“Kumbaya,” the Negro spiritual pleading with the Lord to come and bless the oppressed, filled the sanctuary of Parkridge Baptist Church at a prayer service for Haiti, its capital paralyzed by gang violence.

“It is fitting that Haiti and friends of Haiti, as many of you are, would make this plea to God,” encouraged Hubermann Larose, associate pastor and worship leader of Redemption Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, one of several Haitian Southern Baptist congregations participating in the two and a half hour event at Parkridge Baptist sponsored by Food for the Poor (FFTP).

“Come over to Haiti and help us, Oh Lord,” Larose implored.

The multiethnic gathering of pastors, FFTP leaders and ministry members cried out to God for help hours after a transitional council began its task of establishing order and democracy in Haiti two months after gangs overtook with violence the capital city of Port-Au-Prince. Gang violence continued even as the council was sworn in April 25, Reuters reported, with gang leader Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier warning council members to “brace” themselves.

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In the long-brewing civil crisis that escalated Feb. 29 to an untenable level, gangs have taken over 80 percent of Port-Au-Prince and are said to be better armed than Haiti’s National Police. About 100,000 members of various gangs have unified, killing 15 police officers and killing or injuring more than 2,500 people between January and March, according to U.N. estimates.

Between 400,000 and 450,000 have been internally displaced, FFTP said at the prayer event, and 2.5 million are facing critical food insecurity. FFTP has resumed limited operations after violence forced them to close for three weeks, leaders said. FFTP has been able to retrieve about 90 of 150 containers of food that arrived in Port-Au-Prince before violence closed the seaport and airport, leaders said, with food distribution continuing as gangs allow residents to receive supplies.

“It’s amazing that people are surviving, and that’s a testament to the people in Haiti,” FFTP CEO Ed Raine said. “They have taught us how to survive in really the most difficult of circumstances. Not only are our beneficiaries suffering, but we are suffering as well.”

Keny Felix, senior pastor of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami and president of the Southern Baptist Convention National Haitian Fellowship, joined other leaders in offering hope.

“God has really allowed you to identify with the people of Haiti, and we praise Him for that,” Felix said, envisioning a God-restored Haiti known for spirit-filled worship, natural beauty, art and cuisine, instead of violence, poverty and instability.

“There are many who are very discouraged in Haiti right now, and the greatest defeat that Haiti could ever have is if the people of God also lose sight that we serve the God of impossibility,” Felix said, “if we begin to throw the white flag in defeat of the enemy.

“In Revelation 7:9, when we speak of the people of every tongue, of every tribe, of every nation standing before God, I believe there are going to be a lot of Creole speakers up there,” Felix said. “God has love for the people of Haiti.”

Focused prayers called on God to intervene in Haiti in the areas of gang violence, the government, hospitals and medical care. Prayers in English and Creole pleaded for God’s mercy, the repentance and restoration of the people, and peace and security on the island.

“We ask God that you would do exceeding, abundantly above all that we can think or imagine for your glory and for your honor,” Parkridge Lead and Teaching Pastor Eddie Bevill prayed. “I also pray God for those many in Haiti who do not know you as their Lord and Savior.”

At FFTP’s Coconut Creek headquarters, volunteers have packed nearly 8,000 disaster hygiene kits, 2,010 women’s care kits and other supplies, FFTP said.

The violence has driven mission teams out of Haiti, including two staff members of Louisiana Reach Haiti who returned safely to Louisiana in late March.

Several pastors from the more than 350 Haitian Southern Baptist congregations in Florida were also trapped.

This article has been republished with permission from Baptist Press.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.