Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brethren delegation in Haiti begins reporting from earthquake zone

A delegation from the Church of the Brethren has begun work with Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) in response to the earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince area last week.

The delegation now in Haiti includes Ludovic St. Fleur, coordinator of the Brethren mission in Haiti and pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla.; Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries; Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the church program that has been rebuilding homes in Haiti destroyed when four hurricanes and tropical storms hit the island in 2008; and Klebert Exceus, consultant for the hurricane rebuilding program.

Following are excerpts from a first report phoned in yesterday by the group. Winter made the phone call on Jan. 20 from Exceus’ home in Port-au-Prince, where the delegation was meeting with members of the National Committee or leadership team of the Haitian Brethren:

"Klebert started the meeting...by saying that God is with us. He allowed Satan even to affect Job, but He didn’t allow Satan to destroy Job, and Job remained faithful. He said we have much to be thankful for. Even at this time, we’re called to be thankful and give glory to God in all things.

"It was very noticeable among the leadership team, most of whom I’ve met before, how different some of them were and how their demeanor was very subdued and how tired and stressed and frustrated people were. It was absolutely heart-wrenching to hear them talk about it. As we discussed the next steps for us and evaluating the situation, they didn’t want to talk about rebuilding--they wanted to talk about food and water and how desperate people were, including them.

"To hear the leadership of the church--these are mostly young men, it’s a young leadership--to be stuck in a time without food and water and to be so desperate for it, and to hear the anguish in their voices, it’s so heart-wrenching. And they set that aside, and they try to think about what’s right for the church.

"They’re all spending the night at Klebert’s. Klebert is extending all of his hospitality and all of his resources, making them available to the Church of the Brethren right now so we can help these people recover.

"It is abundantly clear, just after our short meeting, that we have a real need to be here and minister to our church members. They have some desperate need right now, and we’ve got to find ways to support them and meet their needs.

"We, the Church of the Brethren, are going to have a broader response. We’re going to work in Port-au-Prince, we’re going to be part of the Church World Service response. It’s very important that we support that CWS response. This is something the Church of the Brethren is doing...in partnership and collaboration with Church World Service.

"Delmas 3 was the ‘mother church,’ the first Church of the Brethren in Haiti, as far as we know. The church building was heavily damaged and partially collapsed. Of that membership, at least 30 homes are destroyed, many people are missing, and at least one life was lost. It’s amazing that it was only one at this point.

"Throughout the area, there’s always the question about the people missing. Even up north in Gona├»ves, families from the church there talk about their family or friends who were visiting or had gone to Port-au-Prince for a holiday, and they have not heard and they just don’t know. The stress and the pain of not knowing--how that weighs on people.

"The second church that was built here is Croix-de-Bouquets, and Jean Bily is the pastor. He and his wife and one-year-old son escaped unharmed, but their house was destroyed. They went up to the Gona├»ves area to find someplace where they can get access to food and to live with family there. That’s what many of the Church of the Brethren members have done if they could.

"Pastor Ives Jean is the moderator (living in) one of the hardest hit areas. We hadn’t heard whether he was alive until today. He apparently is alive but was injured. We’re going to try to see him tomorrow. Many homes destroyed and loss of life in that area. We expect the preaching point there to be pretty heavily impacted--the real concern is for food and water."

In a follow-up call about the activities of the delegation today, Thursday, Jan. 21, Winter said:

"The delegation is handing out the tents and water purifiers that they had brought to Church of the Brethren members. (The Haitian Brethren leaders) had held back 20 cases of canned chicken (that was donated by the US Brethren last year) for special events or emergencies. They’re feeling blessed that they had the foresight to do that. The chicken was distributed, and it was a real blessing to the neighborhood."

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff reported today that the delegation "has yet to speak to anyone who has received direct aid. Perhaps that’s because the Brethren in this area are staying put, and they aren’t in the worst hit part of the city."

Today the delegation hopes to get closer to the center of the Port-au-Prince area most affected by the earthquake, and to visit Pastor Ives Jean.

Daily updates from the delegation’s activities in Haiti are to be posted at a new blog on the Church of the Brethren relief effort and related comments from readers. Find the blog at http://blog.brethren.org/?p=41#comments.

Source: 1/21/2010 Newsline Update

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