A small team from the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention recently spent a week in Haiti. The purpose of our visit was to listen and learn, to offer a ministry of encouragement, to review our first phase of response and to plan our strategy for the next 90 days. God blessed our four-person team with safe and productive work.
Many buildings are crumbled, collapsed or crippled – leaning at peculiar angles as if they are waiting for one good push to end their misery. Witnessing people living under makeshift shelters that use tarpaulin and cardboard is depressing. The smells of waste and decomposition fill the warm and humid air. Some people seem depressed and discouraged. Others move about trying to conduct small-scale business, making modest progress. It is a lot to absorb, and it leaves one overwhelmed.
We met with our network of churches, L’Union Strategique des Eglesis Baptistes d’Haiti, who gave us updates on life since the earthquake and how our partners have moved with ministry. Among the encouraging moments of our visit was accompanying our colleagues as they traveled to a caterer’s home to pick up 150 meals that are prepared daily for St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc.
One of the exciting aspects of this ministry response is that our investment is employing eight women who work five hours per day six days a week to prepare meals for the hospital. This approach is addressing the need to empower Haitians in the aftermath of the earthquake. We are not importing food, but empowering people.
We had a goal of providing grocery grants to 1,000 families impacted by the earthquake this month. The efficiency of our partners enabled them to provide 1,280 families with groceries that last about a week. Modest cash grants have also been given to 1,000 families. We will support our partners to extend their ministries of hospitality and nutrition through the next several weeks.
The needs in Haiti are great at this time, but the following are some of the needs that were described to us:
- Transitional shelters for families to provide a dry place to sleep at night and some shelter from the sun during the day.
- Employment opportunities or small-business grants.
- Psychological care for people living with stress from the quake, aftershocks and losses.
- Temporary shelter for schools and instructional supplies for students.
We are working to build a response to each of these items; we are working with our Haitian colleagues to determine scale and scope and to schedule possibilities for volunteer opportunities.
As you are aware, Lott Carey seeks to avoid mission tourism. We try to ensure that short-term mission assignments are targeted with meaning and purpose, and that they are born out of needs expressed by our hosting partners. We do all we can to avoid “using” our partners to provide visitation opportunities that primarily make us feel good and result in our doing very little good.
An example of our doing all that we can to be responsible missional partners is related to our approach to nutritional support mentioned above. We are making every effort to purchase foods that are Haitian-produced and to provide meals that are Haitian-prepared.
One of the difficulties imposed on Haiti’s recovery is how outside generosity is undermining the fragile agricultural capacity in the country. When foods are shipped from outside the country and distributed freely, locally grown foods are not purchased. This hurts the local growers and workers. We are trying to be sensitive to these dynamics and supportive in ways that enable and not interfere.
We thank God for the generous hearts of so many and ask for your continuous prayers. Ask for discernment. Ask for resources. Ask for partners. Ask for grace.
David Emmanuel Goatley is executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention.
David Emmanuel Goatley is Research Professor of Theology and Black Church Studies and Director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School.