Haiti needs more than charity

Posted on August 16, 2011 by Global Mission Support

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?

Pastor Paula M. Stecker


6 Responses to 'Haiti needs more than charity'

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  1. Sasha Meyers said,

    on August 16th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Hello Pastor Stecker,
    Your message reached my heart and head. I’ll be thinking about what we can do here to provide work for the people of Haiti.
    Thank you for your words.

  2. Sasha Meyers said,

    on August 16th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I wish you well.

  3. Paula Stecker said,

    on August 19th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Sasha, it is hard to believe that maybe all God is asking of us is just to tell it how we see it, to give witness to the piece of the puzzle before us, trusting that others will point out the next pieces; but you have just shown that. God bless.

  4. Sharon Rogers said,

    on August 26th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Greetings Pr. Paula,

    One of the challenges I think for those of us stateside is to discern what accompaniment practically looks like in wanting to come alongside Haitians in the rebuilding of Haiti.

    It is easy to write checks and collect other items as acts of charity. How do we better understand accompaniment when what we (collectively as citizens in the USA) know is to go and do with the idea that our presence gives hope, allows Haitians to go about daily duties without the the burden soley being on them to also rebuild?

    I agree it is a puzzle as we discern our congregation’s call to be God’s hands in Haiti.


  5. Pastor April Ulring Larson said,

    on August 27th, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Dear Pastor Stecker,
    Thank you for your work and the longtime commitment of LWF. After a week at Holden Village with a focus on Haiti and listening to Haitian leaders from the Lutheran Church in Haiti and LWF, I am not clear about many things concerning faithful accompaniment of our sisters and brothers in Haiti. Clearly Joseph and Louis and others said, “pray for us”, “remember us”, “walk with us”, “listen”, “listen to our stories and history”. President Joseph invited us to come to Haiti and see. Does this mean we become just another non-Haitian filling up an airplane? We are personally deeply aware of the Haitians great abilities for building and removing dangerous rubble. How to be helpful and not get in the way remains a concern. Our hearts and minds are with Haiti.

    Yours in Christ, April Ulring Larson

  6. Paula Stecker said,

    on September 28th, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Sharon and April,
    These are such important reflections. Sorry my response is slow. I don’t receive feeds on this. The hard part for Americans is we feel such a great need to “do for” without understanding the power we have in situations, just because we come from North America. There certainly is a place for mutual walking together, but that is not what most of these groups are doing. They are “doing for” and because they have few days and do not speak the language, there is little time of listening. Listening has to be very intentional and it demands a place of equal power, where the dominant ones go to extreme measures to witness with their eyes and ears the mission and the challenges of these brothers and sisters. It also has to consider the resources demanded by the host groups in order for that companionship and listening to happen. It DOES happen and there is a place for companionship. But what we saw this summer was not that for the most part. Thus my lament.

    We speak in Global Mission about MUTUAL recognition and exchange of gifts. Will we seriously undertake that task? I hope so, because Christians in Haiti have gifts to share with us.