Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two Years Later

Today marks a terrible anniversary. It has been two years since the earthquake struck the impoverished nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010, destroying much of the country and leaving a nation that was already the poorest in the Western hemisphere in a crisis. During the earthquake thousands of Haitians were killed and many, many children became orphans in a country without even a rudimentary social safety net. The humanitarian crisis the earthquake left behind is incomprehensible to most Americans, even those of us who have visited Haiti and come to love her and her people.

Today, two years later things are not much better in Haiti. It has been a year since I was there and while there is a new President, Michel Martelly, things are still pretty rough. With little in the way of a functional infrastructure or government, daily survival still dominates life in Haiti.

That doesn't mean there is not hope. God's people have responded in a wonderful way to the call to come to Haiti's aid. The Haiti Orphan Project has completed work on Village de Vie and up to 100 orphans and abandoned children will be able to receive care thanks to the hard work and generous donations of so many Christians. What does this "care" look like? Well it looks like this:

We have partnered with The Philadelphia Evangelical Church in the city of Gonaives to help them care for up to 100 orphans. Care includes housing, food, clothing, education and clean drinking water. The schools we build serve the orphans and children from the surrounding community. In addition, we help the local people establish micro-business enterprises such as sewing centers, agricultural projects, bakeries and clean water centers. These not only provide sustainable resources for the orphans, but jobs for Haitians and a means of income to support the “villages.”
I am so thankful for the opportunity to help in even a small way in this work of mercy and love. I thought this would be a good time to repost my article Why Haiti from January 2011, kind of my summary of why Haiti has taken such a hold on my heart. I encourage you who are reading this to find some way, however small or inconsequential it may seem, to minister to the least of these and show the love of Christ to those who so desperately need Him, whether in Haiti or Ethiopia or right around the corner.

So why Haiti of all places? There are needs all over the world, why this one country, why this particular cause? Why the Haiti Orphan Project?

Well there are lots of reasons.

First, because this cause is better than none. Let me explain. It is easy to talk about caring for the least of these in an academic sense. Putting forth a solid theology of orphan care is nice but we are not called to be a people of talk, but of action. God saved us and He saved us for a specific purpose:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

We are not saved by good works but we most certainly are saved to them. As I will mention below, I believe that this cause is one of those “good works” that God has prepared for me long before I was born to carry out as His child and to bring honor and glory to the name of His Son. God did not predestine us just to salvation but to good works as well. There are no sidelines in the Kingdom of God.

Second, because I sort of know someone who is involved. I “know” Les Prouty, the executive director of the Haiti Orphan Project because we have run into one another over the internet (in a non-creepy way), initially from good natured but spirited arguments with Les regarding his erroneous view of baptism. He is someone I respect and trust so when I saw that he was involved in this cause, I decided to look a little closer. You have to be careful with that because you never know what that will get you into. In my case it is getting me into a plane and leaving the country. Considering that I have never been to a foreign country before (I don’t consider Canada to be a real country), this is going to be a jarring experience but one that I pray will stretch me and fill me with zeal for His Kingdom.

Third, the need is so great. This is a tragic situation the scope of which we cannot even imagine as Americans. With literally hundreds of thousands of orphans how can it be otherwise? In a country with it’s act together that would be a staggering number but Haiti has been basically adrift since the earthquake last January and even before that has been going from one crisis and upheaval to another for 200 years. Haiti is parked just a short flight from Miami and in the middle of the Caribbean. By all rights Haiti should be a lush tropical paradise and a destination for tourists but of all of the nations in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is generally considered the worst off and the events of the last year have made it so much worse. Every child we can impact will hopefully grow into an adult who will first and foremost know Jesus Christ and also be equipped to lead this nation out of the bondage of two hundred years of mismanagement, corruption and violence. It can seem hopeless but if something isn’t done in Haiti from the ground up the same problems will still be in place two hundred years from now.

Fourth, 100% of the funds raised go directly to ministry. This is a small group but one that has an outsized impact. Because of the way the Haiti Orphan Project is structured, there is no overhead. The individuals going all raise all of their own funds for these trips (thanks mom!) and unlike some of the huge mercy ministry organizations none of the funds given to the Haiti Orphan Project go to pay for staff or overhead. From the webpage of the HOP:

1. 100% of your tax-deductible gifts are used to care for orphans. Care includes housing, food & water, clothing and school, as well as the local Haitian people actually caring for these children. NONE of your contributions are used to cover overhead here in the US such as salaries, administrative costs, supplies, printing, etc. The overhead is funded from generous donors to ensure that your gifts go entirely to orphan care.

I am leery of donating to places that spend a large percentage of their costs on overhead. I understand why it can be necessary but I prefer to give where my donation goes right to the need instead of paying the light bill in an office in Dallas or Portland.

Fifth, I feel called. I say that cautiously because I think it is an overused term in the church. “I feel called” often really means “This is what I decided to do and I hope God is OK with it” but in this case I think it really applies. From the beginning I was shaken by the catastrophic earthquake and aftermath of Haiti. As I watched in dismay over what was happening, I began to understand the impact this was having on Haitians in general but especially on the children. With some 750,000 orphans the need is immediate and severe and it was something that really stuck with me in a way that other catastrophes didn’t. There was just something about this country, something about the pictures of the children with smiles and faces full of hope in a country where by rights they have precious little expectation of anything good that draws me in.

If you are working with and actively supporting a mercy ministry, whether it involves you traveling to Ethiopia or Brazil or some other far away land or whether you are involved in a local ministry like a homeless shelter or crisis pregnancy center, God be with you. If you are a follower of Christ and haven’t really gotten directly involved with ministry outside of your local church, please prayerfully consider supporting and advocating for Haiti’s orphans. If you are so led, please check out their webpage here. If you have any questions, there is a contact form on the webpage and you can expect to hear back from Les in a hurry (unless he is in Haiti at the time!).

No comments: