Within hours of hearing about the Haiti quake last week, I was amazed and mortified to learn that the president of the RCA (my church family)’s General Synod (our big annual gathering), James Seawood, was in Haiti at the time of the quake, scheduled to be in Port-au-Prince at the time, alongside an entire delegation of RCA lay and ordained leaders. (I had the privilege of meeting and conversing with Rev. Seawood just before the Synod meeting last year, after he had met with the Seminarian Seminar of which I was a part. I believe I also met there Rev. Andres Serrano, a Dominican pastor who was also part of the Haitian delegation.) Soon word got out that the delegation had survived and had made its way to the Dominican Republic, and was en route to return to the U.S.
The RCA has posted video and thoughts from Rev. Seawood accessible from their main web page… he had taken video footage just moments after the quake… it is remarkable footage of the confusion, fear, and anguish that survivors felt in those initial moments… and it also places you into the shoes of the delegation as they struggle to try to find a route amidst the chaos.
Read his reflections on the entire ordeal here, also found on the RCA website. Amazing stuff.
Wyclef Jean, one of the world’s most famous Haitians, has an organization called Yele Haiti through which he has long been trying to provide hope and healing to a nation devastated by poverty. Now devastated by the erratic and inexplicable forces of nature (no, NOT by a curse, Mr. Robertson…), Yele Haiti and Wyclef are leading a public charge to take necessary action to bring hope and healing yet again.
Earlier today Wyclef hosted a live press conference… it’s being recast right now, and they might play it a few more times, so see if you can catch at least pieces of it….
“This is the only time people are going to see my country”
“We (Yele Haiti) has always been on the ground…”….
“There’s a problem that we have to solve…in the next few days… the security issue amongst the people… where the communities are hostile because of the (lack of) food… so on Saturday…we’ll be leaving again for Haiti….the reality is that you have at least 400,000 people underground ….. for every success story that you see, there are another 40,000 that are buried…”
He calls for a massive exodus outside of Port-au-Prince, to facilitate the cleaning process of the city and to take care of the people… and calls for another countries to help lead this, and to provide tents that will eventually develop into new, 21st-century communities… fascinating stuff.
Sojourners’ blog today features a post from Kent Annan, co-director of Haiti Partners–another organization committed to helping Haiti for years, and has lived for many years himself in Haiti. He addresses the feeling that many of us have… “Why Haiti? Why a country already devastatingly poor?, suffering for years already….” He even references the psalmist who famously addresses this sentiment with the words, “How long, oh Lord?”
His response to this is both difficult and wise– we (as those who do NOT know what it is like to be there, to be from there, or to have lived there) would do well to hear it:
“Finally, I’ve been asked often, when working in Haiti and then during these past few days, how do you keep any hope? My answer, which is burrowed deep in my bones through the privilege of living with, being friends with, watching the courage of, and working alongside many Haitians, is that if they haven’t given up hope, we have no right to. Today I saw on CNN Haitians walking the streets of Port-au-Prince singing hymns and praying.
We’re people committed to be on the side of God’s hope, even on seemingly hopeless days. We’re people committed to be on the side of people in Haiti–not just right now, but for the longterm. “
Ways to spread the hope:
1) Text donations: Text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti
Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross
(no, neither of these are scams.)
-to Red Cross
–To Reformed Church World Service
3) Make medical and hygiene kits and submit them to the RCWS. Find a guide on how to make them here. Right now relief and life-saving are still the focus, and water and medical supplies are among the biggest needs… but as Annan reminds us, we also need to think about how we can CONTINUE to help Haiti head towards recovery in the months and years ahead… so let’s not forget about them. Just as people in Louisiana are still recovering from Katrina in many instances, so it will be in Haiti, only on a much larger scale.