At 4:52 p.m. on Jan. 12, Louima Lilite (’99), a professor of music at Oklahoma Baptist University, was in a planning session for the music camp he directs. At 4:53, everything started violently shaking. Lilite got out of his chair, secured a lamp and waited for nearly a minute until the earthquake stopped. He and his colleagues resumed the meeting, but were soon shaking again, due to a 15-second aftershock.
At that point the planning session became a prayer session.
Lilite was in Northern Haiti in the town of Limbé, on the campus of North Haiti Christian University, where he has directed the university’s music camp since 2006. Though the town is about as far from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter as Los Angeles is from Santa Barbara, the shaking there was still powerful.
Following the quake, Lilite, a native Haitian, wanted to stay and help his countrymen with relief efforts, but he was worried about the safety of his wife and two daughters. He left for the states two days later with Missionary Flights International, as was originally planned.
“We were afraid that we were betraying people,” said Lilite. “Here they were having to face this major catastrophe, and we were leaving.”
But since returning to Oklahoma, Lilite has come to see how he can help his home country from afar. Lilite is hoping that the recent surge in international interest in Haiti will help him with fundraising for the music camp — a camp which, through music education and Christian discipleship, will contribute to the long-term recovery of Haiti.
When Lilite first attended the camp at 13, it changed his life. Without the camp, said Lilite, he would not have been able to attend Biola.
Many Haitians trained by the programs at NHCU’s music camp have been able to attend prestigious music schools like Eastman and Juilliard, said Lilite. But the camp also emphasizes the transformation of the whole person, he added.
As the camp prepared Lilite for Biola, Biola, in turn, prepared him for what he’s doing now, directing the camp and teaching at Oklahoma Baptist. He said he still goes back to his notes to help him to integrate biblical teaching into teaching music.
Now more than ever, his nation needs music. But even more than that, they need the hope of Christ. Lilite offers both in the ministry of his music camp, and he’s eager to get back to Haiti to teach his countrymen a joyful new song.