February 2010

This past week, at the invitation of Bishop David Roller, a delegation of Bishop Roller, Dr. Art Brown (USA), Bishop Cecilio Osoria, Superintendent Fredy (Dominican Republic) Bishop Keith Elford and Mr. Grant Sigsworth (Canada) traveled to Port au Prince, Haiti via the Dominican Republic to meet with General Superintendent Clovis Momplasir, and the district superintendents and pastors of the areas most affected by the earthquake.  We wanted to hear about the impact of the earthquake on the Free Methodist Church, about ways in which Free Methodists are responding presently to the huge disaster and to work together to develop plans for going forward.

It was a very moving experience for me to be with these Haitian leaders with whom I developed deep friendships during the time that I oversaw the church in Haiti.  I have always admired the deep spirituality and courage of our Haitian people who, even in normal times, exuded genuine joy in the midst of oppressive poverty.  Their poise and quiet steadiness in the face of the present widespread grief, suffering, and destruction is a powerful testimony to human resilience, deepened and strengthened by the mysterious underpinning of God’s grace.  

We praise God that no pastors were killed, though two pastor’s wives were seriously injured and the daughter of one pastor died.  It is unknown how many lay members died.  Many schools and churches have collapsed and others cannot be used until further engineering assessments are done.  We are pleased to report that there is a very competent team overseeing the logistics of the planning.

There are three phases of response to a disaster of this magnitude – the relief phase, the recovery phase, and the reconstruction phase.  For the next 30 days the plan is to focus on distribution of water, food and medicine.  The 90 day plan includes a focus on health, psychological welfare of children, continued food and water distribution, distribution of non-food items and hygiene kits, a retreat for pastoral families to help them spiritually and psychologically, the provision of back-to-school kits (clothes and school supplies), temporary shelters (tents), and the repair of repairable buildings.  Because of the widespread destruction, there is some discussion by the government about relocating whole communities to new areas and abandoning the present neighborhoods.  Reconstruction of buildings will therefore be delayed until the government’s intentions are known.

The planning group recognizes the importance of building both economic and competence capacities in this situation.  To accomplish this, Haitians will be employed initially for demolition and rubble removal.  In later stages, attempts are going to be made to train Haitians to practice trades with skill.  It is believed that an approach that maximizes the involvement of indigenous people is the healthiest and most appropriate.

Dr. Brown informed the group that 15 countries have already responded with financial contributions.  At the end of our meetings, District Superintendent Devariste said with deep emotion, “I wish that I had a microphone to speak loudly enough so that Free Methodists all around the world could hear me say ‘Thank you, we know that we are not alone!’”

We have agreed that the FMCiC wants to participate in this integrated plan and we are exploring the possibility of the Canadian church using its Bishop’s Relief Fund to provide shelter for pastors who are presently sleeping on the street or in school yards.  Daily they go to their jobs to provide food for their families.  After work they fulfill their pastoral responsibilities even as they themselves grieve and carry leadership responsibility for the distribution of aid.  We are concerned that they be provided with a temporary shelter of substance to enable them to have a place where they can rest and stay physically and emotionally healthy.  Research is being done to see what temporary structures (very durable tents) are available.  I’ll tell you more about this once we have more information.

This is a summary of where we are at this point.  Thanks so much for your prayer support and please continue to pray.  There are pics in the Photo Gallery.