Kansans hear good news and offer lots of aid

Answers to prayer come in surprising forms.

Sue Love had just gone to sleep at her Montezuma home during the wee hours of Thursday morning after spending most of the previous day and a half praying for the safety of her husband, Greg, who was on a short-term missionary trip to Haiti.

All she knew was that an earthquake had rocked the country and that the two members of the 11-person missionary team that were reported to be safe didn't include Greg.

Then about 1:30 a.m. Sue was awakened by a text message:

"This is Linda. I'm with Greg. We're OK and safe. He sends his love."

"I was very guarded about that," Love said. "I didn't know who Linda was. I was feeling uneasy."

Love texted back and got a reply a few hours later.

Linda said the team was sleeping on mattresses outside and that Greg and others were craving Pepsi and ice cream.

Love breathed a sigh of relief.

"I thought, 'OK, I can totally imagine these guys lying on the ground talking about Pepsi and ice cream,' " Love said.

Later she also learned that Linda was Linda Springer and a team member from New York. Greg Love was one of six Kansans on the team, including three from the Morningside Community Church in Montezuma.

And, yes, all were safe. Greg managed to use a generator and Internet technology to rig up a cell phone and call his wife later Thursday morning.

Kansans joined others around the country in scrambling to learn how friends and family members in Haiti were doing.

Because cell-phone towers and other lines of communication were destroyed, those reports remained spotty Thursday — two days after the devastating earthquake rocked Haiti. The Red Cross in Haiti estimates between 45,000 and 50,000 people were killed.

Offering assistance

At the same time, Kansans continued to respond to the disaster.

Kansas Air National Guard members are helping assess personnel and equipment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting said 48 members of the 190th Civil Engineering Squadron from Topeka's Forbes Field went to Guantanamo on Jan. 4 as part of their annual training. But now those airmen's duties will be shifted to helping in relief efforts.

Numana, a Kansas-based international hunger relief organization that partners with the Salvation Army, has decided to double its efforts in El Dorado today and Saturday by putting together 570,000 food packages to be sent to Haiti.

That's twice the amount Rick McNary, Numana's CEO and president, had planned for volunteers to help package. Putting that with what was already in stock will allow the group to send close to a million meals to Haiti.

"But they're going to need millions more," McNary said.

Volunteers will gather around tables to put rice, soy, freeze-dried vegetables and vitamins into a pouch that is then sealed.

Those interested in helping may go to the El Dorado Civic Center at 201 E. Central from noon to 10 p.m. today or from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. McNary said he expects to have 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers during the two days.

He said the meals will be flown by the Salvation Army to Haiti once the airport in Port-au-Prince reopens.

Word from loved ones

Meanwhile, individuals tried to keep track of friends and loved ones in Haiti.

For a second straight day, Ashley Burns heard by e-mail Thursday from Jan Thompson, her missionary friend in Haiti. Thompson moved a few years ago from El Dorado to Gonaives, which is about 100 miles south of Port-au-Prince.

In Thursday's e-mail, Thompson wrote about fights breaking out at gas stations and shortages of food and water.

She wrote about concerns over reports that prisoners had escaped after the main prison in Port-au-Prince had been destroyed. In fact, the United Nations told the Associated Press that the prison had collapsed.

"We are still experiencing tremors but not as often as before," Thompson wrote. "We have enough food and water and fuel to last a week or two.

"The banks are closed. We desperately need cash. We know we have so much to be thankful for, but we are still aware our situation is serious."

As for Sue Love, she was grateful for Thursday's scratchy cell-phone call from her husband.

"He sounded great," she said. "It's been a life-changing event for them."

Greg Love and the other team members had arrived in Haiti on Tuesday just hours before the earthquake.

The team went to Haiti to put a concrete roof on a church in Carrefour, a neighborhood in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

Greg told his wife that the house where the team was staying sustained serious cracks but remained standing. To be on the safe side, they are sleeping in the courtyard outside.

A three-story house across the road was completely destroyed.

Greg joined the other team members in digging people out of the rubble.

"They're not able to do what they went there to do," Sue Love said, "but they're helping. They're taking care of people.

"I sensed from the beginning that God had a reason for them flying into Haiti on the day of the earthquake."

Her husband and the other team members were scheduled to return to the U.S. on Jan. 22. Now all plans are up in the air.

"Just day to day, keep working at whatever they can do," Sue Love said.

But just knowing what she does, she added, "It's a lot better now."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle