"Collaborating Like Never Before" Global Ministries' Work in Haiti
By Mary Beth Coudal*
April 14, 2010--Collaboration in mission was a recurring theme at the April 12-14 meeting of directors of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and nowhere was the goal better illustrated than in report of how the agency is responding to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti.
Coordination, collaboration, and capacity-building are watchwords in United Methodist response to the tremor that killed 250,000 people and decimated thousands of homes, other buildings, and livelihoods. Representatives from various Global Ministries departments and programs told the story.
Work With, Not For
Monday afternoon got underway with an expression of appreciation by Judith Pierre-Okerson, director of Global Ministries from the Florida Annual Conference, who has family in Haiti. She thanked Global Ministries' directors and staff for "walking and working with the people of Haiti for a brighter future." She noted the resilience of Haiti, "where 56 percent of the people get by on less than one dollar a day."
The president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, (the Eglise Méthodiste d'Haiti), Rev. Gesner Paul, addressed the directors through taped remarks. "The journey has just begun. We continue. We bring hope to the hopeless, a voice to the voiceless," Rev. Paul said. He invited United Methodists "to work with us, not to work for us."
Signs of Resurrection
Rev. Jorge Domingues, who leads the mission and evangelism unit, recently returned from Haiti. "Port-au-Prince today looks like a construction site," he said. "Everywhere we look, beyond the destruction, we see hope. We see the resurrected Christ. When we go out of the capital, we meet people who are not benefiting from the flood of relief. The women we meet are supplying the urgent needs of food and shelter. They are ready to deliver the help we want to give. The Methodist women are our great resource," Domingues said. "Haiti will rise, not only with our help and generosity, but with the hard work of Haitians themselves."
The giving and "extravagant generosity," a term used in the opening worship by Bishop Bruce Ough, was lifted up by Shawn Bakker, leader of The Advance, the designated giving channel of the denomination. She reported that giving to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for Haiti's relief and recovery exceeds $17.8 million to date, 20 percent of which was given through the online channel.
Beyond the financial giving through creative fundraisers such as marathons and birthday offerings, Bakker reported on material giving. Over 7,000 health kits had been assembled and sent to Haiti. She encouraged the giving of layettes and birthing kits. Bakker also reported that Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), an UMCOR-related program, is organizing immigration classes for Haitians in the US.
Ms. Pierre-Okerson returned to the podium to report on the Women's Division and United Methodist Women's response and advocacy for the women and children in Haiti. In solidarity with international women's groups, United Methodist Women are proposing that relief efforts worldwide adhere to standards of gender equity in disbursing aid. Also important to the women's groups, she said, are financial transparency, women's leadership in the recovery, and the full participation of women in rebuilding Haiti through equity and collaboration.
"First and foremost is our collaboration with the Eglise Méthodiste d'Haiti," Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR international executive for disaster response, reported. She emphasized the roundtable work of the agency. "We are collaborating like never before. And we are learning from the Haitians' collaboration and coordination."
Ms. Crutchfield detailed relief efforts underway, including the distribution of 6 million packets of Pur purification powder, which makes water safe to drink. Each packet purifies two-and-a-half gallons of water.
Clean water is just one of many tangible efforts on the ground, reported Crutchfield, implemented by the UMCOR-NGO unit. The primary emphases are: providing shelter, rebuilding community infrastructure, offering education, promoting health, and returning people to their livelihoods. Global Ministries' work currently serves at least 30,000 Haitians, identified as those with the greatest need, regardless of their religious affiliation. All actions are taken with "humility and responsibility," Crutchfield said.
Worship and Remembrance
In the earlier worship service, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the General Board of Global Ministries, spoke about his travel to Haiti during Holy Week. There, he met a Haitian woman who lost her home and her mother in the earthquake. "But she smiled and said, 'But we must carry on. That is not all there is.'"
During the worship, several directors shared their memories of Revs. Sam Dixon, UMCOR chief executive, and Clint Rabb, leader of the Mission Volunteer unit, who both died in the Haiti earthquake. The directors remembered the forward-looking leadership of the two gentlemen at Global Ministries' board meetings such as this one.
The Rev. James Gulley, a former missionary and UMCOR consultant on agriculture and community, shared a reflection from his time trapped with Revs. Dixon and Rabb in the rubble at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, after the earthquake. He offered a reflection to the directors, and spoke of coming "out of rubble, into the resurrected future." His theme, just as the afternoon's presentation and the directors' sharing, was one of hope for the people.
"Love is the answer, along with adequate resources," Gulley said
Mary Beth Coudal is staff writer for the General Board of Global Ministries