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Haiti mission organized by St. Petersburg church begins with a prayer

After arriving in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Saturday to help in Haiti, Vic Batist, 42, of Miami, left, and Jason Tickle, 33, of Fredericksburg, Va., pause to say a prayer.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

After arriving in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Saturday to help in Haiti, Vic Batist, 42, of Miami, left, and Jason Tickle, 33, of Fredericksburg, Va., pause to say a prayer.

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — It was a simple prayer, uttered in the Santo Domingo airport by a 42-year-old missionary from Miami. Like dozens of others getting off commercial flights from Florida on Saturday, Vic Batist had come to the Dominican Republic to oversee a relief effort for Haiti.

No easy job, which Batist's prayer reflected: "Dear Lord, please let us have clear roads and a safe trip to Haiti. Please let us get help to the people who need it."

On Batist's flight were about a dozen Haitians who were hoping for the same thing. A few carried yoga mats and sheets, planning to sleep outside — if they made it across the border. Some wore mud boots. Others wore suits, fit for a funeral.

Oriol Volmar, who arrived in Santo Domingo from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, hasn't heard from his parents in Port-au-Prince since Tuesday, when the earthquake struck.

"I don't know what happened to my family," he said. "I'm going to try to find them, then I'm going to stay for 21 days to help anyone who needs it."

A search-and-rescue team of 56 men from Poland arrived at the airport in striking mustard jumpsuits to hop a military flight to Port-au-Prince. The men were led by Capt. Greg Gorezynski and Arco the Wonder Dog, one of nine search dogs who made the trip from Warsaw.

They planned to fly into Port-au-Prince and dig through rubble by day with two doctors and four paramedics at the ready, then return to Santo Domingo each night to sleep in the airport.

"People from all over the world are here for Haiti and we're proud to be a part," said Gorezynski.

Outside the terminal, a French rescue team of about 10 men and women in blue jumpsuits crushed lit cigarettes into the pavement before piling into a minivan, headed for the border.

Batist, who was born in the Dominican Republic, marveled at the support pouring in.

"For too long many people here have been condescending about Haitians who come here and work for such low wages. But seeing this effort from all over the world makes it clear that we're all one," he said.

Batist, who was part of a team put together by Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg, was quickly learning that the trip would be complicated.

To cross the border in a rental van loaded with supplies required a letter from the rental company giving permission to go into Haiti, where the insurance no longer applied. Also, Batist worried about security: "A disaster plus supplies can mean problems, without protection."

Perhaps, he said, they needed to hire a security guard to accompany them.

"A guard wouldn't hurt anyone," he said, "just give the message that we're not a target."

Batist went to a milk distributing warehouse on the outskirts of the capital to negotiate a discounted price for 300 boxes of milk, which would be part of care packages the Calvary Chapel team of 14 — most of them from New Jersey — would assemble. Antibiotics, aspirin and cans of beans and juice would go in the packets, along with water filters sent by Calvary Chapel. Also, Bibles in Creole.

"Whatever kind of comfort we can offer, we want to give," Batist said.

Haiti mission organized by St. Petersburg church begins with a prayer 01/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:13pm]
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