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ELCA World Hunger

It’s been a year!

It’s been hard to miss the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake in the media this week. For me, it’s gone quickly and I find myself saying, “Wow! It’s been a year!?” I’m guessing many Haitians are looking around the streets saying the same thing but meaning something very different. Certainly there has been progress in recovering, but so much remains to be done.

One of our colleagues in Global Mission, a Haitian national, resigned his post here in Chicago to return to Haiti and help with the recovery. To hear about his family’s experience from his wife’s perspective, check out this video:


The ELCA and its partners have done a lot these past 12 months, rebuilding homes, providing temporary schools, and preventing the spread of cholera. And we remain committed to the long-term recovery of Haiti, with plans to do much more! To learn more what’s happened these past 12 months as well as what’s underway, visit our Haiti Earthquake Relief web page. Keep praying, and please also consider making a donation. It’s not too late to help!

-Nancy Michaelis

Aid and Development in Haiti

This week’s post will be a collection of thoughts I’ve been having about the still unfolding tragedy in Haiti.  As you may guess, I have been watching the news and the Web with particular interest as the situation has developed.

By now we are all familiar with the country–how it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, how it shares the island of Hispaniola with it relatively wealthier neighbor, the Dominican Republic, and how that the disparity between the two countries is at least in part the result of U.S. policies (for a great informative piece on the history of Haiti, click here).   The earthquake was especially devastating because of the extreme poverty and its proximity to the main population center.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, we have seen many things that demonstrate the difficulty in providing effective aid.  The total loss of infrastructure has made it difficult to deliver aid in the first place.  We have seen people trying to work around the infrastructure, like the (well-meaning, I hope) Baptist missionaries trying to smuggle non-orphaned kids to the Dominican Republic.  This has now decreased the effectiveness of other agencies doing legitimately good work (such as the private air lifts that previously took 15 critically injured children a day to hospitals in the United States to receive treatment–since the arrest of the missionaries, they have taken three children total, leading to the death or permanent injury of at least 10 children).  There was also the debate about who would pay for the treatment of the critically wounded coming to Florida hospitals that led to a halt to airlifts.  (As an aside, this was for me one of the real tragic stories in the whole affair–we have the means to provide immediate aid, but we are worried about costs.  I recognize that nothing is free, and that Florida does have other financial obligations, but it just felt wrong to put money ahead of lives.  Your thoughts?)

To close this post, looking ahead, we need to make sure we maintain our commitment to the people of Haiti.  There have been rumblings of forgiving Haiti’s debt and I, for one, think this would be a good thing to continue to advocate for.  Our continued financial support can do much good, especially since many of our partners work very close to the ground.  As to the desire to go down to Haiti, which I find myself fighting, unless you have a particular skill to offer, it is much better to pray and advocate and give.  Haiti lost a lot of its skilled labor force (they were the ones inside the buildings–the doctors, the lawyers, the teachers–when the earthquake struck), and now has many unemployed, unskilled hands that need work and the money that comes from work.  We should be very slow to take that away from them in our desire be a part of the action.

-David Creech

Haiti through Andrew’s Eyes

The news from the earthquake in Haiti permeates our media and our hearts.  When we turn on the television there are images of death and destruction, and for some loss and despair.  At times like this hope can seem hard to grasp.  Andrew Brown is a former classmate of mine at California Lutheran University; his numerous trips to Haiti have greatly impacted his life and deepened his faith.  I was able to ask him a few questions about his experiences.  I hope that his answers help to paint for you a living picture of the country and it’s people.  Please read on as Andrew helps us to see into the heart of Haiti.

How many times have you been to Haiti and what did you do while you were there?

Andrew: I have been to Haiti on four different occasions.  My first three trips I took to Haiti were work trips focused on building an orphanage, hospital, and school for children living just outside downtown Port-Au-Prince.  My last trip, however, was to visit friends and film their stories for a documentary.  All of my trips to Haiti have been extremely humbling experiences and root my life again in Christ’s work.

What is your favorite memory from your time there?

