Deeply moved

I never dreamed I would see this...

Over the weekend while in Haiti, we visited the city of Onaville -- which is about a mile and a half from the mission which is home to our Mercy Chefs kitchen that was recently destroyed by fire.

+ + A tent city... transformed!

A few years ago, Onaville was nothing more than a "tent city" -- a place the poorest of the poor in Haiti were relocating in hopes of a better life. Providentially, God placed our kitchen just a short distance from this tent city. And over the years, that tent city has become a real city of 90,000 residents with homes and buildings and businesses. 

How did it happen?

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Heavy heart

As we prepare to leave Haiti, I'm departing from our brief trip with a heavy heart and mixed emotions.

God is writing an amazing story here (read more here). We see great accomplishments, but they stand in the midst of still almost overwhelming need. And now, we must rebuild the kitchen which has stood as a beacon of hope at the epicenter of a powerful mission that is impacting hundreds of thousands of lives.

We will need a few days to finalize our cost estimates, but I am now expecting the total cost of the kitchen rebuild to approach $80,000 -- about double our initial estimate. And we are already under intense time pressure to get this done. I'm turning to friends like you. Please go here to help Mercy Chefs rebuild this vital kitchen and continue other efforts, and see my update from yesterday on the amazing story God is writing in Haiti!

Gary LeBlanc

P.S. Our expected costs to rebuild the kitchen have doubled, but the thought of abandoning the project because it has now become hard or expensive is abhorrent to me. We cannot leave this work unfinished! I will not abandoned these good folks who are doing such a great work. Please prayerfully consider how you can help, and thanks in advance for your support.

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A "God story" in Haiti

We've been on the ground here in Haiti for a little over 24 hours, and the reality of the challenge ahead of us in rebuilding this kitchen is hitting us -- while at the same time we marvel at the amazing "God story" that has happened through this kitchen.

As I noted to you last night, our team is still working on the rebuild plan and the cost, but it is clear after seeing the situation firsthand, the actual cost could be double my initial estimates.

First, the damage from the fire was just as it was described to us -- a total loss. The equipment was totally destroyed and the building needs so much work that a rebuild from the foundation will undoubtedly be the best option.

Second, the kitchen is meeting a much greater need and fulfilling a much larger purpose than when we built it nine years ago. Today, this kitchen is at the hub of a thriving mission and community that includes a school for 600 children, two orphanages, a distribution center, and a hospital with three operating wings and a dental clinic -- in addition to supporting the many U.S.-based mission teams that come here to minister.

+ + How God providentially placed this kitchen...

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Report from Haiti (video)

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Post-fire makeshift kitchen (photo)

I wanted you to see the makeshift "kitchen" that is being used right now in Haiti in the aftermath of the fire....

They have a gas burner, a few pots and pans, and a massive amount of determination to make the best that they can of a difficult situation.

This is why I'll be on the ground in Haiti TOMORROW to further assess the situation and finalize Mercy Chefs' plans to rebuild the kitchen.

It would take a financial miracle, but I would love to tell the people there that caring friends across America have stepped up in an amazing way to fund most or even all of the rebuild costs!

I'll be updating you tomorrow from Haiti. For now, see below for more details on the fire and our rebuild plans -- and go here to make your best possible tax-deductible gift to help Mercy Chefs rebuild in Haiti and continue other vital efforts.

God bless!

Gary LeBlanc

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Fire devastation: orphans ran to help

We are learning more details regarding the Haiti kitchen fire as we make final preparations for the trip I will be leading on Saturday to further assess the situation and finalize our rebuild plans.

A few have asked how the fire happened. It appears to have been caused by an electrical issue or equipment malfunction. We are most thankful that there was no loss of life or further damage to the mission because THERE IS NO FIRE DEPARTMENT to speak of in Haiti! This is not America -- Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with 60% of the population living on less than $2.41 per day. An American firefighter who happened to be in residence at the mission did everything in his power to stop the blaze, but with no firefighting equipment or emergency support, he was limited in his response. 

It was gut wrenching to hear that the children from the orphanage ran in the direction of the fire to offer their help. This was their kitchen! (Of course, they were kept at a safe distance.)

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UPDATE on kitchen fire

If you missed my message from yesterday on the Haiti kitchen fire, please click here to read.

Things are developing very quickly as we rush to make the near-impossible goal of having this kitchen rebuilt by June 1. So much has to come together so quickly. That's why I'm heading to Haiti on Saturday with a small team from Mercy Chefs to further assess the situation and finalize our plans.

As I noted to you yesterday, I'm committing Mercy Chefs to this kitchen rebuild, which we originally estimated at $40,000 but could easily exceed that by 25% or more. We simply don't have these funds in our budget, but I'm stepping out in faith. It would be incredible if we could have at least half of the funding by the time we are on the ground in Haiti this weekend. If you want to help, please go here to make your tax-deductible gift directly to Mercy Chefs. And see below for more details on the fire and our plan to rebuild.

Gary LeBlanc

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Fire destroys kitchen!

It is with great sadness that I share this news with you...

As we were in our final days on the Florida Panhandle, I received word that Mercy Chefs' kitchen in Haiti had suffered a devastating fire. It is a total loss

Thankfully, there was no loss of life. But the kitchen -- which has served 850,000 meals to mission workers and staff and is responsible for another 1.6 million for the Haitian community -- will need to be rebuilt basically from the ground up. All the kitchen equipment was destroyed, along with the wiring, plumbing, and gas lines. 

+ + The lifeblood of a missions community...gone

I was gripped with sadness because so many depend on this kitchen, which has proven to be one of the most successful long-term outreach efforts in Mercy Chefs' history. And now it is gone. The kitchen is the hub around which a thriving mission base has been reaching out into the Haitian community for years. For starters, five people are employed in the kitchen, which not only provides meals to foreign mission teams coming to Haiti but also to two orphanages, a 650-student school, and a hospital. 

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"Mercy Chefs Still Meeting The Need" (News Herald)

The Panama City News Herald featured featured Mercy Chefs' work with a cover story:

PANAMA CITY — Stationed at St. Andrews Baptist Church on Beck Avenue, Gary LeBlanc and his team are filling the demand this week for a universal necessity — food.

“People are so grateful that they haven’t been forgotten and that’s what we hear over and over,” LeBlanc said. “We’re still feeding people that are going days without food. There have been a mind-boggling number who walk up and say they haven’t eaten in two days.”

Read the entire article here.

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FL Need "As Great As Ever" (Video)

Our team filed this video report on conditions on the Florida Panhandle:

CBS News also recently reported on the "sickening" conditions:

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