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Haiti Update: Thursday, February 11

Thursday, February 11, 2010

  • United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working in conjunction with the Methodist Church in Haiti to reestablish its field office by the end of February. This office will coordinate United Methodist Volunteers in Mission work and provide assistance with logistics. The Methodist Church in Haiti has requested that groups not come at this point without an invitation. Visitors are a strain on their resources; transportation and housing are in short supply. An extensive work plan is being developed for both the short and long term.
  • A letter from Methodist church in Haiti about volunteering has been distributed to annual conferences and is posted on the UMCOR website.
  • The Haiti Director of United Methodist Women partner Lambi Fund, Josette Perard, forwarded this update on the progress of their work in with earthquake survivors:

As the director of the Lambdi Fund of Haiti's operations in Haiti, I live and work in Port-au-Prince, so as you can imagine, the days since the earthquake have been incredibly chaotic.

But thanks to the incredible work of our staff here in Haiti, we have started what will be a long process of rebuilding and recovery.

We have now begun implementing a four-phase strategy to cope with the mass migration of people from Port-au-Prince to rural communities. (Read more)

First, we are providing food and emergency essentials to those migrating from Port-au-Prince to rural areas. People are asking for latrines to prevent the spread of disease and meet the needs of rural villages whose populations have doubled overnight.

Next we are repairing earthquake damage in rural communities.

Then we are expanding sustainable agriculture programs to meet the increased long-term demand for locally grown food in rural areas.

And finally, we are expanding grassroots projects such as animal husbandry, grain mills and other opportunities for sustainable development for those displaced by the earthquake so they can earn sustainable livelihoods.

This strategy will take time and resources, but I know that it is the only path to long-term recovery for the people and communities that have been devastated by this disaster.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The following testimony comes to us through Serna Samuel, United Methodist Women Regional Missionary for Haiti.  The words of YWCA of Haiti Board member Rachel Coupad speak to her strength and resilience in the midst of trouble.  The Haiti program of the Worldwide YWCA is a long time partner of United Methodist Women.

To All,
 
Today, I finally decided to take a few minutes to myself, to drop all else and write down a few words. It took me 15 days because in a matter of 35 seconds, not only did my country change, but so did my universe.

I wish to start by thanking each and every one of you who care, pray, wrote, and took action for us Haitians. I will not relate in detail the horrors I’ve witnessed, nor the feelings of despair, hopelessness and fear one experiences in such a situation.   I was lucky enough to survive with little damage occurred - in comparison to most - so now I choose to talk about the beauty I’ve discovered in all of this.
***
I was sick in bed when it happened.  I did not realize the magnitude of the disaster at first but within an hour, after hearing from my immediate family members, I put on my tennis shoes and walked to a nearby maternity to offer my help.  What I saw there cannot be put in words… the despair of kids dying in the hallways and of people with open wounds I had only seen in war movies. I left the clinic at midnight, went to my parents’ home so we could all be together.  The next morning, I went to volunteer in another hospital in the neighborhood and quickly realized that the horror of the night before was just a preview of what was to come.  With the lack of staff, a friend and I found ourselves acting as an assistant/nurse in the O.R. for an amputation and for a liver operation! How did I get there, you ask??? . But at that point, I chose to see the beauty in the midst of the chaos, as I learned that some choose life over all…

The woman whose operation I assisted had one leg chopped off. When I stopped for a while and decided to compliment her on her strength, she answered: “I choose life over legs, I have 2 daughters to raise.” How could she smile and actually thank the team who took away this big piece of her body? She simply chose life, she said…

I spent 5 long days at the community hospital and many long nights hosting visiting surgeons.  What films and pictures do not show are the emotions, the pain in the voices and the agonizing smell of bodies slowly decomposing on the grounds.  But on the other side of the slide, I saw beauty…

Indeed, in the midst of it all, I saw everyone giving a hand in a way or another; I saw foreigners whose names I will never know save lives of people whose names they will never know; I saw a nation devastated, but its citizens taking the next step by simply choosing to survive and helping others do the same.  I saw young, not so young, rich, not so rich, poor, black, white, literate and illiterate, Haitians and foreigners acting as one! I saw the universal language of hope, survival, love, strenght, determination and solidarity.   THIS, I choose to remember and learn from.

