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Archive for the ‘Haiti’ Category

FH’s Sara Sywulka arrived in Port-au-Prince just days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. She shares her reflections on the quake and the current situation in Haiti below.

 

Children at an FH Child Friendly Space.

The moment when I saw the text message notifying me of a strong earthquake in Haiti last January 12th is clearly imprinted on my mind. I immediately tried every phone number I had for our staff in Haiti, desperately trying to get a hold of someone…. to no avail. It would not be until 2 ½ days later when I finally arrived in Port au Prince after many detours, despite leaving my home less than 12 hours after the earthquake, that I was able to reach our program manager on a phone borrowed from a casual laborer at the airport.

I have worked in many disasters, but never in one where the capital city of a country was the center of devastation. What made the Haiti response especially difficult was that all of our staff, both those who worked for us before the earthquake and anybody new we hired after the earthquake, were themselves directly affected by the disaster. Two of our staff lost immediate family members and one third lost their homes. All of them knew people who died or were badly injured. A number of them had helped dig bodies out of the rubble. All of them were sleeping in the streets and had no running water or electricity. So you can imagine the level of trauma they experienced. It was imperative that we provide material and emotional support to our staff and give them space to overcome their grief and loss, while at the same time encouraging them to help us mount our organizational response in the marginalized communities that were receiving no other assistance. I often wondered in those first few weeks if we had struck the right balance. But over the last year I have been amazed at their resilience and awed by their dedication to walk alongside people in poor communities day by day as they recover from the quake, even when some of them had the opportunity to leave the country. I ask myself, could I do the same if my apartment building in Washington, DC fell down in a disaster and I was called to assist people in poor neighborhoods affected by the same disaster? Yet our staff there does this all the time, given that Haitians live in difficult circumstances even in the best of situations.

One enormous blessing was that our office in Port au Prince was intact, as was the well and the generator/inverter system, so we had a safe place to sleep and work with water and electricity. Thanks to this, were able to accommodate medical teams, volunteers who came to help, as well as some of our Haitian staff; at one point we had 24 people sleeping in the rooms, the verandas and in tents in the yard! I am so grateful for the many people who gave and continue to give of their time and money to enable us to respond to people’s immediate and ongoing needs in the aftermath of the quake. The task was huge, and every set of helping hands has been put to good use. I’m grateful that in the midst of the chaos, God sent just the right people with the right skills at the right time. And I am humbled by the outpouring of concern and the desire to help and give by people all over the world.

We’ve come a long way in a year, despite the challenges: Almost 10,000 children are benefiting from child friendly spaces, staffed by more than 1,000 volunteers and community leaders who help educate, socialize and protect children in some areas where no schools are available. 1,500 female-headed households received safe shelters to live in. Almost 6,000 people, many of them women, were given temporary employment in the critical months after the earthquake to clear rubble so families could rebuild their homes, and to use the rubble to improve roads in the same communities. 27,000 women are receiving training to improve their family’s health, hygiene and nutrition. FH is also promoting HIV prevention and supporting people living with HIV/AIDS, providing psycho-social assistance for trauma recovery, helping prevent child-trafficking and most recently stepping up education on cholera prevention and treatment. With the constant reminders of what remains to be done, it is important for us to pause and celebrate what has been accomplished. Because the work will go on and we are honored to be a part of the endeavor to build back a physically and spiritually better, safer, healthier Haiti.

To view a video of Sara in Haiti discussing FH’s immediate response to the earthquake, click here.

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Faimée at the CFS

This is the story of Faimée, a five-year-old little girl who attends the FH Haiti Child Friendly Space (CFS) in the Siloe neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.  She lost her leg during the January 12 earthquake.  The following is what she told me when I visited her and her family one Monday afternoon in Siloe.

“Before the earthquake, I helped my mother with chores at home.  I could wash the dishes, go to the street market to buy things for her, and also prepare meals.  I could walk to get water for the house when my mother needed it.”

