SISTER JEANNE MODESDA: EMMANUEL
Several weeks ago twenty women from Solid Rock flew to Haiti to put on a conference for women in leadership in Haitian churches.
Most of the women were pastor’s wives, while another handful were themselves serving as pastors in congregations. Each and every one of these women impressed us with their stalwart faith and enviable strength.
Over the course of several days, these women shared their stories with us and agreed to allow us to share their stories with all of you. Melanie Dobson, a writer who went with us, has collected and condensed these stories so we can post them here every few weeks.
It is our hope that you will be as encouraged as we were— and that the faith and faithfulness of the Haitian women will inspire you as it inspired us.
From my heart,
Sister Jeanne Modesda: emmanuel
by: Melanie Dobson
Sister Jeanne Modesda was standing on the rooftop of her home the night her world collapsed. Workers were building a third story for their growing family. Thirteen of her children—seven of them adopted—and her husband were in the rooms below.
Sister Jeanne is a mother, a pastor’s wife, a ministry leader, and a businesswoman in Carrefour. In Haiti, most churches don’t have enough money to pay a pastor’s salary so his wife provides income for their family while he cares for the congregation. Before the earthquake, Sister Jeanne owned a successful shop on the first level of her home where she and her older children sold furniture, appliances, electronics, and mattresses.
When Sister Jeanne wasn’t working, she and her oldest daughter, Aelbellona, traveled into the Haitian mountains and talked to unmarried women about God, encouraging them to marry the man they lived with. Many of these couples didn’t marry because they couldn’t afford a wedding so Sister Jeanne and Aelbellona helped choose a wedding date. Then they would return with a wedding dress, clothes for the groom, a wedding ring, a piano player, and a preacher to perform the ceremony.
Sister Jeanne also ministered to the women in her church. Every Tuesday afternoon the women met for prayer, but the prayer meeting on January 12th was different. One of the women stood up and told Sister Jeanne and the other women about a dream she’d had. In her dream, the people of Haiti were running. Screaming. There was chaos all around her, but in the midst of it, the woman heard a voice say: “Don’t be afraid. I will give you what you need to fly.” And so the woman flew, every member of their congregation flying behind her.
Now on her rooftop, less than an hour after the prayer meeting, Sister Jeanne’s house began to shake. It stopped for a moment and then it shook again. As she stood on the rooftop, she knew her house was going to fall down. In those seconds, she begged God to save her children.
Two stories of concrete and bricks pancaked under her feet—her thirteen children and husband inside. “God save them.” She screamed as she searched for a way through the rubble. “God save them.”
The people in her neighborhood, even people who had been enemies to her family, began to mourn her loss. Everyone thought they were dead. But she kept praying even as she cried out, “Why all my children, God? I don’t understand.”
In the midst of the mourning, Sister Jeanne heard a voice in the rubble, the voice of her 21-year-old son. “Mommy. Mommy,” her son called. “We’re not dying. God don’t let that happen to us.”
There was no basement in the house for the children to fall into. The house was completely collapsed. It seemed impossible that even one of her children was alive, but then another child spoke. And another.
“God will get us out,” her son said.
God would have to help them, because there was no visible way out of the rubble. So Sister Jeanne continued to pray until she saw the oldest son in her house emerge. Her son had helped the youngest child crawl on his belly, moving brick by brick until they dug a tunnel out of the house. More children came through a window—five of them, squeezed through by another brother.
One of her daughters had been lying on a bed. She should have died instantly but she was thrown into a hamper. Then a brick wall fell on the hamper. Miraculously, the hamper and wall protected her daughter from death.
Over the next three hours all of the children and Sister Jeanne’s husband crawled or climbed out of the rubble except the daughter trapped in the hamper. Sister Jeanne’s husband—the girl’s daddy—heard the girl’s voice from the street but she was stuck under the wall. He rushed back inside the house, and she told her daddy to get out before the earth shook again. He refused to leave her, screaming until enough men came to help him lift the wall.
Not one of the children in Sister Jeanne’s house died that day. They had bruises and broken limbs, but no permanent injuries. Even as their enemies spent hours digging out their daughter, they recognized God’s power in saving this family.
Sister Jeanne rushed to the university next to find Aelbellona. She was devastated at what she found. Her oldest daughter had died in the classroom building. With tears in her eyes, this dear sister described how she and her family dug Aelbellona’s battered body out of the rubble and carried her back to Carrefour to bury her.
The Modesda family home is now gone. Their business is gone. Their oldest daughter is with the Lord. Currently they are living with Sister Jeanne’s parents until they can rebuild their home and their lives.
“Everything in our house is gone,” Sister Jeanne said. “There wasn’t even a cup left for us to take.”
And yet Sister Jeanne remains filled with joy that can only come from Christ. “It doesn’t matter that we lost everything,” she said. “God gave thirteen of my children their lives, He gave me my life, and my husband his life. God is our provider and He will give us what we need.”
Sister Jeanne misses Aelbellona terribly, but she still travels to the mountains with her other daughters. They’ve set the dates for eight more weddings and are gathering the dresses and rings. “That’s the job God has given me,” she said.
Many people in her neighborhood decided to follow Christ after watching God rescue her family from the rubble. And just like the woman at the prayer meeting dreamed, God rescued every one of the 150 members of their congregation.
The name that God gave Sister Jeanne at the His Name in Haiti conference?
She smiled as she told us. Emmanuel. God with us.
God indeed continues to be with this beautiful woman and her family as they serve Him and share His many names with people across their country.
Note: This story was told to Beth Viducich, Jodi Stilp, and I by Sister Jeanne, through an amazing translator named Frankie. Any errors are my fault.
How can the women of Solid Rock pray for Sister Jeanne:
1) That she and her family would “stay in church.” That her thirteen children would follow Christ into adulthood and share His love and grace with the people of their country.
2) That God would continue to give Sister Jeanne the passion and love to spread His word.
3) For perseverance. “Being a Christian in Haiti is hard,” she said.
4) For finances to continue traveling to the mountains to spread the work and word of God.
5) That God would provide wedding supplies for the impoverished men and women in the mountains to marry.