Many days later, I thank the Lord for my blessings.  My worries are the same as everyone else’s: What comes next? What will we do? Where will we start? but I said to a friend, we already started. Now it is for us to decide on the type of Haiti we want, the type of nation we will become and the kind of individuals we will be.  It took me the same 35 seconds to be reminded that no matter where we stand from, no  matter how different our journeys are LIFE and LOVE are what matters the most.

Again, I thank each and every one of you for the support.  In these tough times, knowing one cares is enough to keep another going in the right direction.   Your messages arrived from all over the world and my wish is that you keep praying for Haiti and its citizens as we have never been so vulnerable.
Again, thank you.
 
Rachel Coupaud
 

Monday, February 1, 2010

NEVERTHELESS


Glory E. Dharmaraj


“God’s Yes is a Nevertheless” Karl Barth
I am still struck by a lingering question over the tragedy in Haiti: “Why?” Answers are not easy to find during tragic times. But we ask questions, nevertheless.

 I have heard the “Why?” questions in my life from those who have lost their children, spouses who have lost their dear ones, children who have lost their parents and people who have witnessed and experienced tornadoes, floods and tsunamis. I have never able to give them an answer at such times. I still do not have one.

It is natural to ask questions in times of loss and tragedies. Our forebears have asked such questions too. The Book of Job in the Bible has over 330 questions in its 42 chapters. More than any other book in the Bible!

The reason The Book of Job has so many questions to ask God and others is that the book deals with a horrible tragedy. Job was a righteous man. Suddenly, without warning, in a blink of an eye, he lost everything – his possessions, his children and his health. All was lost. Everything that had meaning in his life vanished. He felt barren. It was quick. It was so swift. It was unwarranted.

In many ways the events of this past week in Haiti seem eerily echoed in the story of Job. We all love our family. We all want security. We all want a home. When the primary delight from our life is taken, what do we do?

We simply mourn.

It is o.k. to lament. It is o.k.

I mourn over the deaths of my colleagues, Rev. Dr. Sam Dixon and Rev. Clint Rabb. These were tireless, dedicated advocates for Christian mission of mercy around the globe. To resort to past tense when I refer to them grieves me.

I also heard fearless statements of faith uttered by the Haitian survivors. One woman said, as she was rescued, “I was not afraid of death.” Many in make-shift churches and in open air lifted up their hands in faith and had services. The suffering Christianity’s deep faith statements are a challenge and inspiration to me.

 The Acts of the Apostles comes alive to me. We, as faith community members, are reminded that the Church of Jesus Christ has been built upon the sacrifice and death of the faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Tertullian, an early Church leader, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

This saying has a depth of insight which is still alive. The word martyr comes from the Greek word marturos which means the one who witnesses. I saw many of the suffering Christians in Haiti witnessing to their faith even in the face of death and loss of their limbs. Those who walk through the valley of the shadow of death in their every day existence of poverty, disease, and despair, and yet witness to their faith in Christ in the midst of it all, are the martyrs of Christ today.

The witness of my colleagues, by their deaths, and the innumerable witnesses of the sisters and brothers in Haiti, are the seedbed of the Church in this first decade of 21st century. 

Let us not despair. The God who was with our forebears is with us too.

Our God does not intend for every Christian to be martyred. Yet, it is no disgrace to live a life of radical commitment to the gospel.

Karl Barth, a well known theologian of 20th century, once said that God’s YES is a nevertheless. He also reiterated that everyday is a day of our death. It is a day of suffering, whether that suffering is merited or unmerited. But Barth affirmed that everyday is the day of Jesus Christ. Everyday is the day of his presence. Everyday is the day of his speech. Everyday is a reminder of his coming again. 

Let us then practice a radical commitment to the gospel, and be tireless and generous advocates of “the least of these,” for everyday is a day to be mission-bearing women.
 

Glory E. Dharmaraj is Director of Spiritual Formation & Mission Theology in the Women’s Division.

 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pastor Shirley Edgerton and her husband Joe are GBGM Long Term Volunteers in the region of La Gonave, Haiti. She has generously agreed to share some details of their work in the region, as well as her powerful reflection upon returning from Haiti after the earthquake. As indicated in the reflection, Shirley and Joe remained in Haiti until their GBGM colleagues were found. One of the three, Sam Dixon, died in the collapse of Hotel Montana. Shirley identified, and later brought Sam Dixon’s body back to the United States.