Born June 4, 2005, Faimée is an only child.  She lives with her parents and her young uncle Tiga, whom she deeply loves.  She was at preschool before the earthquake.  January 12 she was at home watching television when the earth began to shake.

“I yelled a lot and then everything went black.  I couldn’t hear anything.”

Faimée spent two days under the rubble of her house before her mother and neighbors could pull her out.  She was in a coma for several days and when she woke up one of her legs was missing. “When I asked my mama about my leg, she began to cry.”  Her mother cried and couldn’t find the words to explain to her five-year-old daughter why her leg had to be amputated.

Her family lost their home and everything they owned. “I lost my dolls, my book bag, everything.”

Now Faimée and the rest of her family live in the street.  She was sad because she couldn’t return to school- her parents could not afford to pay the school fees for their little girl.  She had to lie down most of the time and she needed someone to take care of her.

One day Faimée joined a Child Friendly Space and began to benefit from the time she spent with her new friends there.  Now she can walk with crutches and participates in the CFS every day.  “Now, I can help my mother again.  The CFS is like school, but more fun.”

She was accepted by the other students and feels secure again.  Her favorite activities are singing and drawing. “I like the CFS because I can play many games and I see a lot of children every day.  They are my friends now.”

The presence of Faimée at the CFS is a blessing for the other students and teachers.  They learn to set aside their differences in order to help others.  “The children can become children again,” declared one volunteer.

Faimée carries the marks of the earthquake’s violence, but her eyes are full of hope.  “I want to be a doctor,” she says, smiling.

Faimée’s father works for FH Haiti, in the Cash for Work program. Now he can provide for the basic needs of his family.  Faimée was registered in the FH Child Development Program and we are here to help her find her happiness and her health again.

By Emmanuelle Anglade and Mario Bellevue

Translated by Lauren Marshall

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Today marks the six month anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.  As I browsed news sources this morning I read several articles about current conditions in Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.  Most painted a rather discouraging picture of what has been accomplished in the past six months.  Without a doubt conditions remain extremely difficult for millions of Haitians and the obstacles can seem insurmountable.

However, at FH Haiti we choose to live in hope- a hope based on a biblical vision for the people of this country.  We are working with a definite goal in mind: a Haiti where children can lead happy, healthy lives and live up to their God-given potential.

At FH we believe in partnering with local churches and community leaders in our work.  In this way we are better able to identify those most in need of assistance and also invite the community to take ownership of earthquake recovery efforts.  Here is a summary of those efforts:

Currently, FH Haiti is working within 65 sites in Port-au-Prince, areas around the city, and an area bordering the Dominican Republic.

Health:

  • Five international medical teams served for 1-2 weeks, providing mobile clinic health services.
  • Two Haitian health teams are currently providing mobile clinic services.
  • Medical supplies and pharmaceuticals provided to 5 hospitals and 2 health centers.
  • Training provided to 1,700 leader mothers every two weeks on treatment of diarrhea (transmission, care and treatment), proper hand washing, improved water sourcing and water purification, water treatment, conservation of water, feces disposal, good latrines, deworming, proper feeding of sick children, proper storage of food, breastfeeding, proper nutrition and Vitamin A.  Each leader mother is providing training to 10 others so that 17,000 additional people are trained on basic health and hygiene.
  • 10,303 direct beneficiaries of the mobile clinics.

Distribution of items: tarps, hygiene kits and jerry cans provided to nearly 4,000 families.

Shelter: FH is in the process of building 800 transitional shelters.  320 have already been constructed in the community of Siloe.

Child Development Programs: 5,197 children registered and 2,521 sponsored.

Child Friendly Spaces: 65 Child Friendly Spaces serving nearly 10,000 children; nearly 1,300 workers trained in child protection.

Water and Sanitation: 52 latrines dug; 337 TippyTaps (hand washing stations) installed; 1,400 hygiene kits distributed.

