When Haiti’s Guy Philippe was arrested on drug trafficking and money-laundering charges, and extradited to Miami last week, his loyal following took to the streets in angry protest.
Any American caught in the chaos was instantly in danger. Protesters who took to the streets were calling for American heads to roll. Gangsters were burning everything to the ground, and if it weren’t for Kate Bartow, an American missionary in Haiti who found herself smack in the middle of it all, it could have been a lot worse.
Bartow spoke with Faithwire about the multi-day ordeal, which she blogged about as it was happening.
The events that took place are nothing short of miraculous.
“God gave me favor with them,” she said.
Boy, did He ever.
Philippe has been on the D.E.A.’s most wanted list for some time – but he is also a revered hero in Haiti.
Fiercely loyal supporters quickly became unruly and the violence sparked fears of reprisals, as many were reasoning that if Americans took their Haitian, then they were going to take Americans.
International agencies rushed into action began withdrawing and evacuating foreigners to safety. From the New York Times:
Almost immediately, many members of Haiti’s parliament questioned the legality of expelling a man from his own country without so much as a hearing.
Then the violence started. In the southwestern city of Jérémie, furious mobs began throwing rocks, breaking windows and vowing to kill foreigners.
American missionaries were forced to flee their outposts and seek shelter at a United Nations compound. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service removed two dozen people from the region, while church groups hired private planes to evacuate volunteers.
Bartow was one of those foreigners at ground zero of the chaos, in Jérémie, staying at a friends place. When the embassy called to see if she wanted out, she didn’t hesitate.
The answer was eyebrow raising, to say the least.
Absolutely not. She was staying put.
“I felt peaceful about staying,” Bartow told Faithwire. “There was never a time where I felt afraid. God has not given us a spirit of fear.”
That’s quite a remarkable statement, given her knowledge that the rest of the Americans in the area were fleeing as fast as they could. It becomes even more remarkable upon hearing the rest of her story, which chronicles a chaotic several days hiding on rooftops, small rooms, and eventually being led on a motorcycle in the middle of the night to meet with the gang leaders organizing the violent protests.
Haitian roots run deep in Kate Bartow’s family. Fluent in Creole, her connection is generations old. Her great-great grandfather was a Haitian missionary. His son (her grandfather) was a missionary there as well. Her grandmother was Haitian. Her parents continued the family tradition of giving back and serving the people, and now Kate continues serving in Haiti as often as she can.
This latest trip, however, may have cemented her place in Haitian lore.
— Ayla Ferrone (@AylaFerrone) January 13, 2017
It all began when Hurricane Matthew ripped through the weary nation, destroying entire towns and killing over 1,000 people. Bartow was watching it all unfold in the relative comfort of the United States, and it wasn’t sitting well.
Unable to shake the feeling that she had to go and help, she finally went into work one day and spoke up.
“I told my boss that God is calling me to go to Haiti. I said I need about 3 or 4 months.”
Her boss agreed, and just like that, she was on her way. But even though she’d strongly felt God calling her to go, something wasn’t sitting exactly right.
“I felt uneasy. That never happens, because I’m always ready to be in Haiti. I absolutely love being there. So I just ignored it and decided ‘I’m going anyway.'”
So, she went. Almost immediately, she found the people trapped in a desperate situation. Many areas were destroyed and cut off. Supplies were far and few between, and things became so dangerous that hungry citizens were overwhelming food trucks whenever they arrived. Bartow summed up the scene in three words: “out of control.”
She’d been working only a few days when the D.E.A. got their man. Guy Philippe was arrested after doing a radio interview, and promptly extradited to the U.S., causing all hell broke loose.
“The drug charges, to the Haitians, that’s small potatoes to them,” Bartow said. “Given everything else going on, all the other problems they have. They don’t really care about that. They consider it petty.”
“He was the only man who stood up against Aristade back in the day. He’s a hero to the people of Haiti.”
Bartow knew about Philippe, but when the protesters launched into emotionally charged chants of “He’s my hero, my friend, my father, my liberator,” the legend became real.
“It made me realize what a big deal he is to them,” she said.
It also made her realize the amount of danger she could be in. Gangsters were looking for any remaining “blan” (white people) to exact their revenge on America.
Now, Bartow knew what all that unease was about prior to leaving America. This was no ordinary trip, but still, she would not be deterred. From her own blog, during the middle of the chaos:
Mackenzy and Jacques come to me with some news. All the blan have left. They are all at the UN base waiting to fly to Port. I am the last one here. This could go either way. Either everyone will be looking for me because they know I haven’t left and I will be a sitting duck or, they will think I’ve left and I am safe. Do I want to hide up here for another week? Will it pass? What should I do? I don’t feel endangered at all. Do I go to Port? My cousin lives about 4 hours from here and she said I could stay with her. I’d still have to fly to Port and then she’d pick me up there and take me to her house. I wish I had her skin color and hair. I wish I didn’t look so white. Am I putting my friends in danger by staying here? It is getting late and the wind has picked up. I won’t be sleeping on the roof tonight.
“You were born for such a time as this.”
Bartow has a simple philosophy on fear: “No one ever gets anything done based on fear.”
