Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Remembering Haiti

Re-membering is about putting pieces together. There are many pieces yet to be put together in Haiti since last January’s earthquake. Much of what we will hear in this week’s news, about all that remains broken, will be deeply discouraging. And there will be truth in those reports. Too little of what we will hear is encouraging. Yet the truth is that good work is being done to put the pieces of Haitian society together. The Spirit of God’s love is touching many lives thanks to many efforts—including those of United Church members.

Yes, there is discouraging news: the elections did not go well, cholera has not been defeated, and the massive problem of housing is still not being dealt with effectively. The international community has been much slower in delivering on promises than any of us expected.

And yes, there are bright spots: the ACT Alliance response and that of our bilateral partners are to be applauded. Our pastoral visit to partners in Haiti last April has me remembering the spirited determination and hard work of people clearing rubble and making plans for adequate living spaces and schools. In almost every conversation, education was named the top priority. As the Rev. Gesner Paul, President of the Methodist Church in Haiti told us, “We begin with children and move out to their parents and other adults.… We need to reconstruct not only in buildings but also in hearts and minds.”

What I said here last April remains true today: Haitians are determined to do their work to build their own society. They are determined to use this moment to begin building a new foundation with the strength, faith, and vision that Haitians themselves can best bring to their land.

And so we continue to work with them. Broadly based work with our partners includes projects in solidarity with differently abled people. Can you imagine facing daily challenges—for example, getting food—if you have a physical limitation on top of everything else? Thanks to churches working together, a strong network of differently abled people have the necessary support to develop their own strong community of mutual help and support.

Today, Jim Hodgson (the United Church’s regional program coordinator for partnerships in the Caribbean, Central America, and Colombia) is meeting in Montreal with people of Montreal Presbytery who are working to support the Methodist Church’s school rebuilding efforts. On Tuesday, he will be with Quebec-based non-governmental organizations that, like The United Church of Canada, are concerned about the slow disbursement of government funds to Canadian and Haitian NGOs that are doing effective work.

The generosity of United Church members has made an enormous difference in the lives of Haitians since those dreadful 35 seconds when the earth shook on January 12, 2010.

I have assured our partners in Haiti that we will not forget them. This is a week for reconfirming that commitment with prayers and new donations. Regular updates and opportunities to donate are accessible on The United Church of Canada website.

Many of us will be hearing the words of the Gospel of John this coming Sunday, words attributed to John the Baptist:

I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God. (John 1:33–34)

We as Christians testify to what we have seen of Spirit touching Earth. We are in a life-changing relationship with a self-revealing God. May we continue to testify to the truth of Christ’s healing in our words and actions, and may we continue to work with Haitians to put the pieces together in ways that will reveal Spirit of the Living God.

We will continue to join with Christians around the world in prayer and actions for other pained places as well, including Sudan, through our collaborations with ACT Alliance and the World Council of Churches.

Where do you see Spirit touching Earth today?