Cash For Work: nearly 2,500 workers hired for rubble removal, 39% women.

Cleary we have reason to celebrate what God is doing in these communities, even in the midst of destruction and suffering.  We look forward to continuing our partnership with local communities as we help Haitians rebuild.

For photos of earthquake recovery efforts click here.  For more information about FH Haiti earthquake relief click here.

By Lauren Marshall, FH Haiti CDP Volunteer

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I remember driving through Port-au-Prince on February 13, 2010 as I was getting ready to head back home to Maryland. The one question I kept asking myself and hearing was, “Now what?” The trash piles were so tall and on fire, people were walking and scattered everywhere, water pipes were broken and spilling into the streets, relief groups were seen everywhere you turned as were the wounded. A look for hopelessness, and emptiness were on the faces of the people of Haiti. I looked around and had no idea where to even begin to start. The look in Port-au-Prince was overwhelming and left everyone brokenhearted and looking for answers. How will Haiti every pull through and the people get back on their feet? How will we help with all of the loss the country and the people of Haiti have suffered?

It’s six months later and I just get blown away by what I see as I drive through Port-au-Prince. Is there still rubble around? Yes. Are people still in tent communities? Yes. Is there still a lot of work to be done? Yes.

So what is different from six months ago? The difference is, the faces of the people are filled with hope and they have come to a realization of moving forward and not staying in the shadows of the rubble. They see what can be accomplished with help and coming together as a country.

As I drive out to work in the communities I see our Cash For Work program, our  Volunteers, children going to school, markets up and running, and my favorite thing is to hear the churches throughout the week lifting praises to our Savior. There is strength here in the people that can’t be broken. I know there is still lots of suffering over the loss of loved ones and what once was, but they also have a desire to see their county restored. We, as FH Haiti, can see the change being made by coming along side the people of Haiti who have lost so much and helping them stand up and look forward. It will take time but our God has not forgotten these beautiful people in their time of need. Our God has been here before the earthquake and He is still here now bring comfort, hope and joy to a nation that has suffered so much. I praise God when I see the FH health clinics coming into communities to provide free services and I love to listen to the children sing about the love Jesus has for them.

I pray that as the months and years go by we see such a great work being done that there is only one explanation and that is to look to the heavens and praise our Great God!

“The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, The Lord, will do for you.” Exodus 34:10

-Kathleen Willet, FH Haiti Child Development Program Community Facilitator.  Kat’s husband, Jeremy, is lead singer with the band Willet, Artist Representatives with FH.

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Reflections from Musician Warren Barfield after returning from a visit to Haiti with Food for the Hungry

I am safely back home with my family after a whirlwind trip to Haiti.

I spent three days in Haiti with Food for the Hungry learning about the immense need there and how I can better help FH meet that need.  The goal was to see the work of FH with my own eyes so I could communicate with my audience and inspire them to partner with FH and me.

I prayerfully prepared for this trip asking God to give me the wisdom to see how I could help these people.  I return from my trip asking God to give me the courage and fortitude to act on what I have seen and now know I must do.

First we cannot begin to quantify the devastation in Haiti.  It is overwhelming.  What were communities of homes, stores, banks, and offices are now rubble.  Imagine your neighborhood leveled.  Imagine your grocery store, school, work place, church, and your home all gone.  Is there a park near you?  Across from my house is a common area where the families in my neighborhood walk their dogs or jog around.  The children will play catch or fly a kite.  I’m looking out my window as I type this imagining if me, my wife and our fifteen-month-old little boy, along with all of the families in my neighborhood, had to put up makeshift tents of bed sheets and plastic and live in that common area while our homes lay in ruin around us.  This is what I saw in Haiti.  I saw an entire city of families sleeping on the ground with little to no protection from the intense heat or the rainy season that starts this week.  Jesus said we were to love our neighbors as ourselves.  I am to love those families in those tents in Haiti as if they were mine, to love those children as if they were my children.  As a dad and husband it is bringing tears to my eyes now as I imagine my wife Megan and my son Montgomery living like that.