Joe and I lived on the small island of La Gonave, Haiti, as GBGM Volunteers from October of 2007 to Oct. 2009. We had been to the island several times with VIM teams and were concerned there was little industry, poor farming and fishing techniques and education and health care was available to very few people. Few had a meal every day, water was scarce and unsafe, illiteracy was highest in Haiti and transportation and communication was nearly impossible.

For two years we concentrated on repair of one well and drilling one on the west end where there was no well at all. We worked with a Haitian Development Group active on North La Gonave, to train leaders from villages on the south to organize, and improve fishing, farming and animal husbandry. We worked with the HMC to address school issues by offering training for teachers at Matenwa School and Training Center on the island and hosted VIM Teams to work on HMC schools and church buildings. We had a fledgling program to match sponsors with qualified Methodist youth for university and vocational training.

We returned in January 2010 to interview students, meet with the Association for Development of Peasants on South La Gonave, check on progress of the wells and attend the Roundtable Discussions with the Haitian Methodist Church. We left the island on Jan 11th and attended the meeting on the 12th with Sam, Jim and Clint plus other invited guests.

As we were familiar with life in Haiti we elected to stay at the guesthouse after the earthquake to assist the church with evacuation of teams working in Haiti and wait until Jim, Sam and Clint were found.

Here is Shirley’s reflection after returning home from Haiti after the earthquake:

A Time to Grieve

We have washed the smell of decaying bodies from our clothing, sorted the files and forms from a Roundtable meeting in Port au Prince, and sit before wooden wick candle burning on a hundred year old coffee table, in our 100 year old bungalow, listening to an acoustic guitar playing a mournful tune, and try not to think of the last week of our lives. A week of terror, death and destruction bracketed by spontaneous praise to a God who secured the night and prayer and chants to beg God’s protection and preparation for a new day of uncertainty.

Days ago we shared the terror of earthquake with our Haitian friends as the world collapsed in a cloud of dirt, broken water lines and crushed bodies. Homes of millions avalanched down mountainsides, as an already hopeless lifestyle became one of confusion, death and chaos. A culture developing the rudiments of new technology was reduced once again to isolation from communication, hunters of food rotting in smashed markets, and water under layers of dirt and debris. No light in the darkness of belief their world was floating on water that had become crazy. Clinging together we helped dig through tons of collapsed rock and concrete to find nine year old babies and 90-year-old angels. Now I sit, having searched and secured the body of a lost colleague to his loved ones, and I weep with God because of a nation in a palpable pain. I don’t ask “why.” I fear some jerk would offer an offensive scientific reason. I don’t want an answer; I want to cry. I want to cry all night.

Once I sat at the bedside of my comatose son, whose skull was broken, and my heart hurt so bad I could not breathe, I could not pray, I could not swallow. This night, I cannot swallow. I can only turn off NPR and give thanks we have no TV to subject me to the negative assessments of a broken, desperate people and those attempting to hold together a gaping hole leaking out the life of a nation. Tonight I allow myself to sit by the bedside of my Haitian friends who fight desperately to locate the lost and live, themselves, through another night. Tonight, I allow myself to grieve. There is nothing more I can do, this night.

I am safe and warm in a cold world. I have the face of a young man before me, asking, “Madame, I am hungry and have no money, won’t you give me one dollar?”

I tell him I have not enough dollars for all who stand with him, uncertain and hungry. He asks, “What will we do? Will the water swallow us?”

I tell him, I do not know what he can do but the water is not his enemy. I tell him, “Help will come.” I will keep his face in my heart, and tell my people, his friends are hungry. I ache to embrace this almost child with a scarred face but take him by the shoulders, and I cannot swallow. He thanks me and I leave with my dead friend.

There is a time for everything, the scriptures say. Tonight is my time to cry. Tomorrow there is much work to do, phone calls to make; emails to send; prayers to pray; stories to tell; funds to raise; plans to make; money to send; buried bodies to find; bodies to bury; questions to answer; answers to seek; and worry to do.

Tonight, thinking Sam; thinking Clint; thinking Jim; thinking Haiti; tonight, I cannot swallow.

Shirley, holding my breath, January 20, 2010
 

? United Methodist Missionary and Response senior correspondent Paul Jeffrey shares a short video from Haiti.

 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

• Suggested Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43: 1-2 God who Restores Us in our Journey. The work in Haiti began long before the recent earthquake, and will continue as individuals and organizations mobilize to restore and rebuild the country. It is one of many long journeys. As people of faith, we ourselves are restored, remembering we journey in community, we journey with God.

