once we made it to the airport, we found out that our flight had been canceled (the airport was closed). We made it to a hotel in a small nearby town, where we spent the next four days. We made two more attempts to get to the airport through treacherous conditions, picking up locals to help convince the men to let us through their blockades, only for those flights to also be canceled.
Things were getting desperate. Our family back in the U.S. managed to make contact with a helicopter pilot to pick us up in a field near the hotel. That event in itself felt like a chaotic scene from a movie, but the Lord was faithful, and we made it out of Les Cayes. We spent another long stretch of time in a hotel in Port-Au-Prince calling senators, contacting the U.S. Embassy – anything we could think of as the violence outside continued to escalate. And if the threat of violence wasn’t enough, Cholera made a resurgence because of increasingly unsanitary conditions.
Finally, God provided an avenue through some missionary friends, who had an empty house we could stay in temporarily in a secure location away from the protests with access to plenty of resources like food and water. We again took a helicopter to get there where we spent the next three and a half months. While there, the Lord opened the doors for our girls to be granted humanitarian parole, and we all safely arrived as a family in the U.S. on February 1, 2023.
Since then, we have continued to run LOAF ministries from afar. We hope to visit when safety allows, though such an opportunity seems more distant every week. The country of Haiti took a pause from the streets being full of protesters, however, kidnappings have continued to increase. Gangs have taken over more and more of the capital, affecting even those in the farthest provinces. We pray for Haiti daily and long for the day we can hug all our mommas again. Thankfully, the Lord has continued to provide for them through our supporters and our Haitian employees during this time.
Thank you to everyone at Ends who has loved and encouraged us through this past year as we have been through some of the scariest and wildest moments of our lives. The Lord is amazingly good! Though we’re not where we had expected to be, God has faithfully provided for us every step of the way.
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