With all due respect I fear Americans can not grasp what has happened there.  God forbid if a disaster like this actually happened in Nashville, and I lost everything, I could take my family to another state and start over.  I have family in other states that could take us in during the few months it would take for the front-end loaders, backhoes, wrecking balls and dump trucks to haul off the remains so we could rebuild.  In Haiti they have nowhere to go.   They are on an island.  Haiti is about the size of Maryland.  Next door is the Dominican Republic, which is not much larger, and a different culture and language altogether.  It is unlike any disaster we in the States have every experienced. In Haiti I watched as men with sledgehammers hacked away at buildings half brought down by the quake, endangering their lives and those that walk the streets around them.  In Haiti I saw men moving mountains of rubble from the collapse of a four-story school building with shovels and wheelbarrows.  This will take years.  How long will they have to sleep on the ground?  Where will they work?  What will the children do?  No homes, no offices, no stores, no schools.  How can we as spoiled Americans who can find something to complain about in every luxury we have begin to grasp what has happened in Haiti.  How can we as Christians who spend more money on our church buildings than we do on helping the poor love the Haitians as we love ourselves?

I spent one of my afternoons in Bellevue La Montagne, Haiti.  FH has recognized this mountain community as a place that will not receive the needed attention because of their distance from the city.  They are doing what they can to help the least of these.  I stood in a tent with about thirty children as we took turns singing songs to one another.  Outside of that tent their parents were trying to rebuild their lives.  Their church was four walls of sheet metal leaning against a frame of sticks with a plastic tarp for a roof.  Their homes were walls of bed sheets and plastic held up by twigs.  They were finishing up a stick frame wrapped in plastic around a hole in the ground to replace their bathroom that was destroyed in the quake.

We were asked if we wanted to visit their water source and help bring some water back.  We walked for about thirty minutes down a rocky narrow path to a place where about twenty people were trying to fill their buckets from a pipe sticking out of the mountain five feet from the ground.  I watched for twenty minutes or so as the water, the amount that would come out of your outdoor water spigot, slowly filled their buckets.  They pushed and shoved vying for position to obtain their share of the water produced by this “spigot” that was shared by a community of 600 families.  I had passed a little boy on the way down to the water source.  He was five years old at the most.  I noticed him down at the water source again just sitting off to the side picking up rocks.  The realization that he could not compete with the adults pushing and shoving for water broke my heart.  He sat there for an hour waiting for a chance to complete his chore.  I took his jug to the spigot and filled it for him as well as my bucket.  I handed him his water and started my walk back to the children’s school tent.

The long walk down the rocky path to the water source was now a longer walk up the mountain in nearly 100-degree weather carrying a four to five gallon bucket of water.  As the sweat poured and my legs and arms ached, I starting to cry for that little boy who has to do this everyday.  I have five sinks in my house.  There, six hundred families share one spigot of contaminated water.

When we got back to the school I sat in the shade next to my bucket of water and tried to catch my breath while processing my experience.  After about fifteen minutes the little boy I had helped made his way by me carrying his jug of water.  I pointed him out to an FH worker and was told he had another hour to walk before reaching his home.  That five-year-old little boy spent four hours that day doing work that would exhaust any adult I know, to fetch less water than we use when we flush our toilets.

FH is committed to change the future of this little boy and thousands of others like him.  I am committed as well.  I plan to increase my efforts to find sponsors for children in these areas.  In the last two months I have been able to find sponsors for 350 children in Haiti and other parts of the world.  Those 350 children are my sons and daughters.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  I have thousands more who need help.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  If it was Montgomery who needed help and had no voice to ask for it himself I pray someone would speak up on his behalf.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  I can’t physically hand a jug of water to every child who needs it, but I have a voice and an audience, and I will speak up for those who can’t speak to you themselves and say, “Love them as much as you love yourself”.

