Stories from the Global Church

Here you will find stories from the global church by ELCA global missionaries, scholars, and churchwide staff, brought to you by the ELCA Global Church Sponsorship team.

Haitian journey ends

Posted on August 7, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula Stecker has been an ELCA missionary working with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 225 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

Coming to the St. James parish communion table.

Coming to the St. James parish communion table.

It’s summer in Haiti. It’s hot. The streets are a bit less congested as expatriates and nationals flee the heat for vacations farther north. Schools are closing and children are visiting grandparents in the mountains rather than being idle on sizzling Port au Prince streets. Carl and I have also left this beautiful island and started the transition to the next chapter of this journey.

Work continues, however, at the Lutheran World Federation-Haiti. There was an outbreak of cholera in Grand’Anse Department, in the zone of our long-term development. Out of the first 30 cases at Mouline, 10 died. Our partner, Fondation Nouvelle Grand ‘Anse (FNGA), was alerted and our office sent reinforcement to help contain the outbreak.

The greatest progress has been made in equipping our partners to have the knowledge, resources and skills to work increasingly independent of LWF supervision and financing.

I continue to wrestle with the Lord for a blessing for the parish of St. James. I know this is the Lord’s work and not mine. I know that God’s perspective on the seasons and the times is far superior to mine, but I leave feeling like Phillip, Acts 8, snatched from the side of the road where the Ethiopian has just been baptized and wondering … now who is going to the post-baptismal teaching?

They are pushing one another to grow in faith and they will need a leader to match their pace and continue equipping them for ministry that I can only imagine, but for which I already praise God. Pray with me for this leader. Like Phillip, I must trust, that the part I was to play has been fulfilled and I will find myself in Azotus for a purpose.

Carl and I came to offer reinforcement during the post-earthquake recovery and the roles we have played are being reintegrated into the routine functions of the staff at Catholic Relief Services (Carl) and Lutheran World Federation (Paula). And that is a good thing! The work of sustainable development will continue and the percentage of the work being directed by Haitians increases. We returned to the U.S. mid-July, are taking vacation and then will move to Chicago. Why Chicago? Because Carl will once again be working for the ELCA’s Global Mission, based at the Lutheran Center. See, wives can have a good influence on their husbands. I am seeking a call in that area.

Thank you for your accompaniment as we made this Haitian journey. You have been a blessing to us. Many of you we have not yet met face to face but have been glad of the grace of mutual conversation and consolation.

Peace and blessings, Paula and Carl Stecker

 

The green zone

Posted on July 21, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula M. Stecker, an ELCA missionary, works with the Lutheran World Federation Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support Paula, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 225 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

Charcoal vendors in Haiti provide many people the fuel they need to heat and cook.

Charcoal vendors in Haiti provide many people the fuel they need to heat and cook.

We are in the midst of “The Month of the Environment” here in Haiti. The minister of the environment proclaimed it, allowing it to surround the approaching meetings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, called RIO+20. At St. James we are preaching on “The God of Green and Everything Else” and organizing ourselves as a recycling collection point.

A graph I recently saw plotted the level of a nation’s human development index against its ecological footprint and made me feel “naked” as an American. Ideally, there is a zone on that graph where all nations would enjoy an acceptable human development index and not use more than the per capita biomass the planet can offer in a sustainable manner. The zone in the bottom right hand corner is colored green and it is so empty. No nation is living there today. Several Latin American countries are close. Most nations live far outside that green zone. The U.S., like most European and North American nations, far exceeds its share of the earth’s sustainable  resources. We are caught red-handed. Africa and other developing nations are far to the left of the mark for human development enjoyment, living off much less than their share of the earth’s natural resources. This is not a picture of reconciliation.

And here’s the thing: What if that green zone is the sweet spot? What if living there would actually be a foretaste of heaven? What if when Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you,” he was hoping we would discover ways to welcome one another home to that green zone?

Getting to that green zone on the chart means that corporations will have to be held accountable by moral agendas. Eco-justice will not be a corporate priority. Consumers must transform the ethical questions of ecology and justice into economic questions. And Americans are the world’s greatest consumers. Many Americans are Christian. We could lead the way, making choices for eco-justice. Imagine. What if the world knew we were American because we lived green?

Peace,
Paula Stecker

 

Healing in Haiti

Posted on March 27, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula Stecker is an ELCA missionary in Haiti. Here is a condensed version of some her thoughts on Haiti two years after the 2010 earthquake. To support Paula, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

LWF staff chat with T-shelter recipients on a shelter porch.

LWF staff chat with T-shelter recipients on a shelter porch.

March 11, 2012
The following piece was one I planned to share with you early in February. The first draft written Jan. 13, but life got busy and suddenly I was home in Iowa, gathering with my family as my father was dying from complications of a knee replacement surgery. Dad would have been 83 this week and he seemed much too strong to die. We were not ready to say goodbye, but we have felt grace surrounding us as we try. Finishing this story, the strength of the cloud of witnesses shines for me even more boldly. We miss you, Dad.