Andrew: Where to begin.  I think my favorite memories are the times I get to share with my Haitian friends.  Leonard is a Haitian man who works as a “Taxi driver” in Haiti.  He is usually our driver when we are in Haiti working or visiting.  Leonard is the kindest man I have ever met.  The times I have been able to share with Leonard fill my life with purpose to be a better person.  You often hear him shouting the Lord’s praise in song on our car rides or simply shouting, “No problem!!!”  Each time I have been to Haiti he has kindly opened his home to my friends and I.  It is somewhat dangerous for a Haitian to open his house to white people as it puts a target on them as being rich, or privileged.  Leonard does not care.  We are his friends.  And he opens his home for us because God called us to do so.  The faith Leonard demonstrates is often incomprehensible.

My other memory, although a little more difficult to understand are the times I have spent in hospitals and orphanages.  Holding children who are very ill or massaging lotion onto the dying.  I never realized how my hands, how my presence, could soothe a crying child, or calm a dying man.  I get to be Jesus for a moment and feel the presence of him through my hands.  Those little moments are always in my heart and resonate with me whenever pain and sadness exist.

How has your experience in Haiti impacted your life?

Andrew: The relationships I have built with Haitian friends over the years continues to impact my life everyday.  Many of the men and women I have met have very little by world standards.  But yet I find myself being called to become a better person because of the faith they have in God.  It has caused me to remember their faces and in time of trial praise God for all of the blessings in my life.  The people of Haiti have instilled a sense of urgency to serve.  Since the moment I arrived in Haiti, I have not forgotten their faces or their smiles.  I feel called to give my time, my talent, and my gifts to the Lord who has created me.  The people of Haiti have taught me what it means to love unconditionally, and to have faith in a God who’s plan isn’t always prevalent.

What is one thing we should all know about the people of Haiti?

Andrew: The people of Haiti are some of the most incredible people I have ever met.  They have literally been plagued by corruption, famine, poverty, and injustice for 200 years, and yet continue to love each other and their country so much.  The people of Haiti are good.  They will give you the shirt off their back, even if it is their last.  Haitians are the hardest working people I have ever encountered.  They will prosper and they will succeed.

Have you personally heard any updates from people you know in Haiti? Would you be willing to share?

Andrew: I have a very close friend who has been working in Haiti since Thanksgiving of 2009.  I received word this morning through Facebook that she has been working around the clock at a make shift outdoor clinic.

From her Facebook: “I know very little other than I am ok. We are working through the night at an outdoor clinic. 3 hours of sleep since the incident. I have to be honest it is kind of terrifying to be here. It is a total battelfield. My heart races all the time. Thanks so much for your prayers.”

Other than Joanna, I have heard various reports of other friends in Haiti being safe, but the news is very scarce.  It could be many days before I am able to really understand the gravity of loss to the great people of Haiti.  Their words are piercing.  But God is good and in control.

How does your faith affect your response to the recent earthquake in Haiti?

Andrew: I think in any time of catastrophe, our faith is challenged.  We ask ourselves, “why do bad things happen?”  I don’t know that I have that answer, but I do know that God is good.  Faith is something you cannot see, and the basis of faith is to trust in the Lord in times like these.  That is what faith is built for, times of darkness and hurting.  So although it can become easy to question God and His plan, your faith grows exponentially in times of trails.  God allows us to suffer because it unlocks our ability to love unconditionally.  When we struggle we are able to love without question.  We come together, separate our differences, and remember the common good of humanity.

Is there is anything else that you would like to offer?

Andrew: “‘I may have lost a loved one, but also I may have lost my country.’ You feel so sad, terribly sad. Everyone does. But Haiti’s the kind of place where people develop an incredibly strong will. The motto of Haiti is ‘L’union fait la force’: ‘in unity there is strength.'”  -Haitian-born American novelist Edwidge Danticat

If you are comfortable, would you please write a short prayer that readers could pray for the people of Haiti?