There are families who have lost everything and are sleeping on the ground tonight.  There is a little boy who is unable to go to school today and learn a way to change his future.  He is five years old and labors all day in the sun for a little water.  If this were your family and your son, would you fight for them?  Love your neighbor as yourself.

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First night upon arriving in Haiti that I’m unable to drift off to sleep.   Lying awake here in sweltering humidity and heat, listening to the downpour of rain slow down to a trickle, the continual whir of the fan… while random thoughts keep flooding my mind.  Strangely, Haiti reminds me so much of Africa that I keep forgetting where I am.   It’s not just me – a number of my colleagues have also made similar comparisons between Haiti and parts of Africa.

Speaking with Haitians, I keep sensing this deep loss, grief, and constant worry lingering beneath the surface of their strong facades (facades that allow them to function day to day).  Haitians know the earthquake incident was tragic, but they are only too aware that life must also go on.  Even upcoming joys have now become bittersweet – one of our drivers will be having his first baby in the next few months and yet he and his wife are currently still living in a tent on the streets.  When he speaks about his coming child, his excitement about the baby is clearly dampened by worries of how his family will live once the baby is born.  People’s eyes still immediately glisten with tears at the mere mention of January 12 … I’ve had to watch so many people try all too hard to hold themselves together when you can clearly see the tears threatening to spill out.

The majority of the city still doesn’t have electricity and after 7:30 pm, much of the city becomes completely pitch dark.  Older married men have been taking advantage of the cover of darkness to approach teenage girls for sex, offering food and everyday necessities that girls may lack.  Some women now live under nothing but sheets and sticks, offering little to no protection from men who choose to steal sexual pleasures from them in the dead of the night.

One of the reasons I love working with children as much as I do is because of their hope and resilience.  Not all children will find it immediately, but when they do, their slices of hope and joy amidst suffering and ability to infectiously spread this to those around them… well, I find this to be more beautiful than anything I can possibly imagine.

-Deborah Tsuchida
Gender-based Violence Advisor
FH Haiti

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Lament for Haiti

“Lament for Haiti”

By Benjamin K. Homan
Food for the Hungry

More than 220,000 people perished.

More than 700,000 people displaced from their homes.

70% of the schools destroyed.

Life disrupted – and changed forever – for millions more.

The Haiti earthquake staggers the mind – and breaks the heart.

I felt torn as I went to Haiti, a tragedy that evoked hard memories of past emergencies.  Still, having walked through what I can only call an “open graveyard” in post-tsunami zones and seen terror in the bullet-ridden hospitals of Baghdad, Haiti’s lament summoned.  Yet I also knew such calls included searching for elusive words to say in unspeakable situations.

Haiti was no different.

My first morning in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, I glanced at the schedule.  To my surprise, my name was listed next to “Staff devotions.”  I winced.  What would I say?  What could I say?  All around us was indescribable loss, the crush of debris and even the stench of bodies trapped in the rubble.  In the dim morning light, I muttered a simple prayer: “God help me.”

The day before, I saw many of the 337 makeshift camps that contain an estimated 550,000 displaced people. Children roved by themselves.  Bed sheets hung loosely as roofs and walls.  Desperate stares. Pancaked buildings.  Twisted rebar.  Rescue crews.  And the vacant eyes of survivors.  I donned a face mask to fight the terrible odor.  A staff member recounted pulling 15 bodies from his collapsed apartment building.  “I was 5 minutes from death,” he said, reflecting on how far away he was from his home at the time of the quake. “I arrived home to find the bodies of six sisters huddled in one place; they died together.”

I fumbled through my Bible, hoping for God’s Spirit to speak to my soul and arrived at the Old Testament book of Lamentations – written, scholars believe, by the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah.  “A book about lamenting,” I thought.  “That should do.”  From my bedside, I devoured all five very hard, grief-filled chapters of Israel’s defeat, devastation, captivity and exile.

Questions streamed through my head.  How do you process the intensity of Haiti’s tragedy?  How does one understand the huge loss of so many, many people?  I read the prophets words, “Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?” (Lamentations 2:13). Exactly, I thought.

As I tried to grasp the pain and suffering around me, I clung to three big ideas that gave comfort and hope – notions that I needed for my own sustenance – and that I shared with our staff on that morning.  Below I have recorded an updated version of those rough ideas:

Through Lamentations, God invites us to into 1) honesty, 2) relationships and 3) humility.

  1. God invites us into HONESTY.

As I read the pages of Lamentations, I was struck with the raw emotions and stark descriptions.

  • My eyes fail from weeping,
           I am in torment within,
           my heart is poured out on the ground
           because my people are destroyed,
           because children and infants faint
           in the streets of the city,” Lamentations 2:11
  • “…your children…faint from hunger at the head of every street…. Whom have you ever treated like this?” Lamentations 2:19, 20
  •  “This is why I weep
           and my eyes overflow with tears.
           No one is near to comfort me,
           no one to restore my spirit.
           My children are destitute
           because the enemy has prevailed.” Lamentations 1:16
  • “You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.  Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” Lamentations 5:19-20

As I read these rugged verses in Lamentations along with Psalms of lament, such as Psalm 10, I was struck at the emotional range and space that God’s prophet uses to lead others into lament.  Is God really that big and expansive to invite His people to wail, to weep, to complain – and even to, at times, lodge charges of abandonment on heaven’s doorstep?  The answer is “yes.”

God invites our honesty.  He will meet us on the “holy ground” of our expressed sorrow, our lament, and He is doing this in Haiti.  Yet I am convinced, as I read Scripture and understand more of God’s amazing emotional depth, that the path of healing for Haiti must first route itself through grief.  Lament cannot be healthily by-passed.  God can deal with our brutal emotional expression – and beckons us to come close with all of our hurts.  He wants to touch us and heal us at that level.

  1. God invites us into RELATIONSHIPS.

Lamentations was not written as a private journal or secret diary.  It was inspired and preserved for a collective purpose in the life of God’s people.  Indeed, it was written as a community document, in poetic form, that would facilitate a shared historical experience.  It builds a lexicon of suffering, a model of how to communicate about epic loss. Yet while the Book of Lamentations at its most basic structural level strings together five poems that key off of Hebrew acrostics, the book trail blazes vulnerability with others and a group sharing of hard emotions.  But the prophet does not stop at the transparent exposure of feelings.  He also goes down the brave path of confession. 

  • “My sins have been bound to a yoke….” Lamentations 1:14
  • “The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command,” Lamentations 1:18
  •  “The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim.” Lamentations 5:16-17

After I shared my thoughts about Lamentations with our staff in Port-au-Prince, I was with one of Food for the Hungry’s trained trauma counselors inside the wreckage of a neighborhood Haitian church. With holes in the ceiling above and crumbling walls, he distributed blank sheets of paper, pencils and crayons to each of these precious Haitian quake survivors.  At a crude table, he invited the group to draw pictures of their earthquake experience.  Where were they?  What do they remember?  The group quietly drew – and then they spoke, wept and discussed.  The community of quake survivors found a common voice in their drawings – and it allowed them to take an early step toward processing their pain and receiving God’s comfort – in the context of relationships.

My own natural tendency when I return from disaster zones is to shrink away into private reflection.  “Leave me alone,” I sometimes think.  Yet withdrawing from relationships is no path for restoration or depth of healing from trauma.  God grants relationships as a means of recovery from wounds.  “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” (Romans 12:15).  We are invited in the community of faith to meet each other across our vast spectrum of both easy and difficult emotions.  Of course, this has implications not only for folks who experience suffering, but also those in close proximity.  Sometimes, the bystanders of pain must go in pursuit of a friend or loved one who is hurt.  No one who is injured should bear the burden alone. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2.

