Thoughts from Haiti, day 1

(With no internet access in Haiti, I’ve returned to share a number of blog posts over the next few days…)

I’ve been a few really sad places in the world, Auschwitz, slave ports along the West African coast, various slums and other deprived areas. I expected I’d have the same dark and depressed feelings here in Haiti. While there’ve been plenty of somber moments, I don’t have those same feelings.

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                      In the ride from the airport, I asked our driver about the mood of the country. He said, “People want to be hopeful.” Instead of looking to the past and pain, there seems to be a desire to move to what’s next. While there’s tension and apprehension as to how the process will look, people really want their country to heal. I’ve only seen one symbol (a cross on a hill) to memorialize the precious loss of life, but have seen hundreds of people working towards the next and better normal in Haiti.

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Since the January 12 earthquake, Haitians have buried loved ones, many have moved into tent cities, they’ve begun digging through rubble, stores have opened, roads are being cleared, and schools have opened. The church is a key in leading the way. The next normal is coming.

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                              I’m honored to be a part of the Convoy of Hope team. I’ve never been here and have had very little to do with our response in this country so far. However, my colleagues from the Convoy of Hope staff and our Haitian partners on the ground have mobilized well and effectively. Before the quake, over 11,000 school/orphanage children were fed each day through our feeding programs. Since the quake, over 8.6 million meals have been distributed. The school feeding program is back up and running and people are being helped every day.

 

The interns and I weren’t part of Convoy’s first wave of response, but we’re a part of the next (and the next and the next and the next?). A team of about 15 interns/staff and I will arrive on July 5 to begin helping in areas affected by the quake. I can’t wait. This current trip will help us get the best picture as to what the most effective work for them will be. We’ll respond, work hard, and live out the Kingdom of God in this great place.

 

I look forward to being even a small part of what I believe Haitians are hoping for…a rebuilding of a country that will someday be stronger and healthier than before the quake. A country where children are educated, where malnutrition is rarely if ever seen, and where hope and faith reign in areas that experienced the worst of the worst.

 

Today I’ll work with our disaster response team in strategizing what we’ll do. I look forward to sharing more later…

Armenian church, devasted by earthquake, helps Haiti

The following is a very cool story…like they could  make a movie about it.  I’ve reprinted it with permission from Chad Isenhart, who was a Convoy of Hope intern when we went to Armenia in the fall of 2008. He lives there now on assignment, helping with various Convoy of Hope projects. Quite moving…here goes!

From Chad…

mrchadThis last weekend we attended one of our new church plant services in the village of Spitak. Here in December 7, 1988 at 11:41am a massive earthquake that struck Armenia on was epicentered in Spitak, taking at least 25,000 lives. 500,000 people whose homes, built in apparent violation of seismic safety standards, were destroyed by two powerful tremors that rocked much of Armenia’s territory 20 years ago.

Measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale, many poorly constructed Soviet buildings across the region sustained heavy damage or collapsed.

The small city of Spitak was destroyed, while the nearby cities of Leninakan (later renamed to Gyumri) and Kirovakan (later renamed to Vanadzor) sustained a lot of damage as well. The tremor also caused damage to many surrounding villages.

Since most of the hospitals in the area were destroyed, and due to freezing winter temperatures, officials at all levels were not ready for a disaster of this scale and the relief effort was insufficient. The Soviet Union allowed foreign aid workers to help with the recovery in the earthquake’s aftermath.  This was one of the first cases when rescue and relief workers from other countries were allowed to take part in relief works in the Soviet Union.

We attended this service, and unknown to us, they had planned on taking an offering for response to the earthquake in Haiti. This small, year old church, meeting in a living room of a members home with about 50 in the congregation prayed for the people of Haiti, and gave their widows mite. Many in the village living on less than 3 dollars a day. They gave sacrificially with an offering of $180.00. They have asked us to get it to COH.earthquake

…end quote

Thanks for sharing Chad. Great story.

 

By the way, here’s some of the earthquake housing (think FEMA trailers) that’s still being used after these 25 years…

Mudpies for lunch Tuesday, and then…

A few months ago, I got my own Haitian mudpie. It sits on my desk. This gift from our Haiti director, Kevin Rose, has reminded me to pray for the poorest people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

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On Tuesday, like every other “normal” day in Haiti, people in the poorest areas of the country were eating these for lunch. Some ate them for breakfast that morning and dinner the night before as well. They’re made of dried yellow dirt, vegetable oil and salt.

I’m going to type that again…they’re made of dried yellow dirt, vegetable oil and salt. They’re real mudpies. People eat them.

Then an earthquake hit.

I’m still processing things…but I for now, I wanted to mention the mudpies.

Clinging to Jesus’ feet

This Haiti situation reminds me of a challenging talk a team and I had with Pastor Paul. He’s a Liberian man who fled his country during Liberia’s civil war about a decade ago. He too knows the stench of death, hunger, sickness, losing his home and what it’s like to feel lost. We met at the Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra, Ghana.

clingDesperation. At the time, 40,000 were struggling to get food, clean water, clothing, an education, and peace in their lives.

I asked Pastor Paul how I could pray for him. His response (as I recall):

 

 

“In this camp there is desperation. We’ve fled our homes and our people and come to this new place. Some people pray that we’ll be able to return to our homes and what is familiar. They pray for an abundance of clean water and jobs and money and cars and good food and freedom. I don’t pray for such things.”

