I am still haunted by my trip to Haiti.
Today we commemorate the Earthquake that two years ago killed over 300 000 people and still leaves over 500 000 people living in makeshift tents.
A team of us from Spring Harvest visited Port au Prince recently to raise funds and awareness for what the church in Haiti is doing to help the poor. I was really challenged and excited by what I found ordinary Christians doing to demonstrate the compassion of God practically and there willingness to speak about the genuine hope we have in Christ. I was humbled by what Christians with very little were willing to do to help. Young people working in slum clinics, energetic young teachers pouring their lives into poverty stricken children, pastors willing to get their hands dirty not just talk about the poor. It was a challenging trip, but I came home excited by what our brothers and sisters are doing.
We often quote Bill Hybels that “the local church is the hope of the world”, its a great line. I must admit I prefer to think of it that “God brings hope to the world through the local church” but I might just be being pedantic. But the importance of the local church for the renewal of the world struck me recently as i spoke I to the director of an international Aid agency who told me about how often the money that we give does not get used well. He explained that the combined of the huge international rescue effort only managed to pull 120 people out of the rubble. I am sure those 120 people are very grateful but ordinary Haitians pulled many thousands of people out of the rubble putting themselves in great danger and without receiving any help from western aid agencies. That statistic is an interesting metaphor for Aid in general – is it possible that often we are still operating in a paternalistic way that looks for ways that we the west can fix everyone else’s problems instead of working in genuine partnership with local people? Its a question worth asking when you and I look to give to support aid and development work.
This sentiment lay behind Hilary Clinton; the US Secretary of state’s statement:
“Our goal must be the empowerment of the Haitian people,”
“They are the ones who will carry on the work of rebuilding Haiti long after our involvement has ended.”
But today’s Guardian reports “UN data shows that Venezuela and the US, which promised the lion’s share of aid – more than $1.8bn together – have disbursed just 24% ($223m) and 30% ($278m) respectively.” So let’s pray (and lobby if you have the opportunity) that our governments will keep their promises to empower the Haitian people. But when it comes to on the ground workers and networks there is nothing like the local church to bring sustained transformation and very few of them will receive any of the money pledged by the UN, lets find ways to stand with our brothers and sisters and support them as they live for christ serving the poor.
(Just been told about this new song released today with proceeds to Tearfund – listen and then buy a copy to support local church work in Haiti).