As I emerged from post-earthquake Haiti, I dedicated the better part of a day to talk with a friend who is also a pastor and trained counselor.  I shared what I saw and experienced in Haiti.  I grieved for the man with mangled legs who dragged himself everywhere with his arms. I told of a restless, almost mob-like situation surrounding our distribution of health and hygiene boxes – and I felt graced with the restorative impact that flows from close relationships.  One of my prayers for Haiti is that it will become a nation of “wounded healers” who bless and restore each other, in part, through the ability to express loss.  In the context of relationships, we can remind people in pain that what Jesus said is true, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

  1. God invites us into HUMILITY.

The prophet in the Book of Lamentations, viewing the tragic events for the Hebrews, offers no pat answers or definitive answers as to the “why” question of suffering.  He offers no explicit, one-size-fits-all philosophical statements on the problem of pain.  To be blunt, the book affirms that suffering perplexes and that we lack God’s full perspective.  The Hebrew reader at the time of the book’s writing would likely have been instructed in the Law of Moses and be familiar with Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”  There are realities hidden from view.  There are answers we do not have.

In the life of my own family, we have no clear understanding of why my wife has the disease Multiple Sclerosis.  My father and my wife’s father both died from the same form of cancer.  One lived to age 86; the other did not reach 70 years.  Why such different courses for the same diagnosis?  We do not know.  The complexities of not knowing can be frustrating – yet we are allowed and even invited to struggle, wrestle and dispute.  At the end of the day, mysteries and secrets remain – and starkly remind us of human limits.  In short, the secret things of this world humble us.  I am finite; God is not.  And it is perhaps in this recognition of my shortcomings and limited view of reality that I can gain a larger view of the greatness of God.  As we learn in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  God is great; I am not great.  It is a humbling truth to which pain and suffering can bring us.

CONCLUSION

A reflection on lament cannot be complete without acknowledging Jesus’ lament.  Recall that desperate moment on the cross as Jesus completed His selfless act of redemption and sacrifice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Jesus’ lament, which marks an amazing moment in redemptive history in which He bore the penalty of sin, was likely not in clear view of the writer of the Book of Lamentations or its initial audience.  Think of it.  The Creator God becomes human, bears our burdens and cries out in lament.  Though the prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah to be a “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3), the notion then of a suffering Savior was not fully grasped.  Yet being a reader of the Book of Lamentations on this side of the cross, I can only stand in greater amazement and worship of God for entering our world of lament, suffering on the cross and truly becoming a “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) who meets us in our pain and binds up our wounds.

As we pray for Haiti and as we connect with each other through our own lamenting, be reminded that lament also represents an invitation.  Lament can be a part of our journey into honesty, relationships and humility.  God meets us there in hard, but intimate communion.

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Rev. Kenneth Brown, Food for the Hungry’s Trauma Recovery Coordinator, is helping Haitians set up “child friendly spaces” in response to the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Port au Prince. This report was filmed by Marvin Orellana and  Peter Clark.

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I have wept for Haiti.

Not only in seeing the destruction, sorrow and pain that a nation is suffering through but also in the hope, resilience and joy that a people are raising up. My most memorable time here was during a worship session that brought together our staff, church partners and a medical team. As we lifted up our voices in four different languages, filling the air with “How Great Thou Art” I envisioned God looking down with Fatherly Pride on His Children. It was during these times that the true reason for why we are here, both as Food for the Hungry and as individuals, became unquestionably apparent. Redemption. We are here – we are called – to bring restoration to relationships. God has called us to live a life in reflection of Him – so that in all things we can point to Him. Programs, fundraising and the never-ending meetings are at a loss if redemption is not the goal. And I believe wholeheartedly that FH strives to make this happen. I will be leaving here at the end of the week and I will, without a doubt, leave a part of my heart. While I am sad to be departing, I am confident of this – that FH, our staff and our many volunteers have accomplished a great thing in building and restoring relationships, not only with one another but with their families, friends and with our beneficiaries. May God continue to bring beauty from the ashes and strength from fear.

