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Haitians Turn to Faith for Support, Worship Out of Doors

Catholics in Haiti attend mass outside after their church was heavily damaged in the recent earthquake.

Some Haitians trying to rebuild their shattered communities are turning to their faith. Many Haitians now worship in the open air after their churches were badly damaged or destroyed by a devastating earthquake nearly three weeks ago.

In one Port-au-Prince neighborhood, a Catholic congregation meets in the parish courtyard, beside the badly damaged main sanctuary.

Father Dempsey Loarca is a missionary from Guatemala, who has been in Haiti for 12 years. He says his parishioners find friendship and support at Sunday services. "Some have come here to share their despair. But what affects them the worst is not just this moment, but the future that is so uncertain," he says.

In another neighborhood, an evangelical Protestant church is still standing, but it was structurally damaged. Its parishioners meet under a massive tent. The overflow crowd stands in the open air.

Mona Avril attended service on Sunday. She is the wife of the pastor of another church, which lost several members in the earthquake. Three of her husband's church buildings were destroyed.

Avril says she grieves for the dead, and is also thankful. "Because I'm alive, to give glory to God, to worship God, because I'm alive," she says.

Church members hope to get international help, perhaps from other churches, to rebuild their damaged buildings.

This church choir director says he believes it will happen. "With the poor economy, we know Haiti is weak. But with faith and hope, we know God will always send us his help to rebuild the church," he says.

In the meantime, these church members say they will continue to gather to worship in temporary structures or in the open air.