Love and Peace, Paula

As I flew back onto the island in January, I was amazed that there really was a visible change over the past year, even from the air.  But, the change that moved me the most was to discover that those who survived Jan. 12 , 2010, have come a long way toward weaving the earthquake and its consequences into the lives they are reclaiming.

We held a special memorial service at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) office on Jan. 13. About 30 members of the staff and some visitors gathered to remember, to pray, and to share what this earthquake has come to mean in their lives. As we planned the service, we did not imagine that people would share more than a few words, or the name of a loved one lost. We heard the hope of scripture. We prayed for one another and then the invitation to share was passed around the circle.

Ruth Esther, our psychosocial officer, was helping to facilitate this sharing and she went first. Ruth told about being at St. Trinity School teaching music to eight little ones. She escaped with all the children and now associates Jan. 12 with God’s grace that helped get all of them and herself out of the building which was destroyed. She passed the talking stone to the left. Would anybody else speak?

Not only did they speak, but they told their goudou goudou stories as integrated pieces of their very narrative lives. We heard of heroic walks and futile searches for hospitals, of holding dying cousins in their arms and collapsing in the street at the sight of one’s children safe and sound with neighbors. Some had had troubling visions or dreams beforehand. There were memories of the last words exchanged and the agony of not being able to contact loved ones. Others stressed the importance of knowing we are alive today for a purpose; how important it is to make sure Haiti will be better prepared next time. They witnessed to how strangers had helped them, offering a bed sheet or a hand out of the rubble.

For over two hours we listened to these sacred stories: an unpolished mix of English, French and Kreyol translations, sharing the pain, letting the tears flow, even as we marveled at the healing. These were not the same people whose lives were shaken two years ago at 4:53 in the afternoon. They had been transformed and they knew it.

 

Thoughts on the fourth day of Christmas in Haiti

Posted on January 3, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula M. Stecker works with the Lutheran World Federation Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support Paula, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

 

New members of the royal priesthood.

New members of the royal priesthood.

Often as we walk between the main street, Delmas, and our little side street, we pass by a small soccer match in the middle of the street behind the bakery. These soccer matches are played with a sadly, half-inflated  ball striped with dirty tape. My first impulse was to replace it, but that would probably ruin the sport. You don’t want long kicks when the field is only 4 yards wide and 20 yards long. And if the ball looked too new or too valuable would it remain available to this scraggly crowd? The goalie box is marked by two broken halves of a cement block. There are spectators, of course, who cheer and coach as though we were at a grand stadium. And everybody rushes into the “stands” when a car or truck presumes to clear the field.

The imagination is a great gift. God allows us to see things beyond our present reality — to dream of things yet unseen. We can even practice the moves that we would make should that greater reality come to pass. Like little boys passing a weather beaten soccer ball on a dusty street, we sing our songs of praise and lift your prayers of adoration from our dusty, weather beaten, half-inflated lives, proudly wearing the colors of Christ, which are not yet fully visible to the spectators.

The Bible teaches that “Faith is hope in things unseen.” Like a tiny baby, wrapped in rags and laid in a bed of straw, before whom kings bowed and laid precious gifts and over whom multitudes of angels sang their heavenly choruses. Their hope was in the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God who would be a Savior. And it was visible only by faith. Christmas demands our imagination.

Today we baptized five young saints, marked  them with the cross of Christ and welcomed them into the royal priesthood. Afterwards there were some goodies and simple gifts and it was glorious.

The Stecker family, having been blessed to celebrate Christmas together, hope that you will have a blessed and holy imagination into the New Year!

Paula and Carl, Chantal and Valerie Stecker

We’re all in this environment together

Posted on October 25, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula M. Stecker works with the Lutheran World Federation Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support Paula, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

The Haitian Pine Forest was once so thick you could not see the sun.

The Haitian Pine Forest was once so thick you could not see the sun.

I just returned from what is left of the Pine Forest, a few hours west of Port au Prince high in the Haitian mountains, at 6230 ft. It is still beautiful, but much thinner. Residents easily remember when if they stood in the forest, the trees were so thick that you could not see the sun. Today, that is not a problem. The forest has shrunk from 32.000 hectares to 9,000 hectares.

There is a whole sector of development and humanitarian aid that is called disaster risk reduction, which works with communities to be prepared for disasters that are likely and to mitigate the risks they would bring by altering the state of the environment. For example, in Haiti, that has meant planting trees, protecting remaining cloud forests and assisting those in the mountains (two-thirds of the nation) to terrace fields and build drywalls to conserve the soil. Even offering alternative livelihoods is a great means to protect the environment by discouraging people from cutting down slow-growing native trees to make charcoal or planks. Avocado trees and coffee trees can be planted to help hold the soil and to offer other revenue sources.

