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Appeal for Haiti

January 19th, 2010

gerald-herbertWe have all seen the pictures of death, injuries and devastation that have followed the earthquake in Haiti. I have launched a special Moderator’s Appeal so that we can support the relief efforts.

Since we have no church partner in Haiti, PCI will be supporting the two Christian agencies, Tearfund and Christian Aid, whom we fund regularly through our World Development Appeal. I know from first hand experience this past year that these organizations will do an excellent job in seeing that all contributions are used wisely and well for the relief of those who are in greatest need and for the rebuilding of broken lives.

Eight in every ten Haitians lived in desperate poverty before the earthquake struck. Many had recently rebuilt their homes after the 2008 hurricane destroyed them. Today the majority of homes are gone. The emotional and spiritual turmoil is growing.

injured-childMedical staff with a Tearfund partner in Haiti are working around the clock treating hundreds of people with earthquake-related injuries.

The King’s Hospital, run by World Relief, is one of the few places offering treatment in the capital Port-au-Prince after escaping the tremors with just a few cracks to the walls. It’s been operating since last Tuesday’s quake killed between 50,000 and 200,000 people. Broken bones from falling masonry are among the main injuries doctors and nurses are dealing with.

Dr Hubert Morquette, World Relief’s country director for Haiti, said, “We’ve treated hundreds of injuries as well as countless open and closed fractures.”

‘We work all day and late into the night as patients continue to flock to our facility. There’s a lot of suffering and we go above and beyond trying to save lives but at times they still succumb to their injuries. We bless the Lord’s name for the medical supplies we’ve received over the last couple of months which have enabled us to provide care to our numerous patients.’

haitilogo_160wMore medical staff are needed, particularly surgeons, and there’s also a shortage of antibiotics and pain-killers. Dr Morquette added, ‘Port-au-Prince is in total despair. The major governmental institutions have crumbled. It is a major catastrophe.’

Christian Aid and its partners are sourcing emergency relief items for distribution to more than 15,000 people in eight communities. It is targeting areas that are getting little help from other agencies.

Five partners hope to provide food, tents, hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans for water and water purifiers. One of these partners, Aprosifa, is a specialist healthcare organisation, and will also be providing medical support. Christian Aid plans to source food from markets in Haiti if possible, but all other items will definitely need to come in from outside. Food is the urgent priority, and partners will begin distributions as soon as they can. The team in Haiti is coordinating closely with colleagues over the border in the Dominican Republic to source materials there where possible. As from Saturday last, every single one of Christian Aid’s partners in the Dominican Republic is assisting in the relief effort in Haiti.

In the midst of this awful tragedy, there has been some crazy speculation by prominent preachers as to why this tragedy struck. They try, rather inadequately and erroneously, to answer the question as to why God would allow such disasters to occur. And they attribute the tragedy to God’s judgment on the nation’s sinfulness. Dave Garner gives a balanced response to this error. The whole article is worth reading. But he finishes by making this important point:

Those directly affected by catastrophe do not need our attempted analysis; they need our tangible love.  Those around us do not need our arrogant assertions about the reasons for the calamity; they need relentless reminders that each moment of life is for their worship, directing them to the God who judges and this same God who in Christ saves from judgment.  They need no repetition of Western, evangelical empty speak; they need gentle yet direct rejoinders to worship the God of heaven who does as He pleases.

Real tragedy makes us really empty.  The transcendent, all-knowing, all-wise, all-just, and all-gracious God is the only filling answer.  No cultural, evangelical or philosophical substitute can stand.  This Haitian crisis, as do the hordes of other crises around the world, points us only God-ward.  This real horror drives us first to the real God who calls us to Christ-like compassion.  It then asks us to speak boldly, gently, lovingly, and truthfully of the true God, and not to reduce the God of heaven to our woefully inadequate, truncating, and idolatrous constructions.  It asks of us to turn our own minds and hearts to Him in repentance and to exhort others to do the same.

We need to give as generously as we can to this appeal and to show Christ-like compassion. Don’t leave it to others. We need to respond to God’s call to reach into the dust and debris, to raise up the broken and to clothe the naked.

Postscript: I was in Dublin today (January 20th) to meet Mr Peter Power, Minister of State in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, to report on what we saw in Ethiopia last August. While we were with him, the Minister was responding to telephone calls from Haiti as his office tracked the progress of a convoy of trucks headed into Haiti carrying 85 tons of food. It was so encouraging to see the efforts that are being made here in Ireland to respond compassionately to this awful crisis.

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