By Lucas Endicott
As the waters recede, people in Haiti are getting a first look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew and the picture isn’t good. The southern and western parts of the island were most effected by the storm, with roads washed out, roofs destroyed by high force winds, and loss of life. Gertrude Bien-Aimeand, a Haitian who runs Notre Maison Orphanage, describes reports she has received from her hometown in the west: “These people were already in misery, now I don’t know how to call it . . . I talked to Roberto four hours ago. He had to climb a mountain to be able to find signal. He said the place has become a desert. You can see only six houses in whole Damassin. People need a relief effort immediate, because there is no clean water, no food, no sanitation. All the animals that died are everywhere. The village smells so bad with dead animals. Cholera is already spreading. The few hospitals they have are already full with sick and wounded people.” This is a desperate scene.
Yet, there are also reports of immediate action. Brulan Jean-Michael, Methodist Guest House Manager, has already been on the scene. “Yesterday, I had a chance to fly to Petit-Goave by helicopter to assess the damage to the Ladigue bridge. I am happy to report though the bridge has been washed away, strong vehicles and trucks can go through.” Later this week, Brulan will drive to Los Cayes and Jeremie. “In Petit-Goave and around the city, a lot of trees are down, streets were flooded, and some houses have lost their roofs. Reports from the countryside is that livestocks are decimated along with food plantations. Places like Olivier, Yvon, Sobier, Moliere, Hyacinthe and Carenage now need mostly materials to rebuild and repair homes, schools and churches.”
Due to generous giving through Haiti Water Plus The Missouri Annual Conference was able to secure 2,000 water filters in the days following the storm. Highland Park United Methodist Church, a large sister church in Dallas, Texas, generously offered to ship these filters directly from Miami on a flight of aid they previously planned to send. Methodist Guest House officials and trained Haitian staff will deliver these filters to the areas in need immediately.
This quick response is possible in part because of the larger work with which Missouri Methodists have been engaged in Haiti. Individuals and churches have long been involved in the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti, the poorest nation in the neighborhood, has been vulnerable to natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew. Following the devastating earthquake of 2010, many Missouri Methodists focused efforts on providing home-use water filters to stop the spread of water-borne pathogens. This work continues and is indeed now increasingly important.
In the weeks and months to come, prayerfully consider if you have a role to play in this larger story. Here are some ways you may respond:
Give: Continue to give generously through www.Haitiwaterplus.org. This will allow the Missouri Annual Conference to respond to needs as they arise on the ground.
Go: Groups of 7-15 people may travel to Haiti to respond to the need. The Conference office can help coordinate trips with local contacts in Haiti. Most groups are 7-20 people and usually last for five to seven days—details, however, are flexible. Most groups traveling with the Conference over the last few years have reported costs of $1,200 to $1,500 per person. Check out these trips, leaving in November and January.
Grow: Continue to pray for and learn about Haiti. Several Missouri United Methodist Churches have long-lasting partnerships in Haiti. Through these relationships, life in both local communities are transformed. Haiti’s unique culture, history, and perspective have proven tranformative to local church’s understanding of the gospel, life together, prayer, engagement and so much more.
Robenson Marceus, In-Country Director of Haiti Water Plus, reports: “The people remain vulnerable.” Solutions in Haiti will be long in coming. Yet, as Haitians take the lead in response Missouri Methodists are in a position to respond. May God continue to use the people called Methodist.