Unfortunately, the politics and economics surrounding these lands get complicated and often the environment gets the short end of the stick.

Not long ago, I read in a local newspaper that the North (U.S. Canada, Europe, China, Japan…) have finally figured out that it is worth paying the poor nations, in which these cloud forests are found, to rebuild healthy forest cover to reduce the ecological damage of the North’s destruction of the ozone by their industrial pollution. That’s probably not enough in itself. There are still companies from the North exploiting woods and metals in this tropical zone, ripping open the land where there had been rich ancient forests. But it helps us see that the cloud forest is not just Haiti’s problem, it is the world’s problem. What are we going to do about it?

Peace,
Paula Stecker

Haiti needs more than charity

Posted on August 16, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula M. Stecker works with the Lutheran World Federation Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support  Paula, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

Pastor Paula M. Stecker

Pastor Paula M. Stecker

The last leg of a recent journey back to Port au Prince from Miami was on a 737 jet. As we sat in the waiting lounge, my Haitian friend looked around and said, “I think I may be the only Haitian on this flight.” Wow! We verified that there were only about three Haitians on a flight so full they paid people to stay behind. Who was going to Haiti? It was many groups who were going to give a helping hand. It is summer and America is going to save Haiti.

Here’s the rub: While Haitians are very appreciative of the help they have received from so many, they would also like to do more of the reconstruction themselves. The Haitian carpenters, painters, welders, farmers, teachers, doctors and nurses would like to work for a fair wage and be able to pay for their food, their rent and the school fees for their kids.

Haitians are not looking for charity alone. Charity has kept many Haitians alive through the worst of the aftermath of January 2010, but it is not sustainable. Charity doesn’t demand the changes that would permit them to raise up a new Haiti. They are asking for a break from the international community in order to fund new industries. They would like to see high schools and colleges in the cities outside of Port au Prince as a sign of the beginning of decentralization of power and privilege.

The Lutheran World Federation has done a great job this past year and a half of supporting a wide variety of activities where Haitians are rebuilding Haiti.

But how do we approach this bigger problem? It will take more than charity. How do we hold the world accountable for the promises made in March 2010 to help Haiti move to a new place?

Some of you have been to Haiti. You have heard and seen the issues firsthand. All of you have a voice, both as church and as citizens. Our voices can bear witness before governments and institutions like the United Nations, and we don’t even need to get on a plane to do it. We can pray for a more just nation, a more equitable economy, where life is more than the sum of disasters survived. If all our voices were at the Lord’s disposal for such a time as this, the result could be even more dramatic than the earthquake.  What do you say?

Peace,
Pastor Paula M. Stecker
cpstecker@comcast.net

Louis Dorvilier to serve in Haiti

Posted on September 24, 2010 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, e-mailed this announcement to Lutheran Center colleagues on September 20, 2010.–Sue

On August 22-26, 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Haiti to express the solidarity of our church to the Eglise Lutherienne D’ Haiti (ELH), review the plans for relief and rehabilitation work post the earthquake through the ELH and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and to meet with the LWF Haiti office and other members of the ACT Alliance engaged in reconstruction work. Eight month after the earthquake the situation in Haiti continues to be critical. The enormity of the task ahead is overwhelming.

 One of the challenges we face in the Lutheran Communion is the vacancy for the Field Representative position in the LWF World Service Program in Haiti. This position is responsible for the on-going work of the Haiti programs and our response to the disaster of January 12, 2010. Filling that position is critical for the continuation of our work in Haiti and for the effective coordination of the relief and rehabilitation work of our communion.

 After listening to the concerns presented by representatives of local NGOs, political leaders, and church officials, it became apparent that the person to fill this position should have not only skills and competencies in development work, knowledge of the Haitian society and fluency in the language, but be a trusted person who could bring together different sectors of the Haitian civil society, political leadership, and the faith community to work in a coordinated manner in the reconstruction of Haiti. For that reason, the ELCA has decided to second Mr. Louis Dorvilier to the LWF to serve as Field Representative for a period of three years. During this time Mr. Dorvilier will continue under the employ of Global Mission and will have responsibility for some GM related activities/initiatives in Haiti.

 Mr. Dorvilier will commence his new responsibilities in Haiti on October 11, 2010.  His last day at the GM-Chicago office was September 15.  We thank Louis for his work among us as Director for GM’s International Development and Disaster Response Program. We pray God’s blessing upon Louis as he undertakes these new responsibilities.

 Effective immediately Ms. Lita B. Johnson is assuming new responsibilities as Director for International Development and Disaster Response. Lita has been serving as Associate Executive Director with responsibilities in the management of Global programs. Prior to her coming to Global Mission, she directed the World Hunger appeal and served as Assistant to the Presiding Bishop.

Pax,
The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla
Executive Director, ELCA Global Mission