Aly Maxime, a young man remembers 10 year ago.
He was 15 years old living in a countryside village with his parents and siblings many miles from Jacmel, Haiti. His parents provided food and necessities by farming, selling and trading with other villagers for life sustainability.
When the earthquake happened, he was inside of his house and everything started shaking. He’d never felt anything like this before, and he was so afraid because he didn’t know what was happening. Quickly, he and his family ran out of the house and fell on the ground. Once the shaking was over, they saw that their house was severely damaged, but they were all physically OK.
As he looked around at his once peaceful village, within seconds the entire sounds and sights had changed. Fearful screaming, wailing and the sound of massive chunks of hills falling filled the air. There was now rubble and massive landslides, destroying their gardens and killing most of their livestock (chickens, goats and pigs). Living a simple life, the vegetation and animals were their sustainability, so this loss was huge as they had very little to eat after the earthquake, making life the most difficult Ali Maxime had ever experienced. Many village people were injured and houses were damaged, but miraculously, no one in their village actually died from the earthquake that day. It was many weeks/months before all people in his village received help, so they suffered greatly from hunger and lack of water.
Immediately after the earthquake’s devastation while in constant fear of more earthquakes and tremors, most people including Ali Maxime’s family, slept outside every night for months. That way if the earth did move again, they wouldn’t be crushed inside their partially destroyed houses. For Aly Maxime, though, sleeping outside under the pitch black sky caused even more fear in his young heart, so he would always sneak back into his house to sleep, not realizing the danger he was putting his life in. His village elementary school was severely damaged, so it closed for months until a plan was devised to conduct school in make-shift huts.
Throughout the country of Haiti, the earthquakes’ devastation was intensely deadly as over 300,000 people died and millions of people were injured. As Aly Maxime recalls, “there was a constant cry throughout the land…it was everywhere – people were yelling, screaming, asking for help, asking what’s going to happen, are we all gonna die? Everyone was crying out to Jesus for help. It was absolutely horrible. I heard about a University that collapsed with many students in it. A couple days later the stench was so great that people could not be near it. This became a common problem throughout the entire affected parts of the country. Life seemed impossible and hopeless!”
In Aly Maxime’s words: “After weeks of constant fear, hunger, confusion and stench, I had no idea that life could get any more difficult. Beyond the suffering in my village, my heart wasn’t prepared to find out the most devastating news of my life. My beloved auntie and her son, my cousin, who lived in Port-au-Prince had been crushed to death during the earthquake! My auntie had been like a second mother to me. She had successfully worked and lived in Port-au-Prince and I stayed with her every summer. She always encouraged and believed in me. She told me hopeful words I had never heard – that I was intelligent and had a future beyond my village of poverty. She promised me that when I finished elementary school in my village that she would send me to Jacmel and provide the tuition to attend grades 7-13 at the public school, Pichinat. With an education, I could pursue any vocation I chose, make a better life for myself and help my family. Hearing of her death was more than I could handle. No one could comfort me. I was crashing down. The one person who really believed in me was gone. I was like a son to her and she was like a mom to me. Even to this day when I think about her, I can’t help but cry with sadness because I miss her so much.”
The next couple years were difficult, but Aly Maxime persevered as he continued with his elementary school work and helped his parents with daily chores. How would he ever get the opportunity to attend school beyond 6th grade? Aly Maxime grew up attending church and believing in God, and during this difficult time would often cry out to God for help. Was God really there? Did He care that he’d lost his chance for a higher education? Did God understand the pain, sorrow and hopelessness he felt?
Aly Maxime has an older sister who lives in Jacmel and made her meager living by selling items at the marketplace. Once her aunt died, she took it upon herself to take the responsibility of Aly Maxime’s education. She didn’t tell her brother but worked extra diligently to make his dream a reality. By September 2012, she’d earned enough extra money to provide a semester’s tuition for his public high school. When she told Aly Maxime to move to Jacmel and begin school at Pichinat, he could hardly believe his ears! His entire family was elated and so proud that his sister had been able to help. He thankfully and joyfully moved and his dream became a reality as he stepped foot onto the humble campus at Pichinant as a 7th grade student. This 17 year-old studied hard and was so thankful to be receiving a higher education. Each semester he and his sister earned extra money by doing odd-jobs and the tuition miraculously always appeared.
March 27, 2014 was another pivotal day in Aly Maxime’s life. While normally attending his 9th grade classes, there was an all school assembly, hosted by some Americans. These Americans shared about Jesus Christ by skit, testimonies and the plan of salvation to the entire group of 3,000 male students that day. Everything they said made sense and he felt his heart pounding as they gave the invitation to come forward if they wanted to take the free gift that Jesus had to offer them. Aly Maxime thought he knew about God, but he’d never heard about having a personal relationship with Him. He realized, like so many Haitians, he had a head knowledge of Jesus, but no heart knowledge or relationship with Jesus. He responded and stepped to the front along with approximately 300 other young men that day. He repeated the prayer of salvation with the American young man and meant it from the depths of his heart. Aly Maxime accepted Christ into his heart that day and his life would never be the same.
The Americans who shared Jesus that day at Pichinat was CIDM’s mission team from Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, CA along with Dave, Darlys and our Haitian CIDM staff. That day will always be a spiritual highlight in our lives as we watched male teens unashamed to step forward in front of their peers and say yes to Jesus. Satan tried extra hard disallowing our team to arrive at Pichinat that day through violent road closures. But God safely ushered us through by giving us incredible favor with the violators and got us safely to Pichinat to do the outreach. We continue to hear life stories that were changed because we shared Jesus Christ at Pichinat that day.
CIDM began a new believers Bible study the next week for the hundreds of youth who had accepted Christ at their schools and a concert CIDM sponsored in Jacmel. A new branch of CIDM was born that day, New Life Discipleship Bible club (Lavi Reyel in Creole). Aly Maxime was there at the first study and has been attending ever since. He is now a leader of our 15 volunteer leaders who lovingly serve the Lord by serving the 80 to 100 youth who attend the weekly Bible club.
We are excited to report that Aly Maxime graduated from Pichinat high school this past June of 2019. His desire is to go to a trade school in the Dominican Republic which specializes in mechanics. CIDM has helped him with the fees required to obtain his passport. He is waiting on the Lord and in awe of how God has taken care of him over the years. His parents and sibling continue to live in the countryside village, where he often visits and helps. We know God has great plans for Aly Maxime. We pray that when the timing is right, he can become a CIDM staffer. This young man, now 25 is full of God’s love with excitement for biblical teaching and truths. He has a passion to share what he now knows about God’s goodness with his people wherever he goes. In Aly Maxime’s words: “God remains faithful to me, has provided for my school, comforts me and takes away my sadness (even if at times I feel the effect of that tragedy). I praise God for all he has done in my life throughout these 10 years.”
Yes, God is changing Haiti, one life at a time. Aly Maxime’s life is a very important one that has been changed for Haiti’s future! To read a blog from February 2018 written about Aly Maxime’s growth in the Lord, click here.
If you’d like to partner with CIDM sharing the gospel and discipleship with Haitian youth like Aly Maxime, please click here.