His next words will stay with me forever…

Here in this camp, there is revival. The people here know that the only way to have peace is to cling to the feet of Jesus. We are doing that and we are free and we are at peace. Don’t pray that we’ll have things and what is familiar, pray that when Godcling (2) answers those prayers of others and provides materially beyond what we have now, that we will still cling to his feet. Even when we have all of those things, we must never forget that the only way to have true peace is Jesus.” 

I pray that in the midst of Haiti’s desperation, hopelessness, fear, and terror, that people will cling to the feet of Jesus. I pray that He will make Himself known in ways that they’ve never experienced and that they’ll realize that there is hope in Him. I pray that in the midst of chaos and the storm, they’ll find peace in Him. I pray they’ll cling to His feet…and that we’ll all cling to His feet, because we need Him just as badly.hisfeet1

 

In the midst of Haiti’s despair, please consider a donation to Convoy of Hope. People from Convoy of Hope are on the ground and responding.

Haiti devastation and Convoy of Hope’s response

Tragedy. As you’ve heard, just over 24 hours ago, a massive earthquake shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I work with Convoy of Hope and wanted to share a bit about our response. It’s been a somber, yet focused day in the office.  We’ve been humbled by the response from caring people.

 

The impact:

Port-au-Prince is flat…flattened hospitals, schools, the UN Headquarters, and even a collapsed presidential palace. I read today where perhaps 30,000-100,000 people lost their lives. During Katrina, approximately 2,000 people died. Both tragic events, both too large to comprehend. Devastating.

 

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Convoy of Hope is already in Haiti:

Our Haiti director is in the country and he is safe. I can’t imagine what he’s seen, heard and experienced. He said, “I heard screams for help from everywhere.  I’m seeing many dead and injured people. The need is beyond description.” I know God is walking with Him as he works to set up our command center, and begin the response. He’s working with other team members on the ground and at our headquarters to respond rapidly and intelligently. The response has begun.

 

Our Convoy of Hope warehouse in Haiti includes food and water: 

We feed 7,000 children like this little guy each day in Haiti. Our warehouse is full of food that can be part of

the solution. We’re checking on the schools and other distribution points, and will work to see this food distributed wisely. We are also sending containers with more food, water and supplies. 

The need for help will be ongoing for months and years to come.  Convoy of Hope has made a long term commitment to the country.

 

Our interns:

Our Convoy of Hope interns are scheduled to serve in Haiti this summer. As we plan the full Convoy of Hope response, I’ll be sure and let you know what our intern response will look like. 

 

What you can do:

Please consider a donation to Convoy of Hope . The people of this organization are wonderful stewards who see this not as a contribution to Convoy of Hope, but a contribution through Convoy of Hope. I can say with no reserve that the people here will work hard to see the money spent well.

Many have expressed interest in going. We’re waiting until we have a good idea of the security of the situation and the best strategy before we send teams, etc.

Please pray. I don’t think this is one of those events that we’ll easily forget. It’s too close to home. Let’s make sure we don’t forget it or the hurting people. Let’s pray for them.

As you read this, there are people crying out to God with voices that no one hears. I pray that He will make His presence known to them and show them life and truth and hope. I pray for those who today have held their dying children, wives or husbands. I pray for the survivors who will forever have memories of the death and decay they can see with their eyes right now as you read this. I pray that this country which knows violence and corruption will see peace and structure as this journey progresses. I pray for Christians who know truth, that they’ll be able to speak words of comfort in the midst of their grief. I pray for responding agencies that good stewardship of funds and resources will be the norm. I pray that evil intentions will cease and that help can get to those who need it most. I pray that people will find Jesus through this tragedy.

Thanks for caring for the people of Haiti.

I’ll note I got the photo from the flickr. Clicking on the photo will take you to the site.

Could the water crisis be worse than the economic crisis?

…that’s the conclusion in this article out of London.  Our Convoy of Hope interns are currently in Haiti where they’re seeing the water crisis up close.  I’ve read that today over 1.2 billion people lack access to a purified water source.  Populations are growing and the crisis is gaining momentum as clean water sources can’t keep up with the demand.

Getting water from wells, rivers and ponds is quite normal in many places around the world.  Here are some children whom we met in Ghana.

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 As we know, people can’t live without water.  However, there are living people who don’t have access to a purified source so their life is full of disease, diarrhea, parasites and more.  Life could be so much fuller if only they had clean water.

 Too many times the water is dirty.  In all likelihood, this little guys legs are hurt because there is arsenic in his water.  Arsenic problems go away when a nail is put in whatever holds his water…just a nail and he wouldn’t have to deal with this…

 

 

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Our interns are working hard to help.  Here’s Josh with some guys in Uganda where they built water filters that could clean the water of up to 98% of the contaminents.

 

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There are solutions…and none of them are easy.  I pray the article is proven wrong…and that the water crisis is overcome by God’s people working to help “the least of these.”  Kudos too to our interns and others around the world who are helping.

 

 

 

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How this can work…

At Convoy of Hope we talk often about meeting physical and spiritual needs.  Here’s a great example of how it works.  Our interns are in Haiti (I’ll soon join them in Cuba).  Here’s a portion of a note I got from Bethany this week…

“This morning, we will be doing a short Bible skit about the 4 soils and passing out seed kits to 50 students.  Those 50 students will be responsible for planting their seeds at home and caring for their garden.  After harvest time, the students will be required to bring back a certain number of seeds to give back to the program!!!!! The students will be learning about growing and sharing… being good stewards of their resources!!!  Also, we will be cultivating a garden for only the school’s use. “

That’s how it can work…a good combination of meeting physical and spiritual needs.  Here’s Bethany with a couple of little guys in Haiti.

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