While she understood her friends desire to keep her hunkered down, she wasn’t exactly thrilled about sleeping on rooftops to avoid detection. During the day, she’d hang out in different rooms, blinds drawn shut. This went on for five days, and all the while she prayed fervently. She describes the scene in her blog:
Today is day two of waiting. Gun shots this morning. Hiding. Mackenzy, Jacques and I wake up and pray together. We listen to worship music and just sit in the golden sunlight I am not allowed to be seen outdoors. If God is trying to teach me patience this would be the way to do it… Every motorcycle we hear, every gunshot, has everyone in a panic. I feel calm and prepared.
It was during this extended time of hiding and prayer when she began thinking about a particular Biblical figure.
“One of my favorite books in the Bible is Esther. I always thought she was the most rock solid soldier,” she explains.
Esther, of course, risked her life by going before the King and revealing that she herself was Jewish, and that Haman was plotting to kill the Jews. This could’ve ended very badly, but the King favored Esther and the Jewish people were saved.
My heart is heavy. I wish I could do something. I am sitting here. Its been days. Hiding. Waiting. Worrying for the safety of my friends protecting me. I pray. I have an idea. I don’t know if it will work. One of my all time favorite books in the bible is Esther. She stood up for her people and her country even though she could be killed. She listened and she acted. She did what she knew was right no matter what might happen. “You were born for such a time as this.” I believe that we are all born for such a time as this. Every single day, to stand up for what’s right no matter what. No matter the cost. If I go and speak with the leaders of these protests and it goes well, then I will be safe and the other plan (white people) will be safe. If it doesn’t go well, I could be severely hurt or maybe even killed.
I tell Jacques I want to speak with the leaders and tears come into his eyes.
Simply going and explaining yourself, that you’re for the people and want to help them, isn’t as simple as it seems. These are gang leaders. “It’s like the mafia,” Bartow says. “They say kill. They kill.”
That night, Bartow hopped on a friends motorcycle and sped off into the night. She was cloaked in a hoodie, and they rode straight into a ghetto. What happened next is awe inspiring. Here’s how she described the meeting, just after it happened:
It is dark. It is rainy. We meet a motorcycle at the bottom of the hill. I pull the hood over my head and clutch the bottom of it to keep it wrapped around most of my face. We go to an area that I’ve never been in town. It is dark. The buildings we stop in front of are pitch black. No light. This can’t be right. This can’t be where everyone is. We walk up to a door where a guard sits in a chair in front. Jacques asks for the people we are looking for. The guard points to the next door over. There are two big metal doors that are more like the doors to a garage than a building. We enter and are in a room totally empty except for a generator and a small dim lightbulb hanging from a wire. We continue through and there is a long hallway with a light at the end. We walk through the long hallway and into a room full of men sitting in a circle. They are big and strong. Tight t-shirts. Gold chains. A huge beautiful Haitian flag hangs, covering the whole wall. A short haired woman greets us at the door. She is tough. She is like a soldier. She brings us into the hallway and we discuss everything and are brought back into the room. I am not nervous. I am not afraid. I was made for such a time as this. I tell them I want to stand with them. They ask me to join them in the rally the next day and to meet them in the morning. I ask if I can interview them and they tell me to do it tomorrow during the rally. They promise safety over me, all my friends and all my family. I will have three guards tomorrow as well. They say they will not burn things anymore because I tell them it doesn’t do anything but ruin their town. A huge weight is lifted off my shoulders. No more hiding. These people are the high leaders of this protest. God gave me favor with them.
So impressed were these tough men, they immediately favored Bartow. She was now “Solda” – which means “soldier” – and they said she and all of her family and friends would be safe.
The gang leaders would eventually bring her to the rally the next day. Here she is, marching with the people.
She spoke boldly in front of 4,000 people. She explained that Americans were not against them, that the people want to help Haitians, not hurt them.
“They just wanted to be heard,” Bartow says. “If we’re called to be missionaries, then we better be prepared to stay. If we really stand for the people, if we really feel called to a certain place – He’s going to protect you. He’s gotta.”
“If we’re afraid to die, well, then what is the point of our faith? If we live with passion and purpose, then we don’t have a need to be afraid.”
Shortly after the meeting, a radio announcement was made by the rebels that the ‘blan’ were not to be touched.
As I spoke with her on the phone, she was returning to Jérémie for the first time since the meeting. She had to go pick up a relative at the airport. She couldn’t speak for more than 30 seconds without the locals crowding around, trying to speak with her.
“I wish you could see this,” she tells me. “There’s smoke, dogs, and everyone is pulling at me, wanting to say hello.”
There’s a bit of relief in her voice, even a touch of euphoria. From the sounds of it, she’s a bit of a local celebrity in town now.
“Here’s one of the gang guys now, telling us hello.”
Bartow remains in Haiti, and is continuing the much needed work for a people in desperate need. The biggest need, she says, is construction supplies. The best way to get them to the people is through monetary donations via trusted sources, as the roads are so bad in Haiti it’s difficult to move and deliver specifically ordered supplies to various towns.
If you’d like to help the people of Haiti, visit FLC7.com
(h/t News 10)