Shawnee Rae Ziegler

Serving in Haiti

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I’ve always acknowledged that my first encounter with poverty became transformative, not because I resided within its confines for a period of time, but because of movement in and out of it. In the Summer of 2004 I spent 9 weeks working in rural South Africa, at the base of the majestic Drakensburg Mountains. I was 19 years old and only knew that I had much to give and share to a world that I had heard was broken and in want. At that point, my only offer was love, a smile, and my hands and feet. In no way was my first experience in South Africa one that I ate, slept, and breathed the world of poverty. I would have passing brushes, drive-bys, and faint whiffs of its potency, but always followed by an escape, to a sanctuary a typical vacationer would pay thousands of dollars to stay in for its unique and rare seclusion, beauty and solace. I stayed in a wonderful cottage on top of a mountain, with a panoramic view of the beginning of the Drakensburg, and no civilization in sight. We had fresh goat cheese, and woke up to the song of birds everyday. It was a mountain paradise by all means.

But that was only where I lived. I worked in a Zulu town called Loskop, helping repair and build up a facility for it to become an orphanage. I worked along side a “brother”, also 19 years old, but from contrasting world.  Through our weeks of life comparison, my world was torn apart. We would share many stories, delight in our similarities, discuss our differences. One day I saw where he lived… a mud hut much like everyone else in Loskop. No mattress. One room shared by the whole family. Little food. And then I went back to my home, a beautiful chalet of peace and tranquility, privacy and plenty.

I ascribe my life-changing experience in South Africa to this World of Contrasts, which I traveled between. It continues to form my worldview, and instruct my life passions.

So why am I telling you about my time in South Africa six years ago, when I’m supposed to be reporting on Haiti in 2010? Because I’m living in that life of contrasts once again. I call it a curse not because it is not welcomed – I acknowledge that this paradigm is inherent with the world of relief and development – but because it conflicts everything that your mind rationalizes, with what your soul feels. It’s brutal.

Myself and a colleague were on the way back from visiting a site WAY up in the mountains (Bellevue La Montagne) and were talking with our amazing driver Odines. You can see his story here.

He told us that he was in his car when the earthquake hit, shaking back and forth. Once the quake subsided and he figured out what happened, he parked his car and ran to help people out of the rubble. Then he drove us to where his car is parked now, and told us that he and his friends sleep next to it at night. On the street. Odines is one of our best workers. He has completely managed successful distributions on his own, when many organizations are still struggling to perform such a feat. He acts as a translator, a driver, and a coordinator, while also helping his family and friends deal with their quake-impacted needs. But he has yet to find a home, and 3 weeks after the soil and soul of Haiti shook, he remains, like thousands of other Haitians, on the street. And I in a structurally sound, hill-side guest house with a cook, intermittent internet, and a roof. The other night, we held a small dinner gathering for our friends that were departing the next day, in a Swiss chalet-styled hotel. It was beautiful, great food for $15-30 a plate, and just a pleasant place. Directly outside this Hotel, where the cars are parked along the road, is a park. And in that park is now an Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp of several thousands of people. An IDP camp, across the street from a 4-star hotel. Can there be more of a contrast? Such an experience is what should compel us to service, sacrifice and devotion to a God whose purposes we trust will work through these contrasts. We are fortunate that the people of Haiti have such strong Faith, to believe in this.

Feel free to check out a couple more videos below, visit www.fh.org/haiti and if you are so social-media savvy, follow us on Twitter.

David Curtis
FH City Initiatives Coordinator
Haiti Logistics Coordinator

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