Like most people, I have been shocked and deeply moved by the humanitarian crisis caused by the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The images of devastation and suffering have been hard to process and bear. That is especially true due to our church’s and denomination’s close relationship with Haiti. The Evangelical Friends have been ministering in Haiti for over ten years through eight churches with over 2,300 regular attendees. We also coordinate a nutrition center, a hospital and several schools. The nutrition center has been a bright spot, because it provides food, vitamins and clean drinking water to hundreds of pregnant women and children in a country where only one third of the population has access to clean drinking water.
This past October, our Haitian leader William Bertrand visited our church. He came to thank us for a generous gift we provided in the fall of 2008, when hurricanes destroyed a few of our church buildings in Haiti. William gave us an update on the rebuilding efforts of those churches, which was encouraging. Additionally, we gave him a check for a special project, which in God’s providence, is looking more timely than ever! Our church wanted to provide greater awareness of and raise additional funds for the nutrition center. So in November, our donation was used to purchase a video camera and fly William’s daughter from her home in Miami to Haiti in order to film video footage of the nutrition center. Our church plans to use the video footage to create a fundraising short film, to be distributed to other churches.
Obviously, since the earthquake struck, this project has not been our primary concern. Our concern has been for our churches, ministries, and the people of Haiti. And praise be to God! William and his wife Marie survived the earthquake and they are working with our Haitian pastors to try and meet some the overwhelming needs that face them.
In the meantime, many of us are feeling helpless and left to wonder: what can I do to help? Well first off, we cannot be paralyzed by despondency. I am convinced that at least two positive effects will come as a result of this catastrophe. The first positive effect is unity. Oftentimes it takes a calamity of this proportion to bring different people, parties and nations together for a greater cause. It puts our pettiness back into its proper perspective and we rise above our differences and work together. The second positive effect is the potential for rebirth. Because the destruction is so complete, Haiti has the opportunity to rebuild its infrastructure in a proper way so this kind of catastrophe will not happen again. Haiti has the potential to come out of this disaster as a stronger nation.
With that framework in mind, I encourage you to take three actions in the coming days: Firstly, PRAY. Martin Tupper, the English poet, once said “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to “pray continually.” Many churches in Haiti, including Evangelical Friends churches, have continued to gather for worship services. The Haitians are continually praying and so should we!
Secondly, GIVE. If you feel led to, I encourage you to give to reputable relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, World Relief, World Vision, etc. I know there are many people in our community who are financially hurting during this recession. But if you have access to clean drinking water and one warm meal today, you are far richer than the vast majority of Haitians. According to the CIA World Factbook, the average Haitian only makes $1300 US dollars a year. In April of 2008, the New York Times ran a story on their website titled “Across the Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger,” that described how many Haitians are so poor, that they eat patties made of mud, oil and sugar to stave off their hunger. Few of us have eaten mud to stay alive.
Thirdly, TAKE THE LONG VIEW. There are two stages to Haiti’s recovery: the initial rescue of people and the rebuilding efforts. The rescue takes weeks; the reconstruction takes years. Long after the media leaves Haiti, they will still be rebuilding a nation. Americans tend to have a short memory, but the real task lies ahead.
But if we can continually pray and give and take the long view, Haiti will reemerge into a better future.