Andrew’s Prayer: Father, the people of Haiti are hurting.  They are crying out in pain asking for your healing.  May your hand come down on them and provide them the strength they will need to rebuild their country.  May you comfort those who have lost everything.  Father, may you sing praise through the streets of rubble that Your will be done and you are present in every corner of their country.  Father, give strength to the rescue teams.  Father, bring compassion to the world and give us the desire to share our resources necessary for healing and rebuilding.  Just be present Lord.  In any way.  Haiti needs you.  The world needs you.  May we remember the unconditional Love you give us in these days of hurt.  Be with us now and forever. Amen.

Andrew currently resides in California; he is still a member at the church where he grew up, Calvary Lutheran Church, Golden Valley, MN

You can help make a difference today. Please consider making a donation to help the ELCA’s efforts in Haiti. We are currently working with the Lutheran World Federation. Our partners in Haiti have survived the quake and are already working on the ground. Please make all donations directly at You can also read more information and download bulletin inserts for Sunday here. Thank you for your gifts and your prayers.


A message from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson

Statement on Hurricanes, September 12, 2008
A message from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you….” (Isaiah 43:1-2,4a)

As I write, yet another hurricane is threatening the Gulf Coast. This one is only the latest in a seemingly endless series of storms that have brought hardship, destruction, fear and even death to brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, especially Haiti. The relentless destruction reminds us that the rebuilding of lives continues in other areas that have been affected by floods, tornadoes, fires and other disasters.

I call on you to respond in the midst of danger and loss. While some are preparing for storms yet to come, others are fleeing from storms, and still others are rebuilding in the aftermath of disasters. I ask you to respond with your prayers, your generous gifts of time and money, your volunteer hours and skills, the open doors of your homes and churches, and your commitment to a sustaining presence for the long haul. Visit ELCA Disaster Response for updates, for downloadable bulletin inserts, and for ways to make contributions online.

These expressions of our faith remind us that we are called by name and are bound together by our baptisms into community with those who suffer. Thank you for your generous and sustaining response in the midst of the disasters.

God’s work. Our hands.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Disaster in Haiti, Both Natural and Man-made

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about how natural disasters contribute to hunger, and how those living at or near poverty are disproportionately vulnerable. Following that line of thought, it’s hard to imagine how things could get much worse in Haiti. First they were hit by Tropical Storm Fay. Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna followed, and Ike now threatens. According to the BBC, 200 people have been killed by these storms so far, tens of thousands have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands need assistance. And it’s not just minor assistance. The same BBC article says 200,000 in the city of Gonaives have not eaten in three days and potable water is hard to find. And as one would expect, homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. But perhaps the biggest problem is that few in Haiti have the resources to really do anything about it.

Such an onslaught of natural disaster would be difficult for the people and government of any country to bear, but in a place like Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it’s especially devastating. Already struggling with extreme poverty, hunger, and rising food prices, the people of Haiti rioted earlier this year and threw out their prime minister. Now, with the hurricanes, rice crops have been destroyed and fruit trees have been blown down, an especially large problem in a place where two-thirds of the population are involved in agriculture. The loss of crops can only add to the long-term suffering, hunger, and political instability.

The short-term is no better. With thousands displaced and no food to be found, Haiti’s government is ill-equipped to help its people. With such a poor economy, infrastructure like roads and communication systems weren’t great before the storms. Wind and water damage have made them even worse, hampering aid efforts and posing longer-term challenges for rebuilding. What’s more, poverty has led to deforestation in Haiti, exposing soil which is now washing away in mudslides. Besides the immediate danger caused by mudslides, there are future ramifications: loss of topsoil, reduction in vegetation, and long-term degradation of the environment.

In a place where poverty is so widespread and the government so uncertain, it’s hard to imagine how Haiti will recover. Certainly we Western countries have a role to play, both in the immediate, urgent need for food and water, and also in assisting with lasting, sustainable changes.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a case study on the causes of hunger, read up on Haiti. It highlights several factors, including: a history of corrupt, unstable, and ineffective governments; an insufficient and inaccessible education system; lack of employment opportunities; poor infrastructure; a degrading environment; and a susceptibility to natural disasters in the form of hurricanes. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a frighteningly good start.