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The urban sprawl of Port-au-Prince spreads out from the coastline between mountains to the north and south. The metro area of three million people has no gleaming skyscrapers, only streets lined with ugly square concrete architecture, two to six stories high and rarely higher.

The capital's destruction was shockingly erratic. The January 12 earthquake left one building untouched, the next one reduced to debris. It's as though a giant danced a jig over the town, crushing buildings underfoot. A five-story children's hospital, for example, has become a head-high pile of rubble. The bodies have been cleared away, but the smell of rotting flesh from the estimated 200,000 fatalities lingers.

Every park and open space in greater Port-au-Prince overflows with tens of thousands of deeply traumatized quake survivors. There have been 33 aftershocks. Haitians are anxious and jumpy, refusing to spend time indoors. They sleep outside their perfectly sound houses; some congregations worship outside their unharmed sanctuaries.

An estimated one million residents have no homes to return to. Nearly all normal activity (work, school, family life) has ceased. One of the questions that has surfaced time and again among everyday Haitians living in huge squatter camps is, "What will we do with the rest of our lives?" Underneath that question, Haitians realize their lives will be measured by how they respond to the disaster.

Grief, Stress, Survival

Eleven days after the quake, Christianity Today spent one week in the coastal quake zone to discover how Christians and their churches were responding. Haiti is home to about 8,500 churches; of those, 80 percent are Roman Catholic and 16 percent are Protestant. Adventists and Baptists are the largest Protestant ...

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hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2010

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