Archive for January, 2010

What the Recent Haitian Earthquake Means to Me

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I find it interesting how some events in my life seem to add meaning to news stories and color how I interpret things. Once such event was a week to 10 days that I spent in Haiti as part of a mission trip sponsored by the Tennessee Region of the Disciples of Christ some years ago.

I will never forget visiting in a church in Port-Au-Prince. My arm was braced across the short aisle to my right, feeling the pressure of many small children pressing as hard as they could to be the first on in line to receive a dime store toy from the bag my wife had on my left. I am just glad they were small children, otherwise, the mass of humanity would have swarmed our bag and no toys could have been distributed. The elders of the church were so embarrassed by the actions of these children, desperate for a little toy.

I also remember riding in a van which often had to slow down to probably 5 or 10 miles an hour just to ease past huge potholes in roads that varied from passable to nearly impassible several times in a few miles. I remember learning that we had to drink bottled water for everything, even though there was a formerly properly functioning water main in most places we visited. In so many places there wer unfinished buildings with rebar sticking up so that construction of the next story could resume when money became available again. There were the squatters taking up residences in “nice” homes that were partially finished. The owner’s being forced to give up their property unless they forced people out by gun point.

In my opinion, many of these problems are an outgrowth of several things:

  • Haiti is one of the only countries to be established by a slave revolt
  • Haiti has been racked with historic racism and hatred between whites, blacks, and mulatoes.
  • Many, if not most of the powerful people in Haiti’s government have historically only been interested in lining their own pockets.

I am so glad to live in America where the corruption is much less.

Against this backdrop, I met some amazing Haitians who lead church services nightly, lead an ecumenical church group, had real jobs during the day, and were creating programs to educate and train their fellow Haitians. These amazing, amazing men probably get by on just a few hours of sleep a night.

Tonight when I look at the news about the reported 7.0 earthquake, I do not wonder about whether Port-Au-Prince is devastated; I know there will be rubble in the streets. The news says hundreds are feared dead. I fear thousands are dead. The news media reports that over 90% are Roman Catholic, but I wonder how many of them will ask which Voodoo incarnated spirit caused this terrible crisis and who will use that knowledge to their benefit.

I also wonder what is happening to those amazing leaders I met. Are they alive? Did their houses and churches survive? What about the Disciples of Christ missionaries stationed there? What about the makeshift markets and bazaars in the various parts of town? What about the churches that served us bottled cokes with straws? What about the guesthouse where we stayed with the huge fig tree out back and the neighborhood kindergarten classes? What about…

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