Bread now, Bibles later

Lipscomb University in Nashville is named after a minister who served in that city after the civil war.  He received offers from northern brethren to send Bibles during the post-war recovery period.  He said, “Send bread now, Bibles later.”

Haiti needs bread, water, medicine, tents, now.  Later they will need engineers, builders, construction crews, to build houses, clinics, and schools.  The schools will need textbooks, including Bibles.

I also think our first response should be to help now and then ask theological questions later.  And realistically, the best way to help now is to send money to organizations that are already there on the ground.

Questions of “why?” are easy to answer in terms of geology and physical science, politics, and economics–in terms of the divine purpose, they are harder.  The question of “where” God was and is, is also easy to answer.  God is present with the suffering people of Haiti, and he is present in the people who are there to help.

Why Haiti Suffers

This week’s earthquake was a natural disaster, totally unexpected by everyone except for professional seismologists.  Of all the causes of Haiti’s suffering, only the earthquake itself does not have human fingerprints on it.

Colonial Exploitation

Haiti was once a fertile island paradise (well, half an island: it shares the land mass with Dominica).  The French colonized the western half of the island of Hispaniola. The indigenous population was quickly destroyed by exposure to influenza and other infections brought by the Europeans.  They were soon replaced by slaves kidnapped from Africa.  The French fed their country with food grown on Haiti’s rich soil.

Environmental Desolation

The French and the corrupt rulers who followed them over-exploited the land and destroyed its fertility.  There are few trees left on Haiti–there are a few-oranges, grapefruits, avocados, mangoes–they are sweet but rare.  A few people make a living selling their fruit.  But there are not enough trees left to prevent erosion, which makes flooding and other natural disasters worse.  I visited Haiti 20 years ago, and I don’t recall seeing a bird.  I do remember seeing the local Haitians recycle used motor oil–they poured it on any pools of standing water to kill mosquitoes.

Political Corruption

In 1804 Haiti became the second nation in the Western hemisphere to declare its independence.  In a glorious revolution that should have made the French proud, they killed every white person on the island.  Tragically, since gaining a form of autonomy, Haiti has been ruled by its own dictators and corrupt leaders.  The notorious Duvaliers used the fear of voodoo along with old-fashioned terror and brutality to keep its citizens from enjoying the fruits of freedom.

Who is Helping?

I doubt there is any group of people subject to more negative stereotypes than missionaries.  (Read The Poisonwood Bible, which one of my students who group up as a missionary kid thought was “funny.”)  The people of Haiti know different.  They know that the missionaries are not bigoted, proselyting zealots–they are there to help.  The missionaries run schools, children’s homes, and clinics.  They assist people in farming projects and micro-enterprises.  I will admit, sometimes they tell the people things like–

You are beautiful, you are a child of God.

Hold your head up, God loves you.

There are, of course, many people working with non-governmental aid agencies that are not religiously affiliated.  Usually the missionaries and “secular” aid workers respect each other and work side by side.  They are all there to help the people of Haiti.

One mission trying to help the land of Haiti with long-term recovery is “Eden Reforestation Projects.”  Two missionaries from the Free Methodist Church working with Eden Reforestation are reported in critical condition, and three are missing, after the earthquake, according to our local Eden Vigil representative Lowell Bliss.

Help Haiti

I’ll have more later, but right now I want to encourage anyone who can to donate to relief efforts in Haiti.  There are many organizations and groups already there on the ground ready to distribute aid.  The needs in Haiti were enormous before the earthquake; but every drop in the bucket helps someone.

The Mennonites have been doing a lot of good work for the poor in Haiti, as they do around the world.  They are well respected by the Hatian people and have the infrastructure in place to distribute aid.  (Mennonite Central Committee).  World Vision also has a good record of service in Haiti.

If you have another favorite organization, by all means contribute there.

Tragedy in Port Au Prince

school-collapse-pop

While Americans were celebrating the selection of the first president of African descent last week, the tragic collapse of a school for poor children in Port Au Prince, Haiti, brought grief to that island.

“No one cares about the children, living or dead,”

one furious father of children in the collapsed school outside of Port au Prince, Haiti, swore Sunday in an interview.

“No one has come to provide any counseling to the children and families who survived. Nothing has been done for the families whose children died. The children now have no school and no books. They are sick and have nightmares. Government officials and people from all the NGOs, they all come, take pictures, make speeches and they leave us with nothing. We need action!”  (More)

Some of the people are blaming the minister of the church which ran the school, and he has received threats.  Most of the people in the community, though, blame the government for indifference, corruption, and lax oversight of construction standards.

One father cried out,

Justice in courts in Haiti exists only for the people in the government and the people with money. When you are poor, your justice is in the Bible and in Jesus alone.”

Save the Children is one of many relief organizations helping out in Haiti.  The Mennonites have also been doing good work in Haiti for a long time and are well respected by the Haitian people.  Some of you may know of other organizations that are helping.  Who do you recommend partnering with?