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Returned missionary and family are among those finding refuge on LDS meetinghouse grounds in Haiti


Pierre-Louis Wanso has been among the more than 500 people — Church members and nonmembers alike — who have made the Centrale Ward meetinghouse their new home in the first week after Haiti's Jan. 12 horrific earthquake.

Brother Wanso was coming home on the bus when the tremors hit.

"Cars were exploding and people burning the street when I got off the bus," said the returned missionary who served in his native country.

He and his mother both escaped their collapsing home when the tremors first hit that Tuesday evening. The house is in ruins, but some things are expected to be salvageable later.

Members of Port-au-Prince's Centrale Ward, Brother Wanso and his mother have since been joined by his brother, his sister and brother-in-law, an aunt and several cousins in staying each night on the meetinghouse's gated grounds.

A handful of tents are scattered across the grounds, but Brother Wanso explains they are for families with young children.

By Tuesday, Jan. 19, some food deliveries had started to arrive, but Brother Wanso said meals for the first days ended up being a makeshift potluck.

"We just put things together to eat — [with] our friends, neighbors and family," he said.

And while bottled water has arrived as well, members have been cautious to make sure it is first given to those who need water to take medications, with others sometimes going longer without it.

Lynn A. Samsel, the Church's director of humanitarian emergency response and emergency services, said some 4,000 people total have sought refuge at the seven Port-au-Prince LDS meetinghouses.

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