• United Methodist Women directly supporting grassroots organizations working for recovery in Haiti. Recognizing the value of working with grassroots organizations to rebuild communities in Haiti, the Women’s Division approved funding for two groups.

MUDHA (Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent) is a movement which began in 1983 and includes women of Haitian descent who work in sugar mill communities. MUDHA works to influence public policies to promote change, and to support women through training and community health plans and programs designed to improve the standard of living in Haitian communities. They also provide educational programs for children, technical and vocational training programs designed to improve access women to the world market, programs, plans and actions created to acknowledge Haitian and Dominican women’s civil social, economic, cultural and political rights.

Lambi Fund of Haiti also received an initial grant from United Methodist Women. Their mission is to assist the popular democratic movement in Haiti. To that end, Lambi provides financial resources, training and technical assistance to peasant-led community organizations that promote the social and economic empowerment of the Haitian people. Over 16 years, Lambi has initiated 175 community-driven projects in rural Haiti, including grain mills, seed banks, goat breeding ox plowing services, fishing, and micro-credit funds. Those projects impacted the lives of over one million Haitians.

United Methodist Women have a history of supporting these and other organizations working in Haiti. Both MUDHA and Lambi received funding in 2006.
 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

• As we respond to the crisis in Haiti, allow scripture to renew and refresh. Ephesians 3: 16-19 encourages us to be strengthened in our inner being through God's Spirit.

• Interested in volunteering for relief/rebuilding in Haiti? Learn about current conditions on the ground and register with your United Methodist Volunteers in Mission jurisdictional coordinator. Click here to explore how you can be a safe and effective volunteer in Haiti.

• Rosangela Oliveira, Women’s Division Regional Missionary for Leadership Development with Latin America, shares a reflection she wrote to the regional missionary network she serves with in Latin America. Her post references the prayer chain, previously noted in these daily posts.

Wake up, Deborah! Haiti needs you!

In the Prayer Calendar, on January 12th, the day in which Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake, the Biblical texts recommended were Judges 5:12 - 21 and I John 5:13 - 21.

I re-read these texts in light of my conversation with the president of the women’s Association of the Evangelical Church in the Dominican Republic, I realized that Deboras have awaked and sung the song of solidarity with Haiti’s people. Amancia Felix, the Association president, has visited the Haitian women in the hospitals in the Dominican Republic, initiated a campaign in the Church to collect foods and medicines, motivated women to participate in this mission, searched for training for women and young people to intervene in this situation of crisis in Haiti and she is coordinating a prayer chain at 6am and 10pm with the unit’s members of the Association across the country.

Amancia and our sisters in the Dominican Republic are praying for the Haitian people and that the humanitarian relief is done with justice and peace. I am adding to my prayer that our Haitian and Dominican sisters don’t feel alone in this moment of extreme crisis, and that our faith and hope can awake all the Deborah of our time. I am passing along Amancia invitation to join the prayer chain with our Dominican sisters.

Altogether with church women, ecumenical organizations and civil society, and with the surviving women from Haiti we will be the Deborah of our time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 

Support recovery in Haiti! Donate funds to Haiti through www.umwmission.org. There are lots of options when considering the most effective way to support efforts on the ground in Haiti.

As governments and non-governmental relief agencies cope with conditions in Haiti, it is important to keep a place at the table for women. The Huairou Commission works with grassroots women’s organizations to do just that. Long time coalition partner of United Methodist Women, Huairou is an organization that networks with many grassroots women's organizations. They were instrumental in getting women to the table in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch and in Turkey after an earthquake there. Huairou is currently forming a work group to strengthen their advocacy in Haiti.

 

Communities of Shalom, a General Board of Global Ministries program funded by United Methodist Women, has partnered with Drew University to support one particular project specifically focused on economic development and entrepreneurship for women: Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI). According to the HAPI website, the organization “seeks to raise the sense of self-worth of women in their homes, community and society and to expand the creative abilities that God has given to all.” Haitian Artisans for Peace International is an international project funded by United Methodist Women directly through Mission Giving.

 

Monday, January 25, 2010

By Glory E. Dharmaraj*

 

Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood
Some thro’ the fire, but all through the blood.
Some thru’ great sorrow, but God gives a song
In the night season and all day long.

“God Leads Us along” by Dean Giliand in Sing to the Lord

We have seen in the recent media coverage that we as human beings are capable of border-crossings. We do possess an inherent ability to be borderless people because we see it in the wake of major natural disasters, when people reach out to each other. Humanity without borders brings peoples and nations together for relief work, compassion and mourning, and mutual understanding.

At the wake of the recent earthquake and its aftermaths, most of us are still asking, “Why do such natural disasters happen? Why does God allow this to happen?” None of us have answers to these questions.

In spite of human-made barriers, organizations such as "Doctors Without Borders," "Reporters Without Borders," and "Telecoms Sans Frontiers" have brought relief and communication aid across borders in recent natural disasters.

Only when tragedy occurs does it seem that human beings are able to transcend human-made boundaries, and join hands with one another to alleviate each other’s pain.

Sin and Disaster
Long ago, an English poet, George Herbert, sought to grasp the depth of relationships in two major forces in human existence, Sin and Love. He said there are “two vast, spacious things…yet few there are, that sound them, Sin and Love.”

Placed in the Haiti context, the land has already suffered from decades of systemic poverty. The recent natural disaster is compounding the suffering.

There are some who say that such disasters are due to sin. What does Jesus say about such tragedies? In Luke 13: 1-5, we learn about two tragedies, one man-made and the other an accident. Commenting on the death of the Galileans killed by Pilate, Jesus asked those who reported the incident whether these victims were more sinners than others. Similarly, referring to a recent fall of the tower of Siloam, Jesus asked whether the victims of this calamity were more sinners than others. The collapse of the tower and the deaths of persons are a warning to the living reminding how precarious life is.

Jesus then asks us, the living, to repent and be prepared. Preparedness in the face of calamity is what Jesus teaches us who watch the human suffering. Being with the suffering and alleviating suffering is what is called for.

For the faith community based on Jesus’ teachings, the sin of "divided-ness" – the state of being divided -- is abolished in Christ, and the love of "united-ness" is accomplished in Christ.

This God is in the midst of it all.

Gustavo Gutierrez, a liberation theologian, says, “The active presence of God in the midst of the people is a part of the oldest and most enduring Biblical promises.” The Incarnate Word is fully present to us, when we are fully present to the living God.

Many of the stories of faith, the songs of hope, and the testimonies to resilience by the Haitian men and women have been a challenge to me as a Christian.

The disaster in Haiti has also exposed human limitations, also. It poses a question related to commercial media: "Who owns the trauma stories?" Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) say that they own them. The people say they own them. For me, an additional question is, “Who owns the pain?” The recent natural disasters reveal to us a greater need for both advocacy and relief efforts on behalf of the victims.

Sin and Love seem to run so close to each other. They seem to demand that we “sound” them simultaneously. Let us take sides with Love.

God-in-the-midst-of-it is our God’s name. This God gives songs even in the night (Psalm 42:7-8).

*Glory E. Dharmaraj is director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.

 

Friday, January 22, 2010

United Methodist Women stands with coalition partner Church World Service in asking for debt relief for Haiti. United Methodist Women is an organization with history in support of debt relief. Notably, in October 2008, the Women’s Division Board of Directors signed onto a campaign with Jubilee USA supporting debt cancellation for the 24 deeply impoverished countries, all of which had been excluded in previous debt relief initiatives. In 2004 United Methodist Women joined Jubilee, calling on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to cancel debts of impoverished African nations in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Paul Jeffrey, Response photographer and United Methodist missionary, is on assignment with ACT International (Action by Churches Together) in Haiti. Since his arrival this past weekend Jeffery has had a chance to experience conditions on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Read an account and view images of his first days on this trip to Haiti.

Join with in prayer with women of the Dominican Republic. Amancia Felix, president of the Association of Women from the Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic, has organized a daily chain prayer in which units within the Association of Women read bible texts and pray in the morning and evening. Join the prayer chain at 5:00 AM and 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST) each day, and use the 2010 Prayer Calendar daily scriptures.
 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Your 2010 donations to Haiti could possibly be applied to 2009 tax returns. The Senate is considering H.R 4462, unanimously passed on Wednesday January 20th by the House of Representatives, which would allow donors to receive immediate tax benefits of those 2010 contributions on their 2009 returns. Text giving is also provided for in the bill, which requires taxpayers provide a phone bill as proof of donation. Please click here to view text of the legislation

Rosangela Oliveira, a Women’s Division Regional Missionary who works in Latin America, is in contact with Amancia Felix, the president of the Association of Women from the Evangelical church of Dominican Republic.

Last Updated: 04/12/2010
 
 

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