Thursday, January 14, 2010

Newsline Special: Haiti Earthquake

CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN BEGINS RESPONSE TO HAITI EARTHQUAKE


The Church of the Brethren has begun its response to the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday evening, with plans for work to support Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) and continuing disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean island nation. The Brethren effort will be a cooperative one, involving Brethren Disaster Ministries and the church's Global Mission Partnerships.

A powerful 7.0 earthquake struck 10 miles from the capital city of Port-au-Prince at 4:53 p.m. yesterday.

"The catastrophic devastation to Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, from last night's earthquake has left millions homeless, thousands injured, and untold number have died," reports Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. "The Church of the Brethren has three congregations in the heavily impacted areas. Thus, we anticipate many Church of the Brethren families have lost homes, friends, and possibly loved ones."

The Church of the Brethren and its Brethren Disaster Ministries program has established resources and capacity to respond already in place because of the current rebuilding project following the four hurricanes and tropical storms that hit Haiti in 2008.

Brethren Disaster Ministries will be working with Global Mission Partnerships and the Haitian Brethren congregations on a long-term response to this earthquake, Winter reported. "In the coming days we will combine our efforts with other organizations to provide emergency relief. We anticipate humanitarian needs in the heavily impacted areas and along the border of the Dominican Republic as Haitians try to seek assistance in their neighboring country. Of great concern is that civil unrest and violence may once again erupt as people become desperate for water, food, and shelter," he said.

A conference call yesterday evening was held with the church's Haiti Working Group, which has been helping guide the current rebuilding effort. The group includes Haiti mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla., who has been a guiding force in the establishment of a Brethren church in Haiti that now includes congregations and preaching points in various areas of the country including Port-au-Prince. Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the disaster response project in Haiti as well as Winter and others were on the conference call. But the group was unable to communicate with anyone in Haiti yesterday evening.

From the news reports coming out of Haiti since the earthquake, Winter said in a phone interview this morning that he fears "this will become a multi-fold disaster." From experience with previous such disaster situations, more deaths may follow the initial event if needs for water, food, and shelter are not met, he said, and disease and civil unrest may become a factor, he added.

Winter and his staff are working to monitor the disaster, contact Brethren in Haiti, and confer with ecumenical partners such as Church World Service. He also has been in conversation with Irvin Heishman, Church of the Brethren mission coordinator in the Dominican Republic--which shares the island on which Haiti is located.

Brethren Disaster Ministries announced that it is unknown whether the earthquake will affect plans for the Haiti workcamp which was to start on Jan. 23.

Church World Service this morning in a press release announced it is reaching out all partners across affected region. CWS said it is sending initial funding to its local partners in the country and is prepared to provide CWS Kits and CWS Blankets to people in need. CWS also has been experiencing difficulties in communicating with partners in Haiti. "CWS staff here in the US and in the region are attempting to contact our long-time partners in Haiti, Service Chr├ętien d'Haiti, Christian Aid SKDE, and the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice," the release said.

Leaders from a Church of the Brethren partner, IMA World Health, were in Port-au-Prince for meetings when the quake struck, but they are uninjured, reports Brethren Disaster Ministries. IMA World Health has its headquarters based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

A second Church of the Brethren conference call involving a broader range of church staff is scheduled for later this morning to address how the Brethren response to the earthquake may best be carried out. Also under discussion is funding for the effort, and how church members and congregations may take part.

How to contribute to the disaster effort in Haiti:

Congregations and church members will be invited to help contribute to the effort in Haiti through a special donations page at www.brethren.org. "Your support of this response is desperately needed. Please give to Church of the Brethren Haiti Relief," Winter said.

A special website is being developed for 'Prayers for Haiti.' Plan to visit this site and write prayers to be shared with Brethren in Haiti.

Both of these web pages should be available by later today.

"Today we know many church members here in the US have direct connections to Haiti, including friends that are trapped, churches that are likely damaged or destroyed," Winter said. "Please take time to stop and pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, and all Haitians."

Relief supplies also will be needed. Brethren Disaster Ministries requested the donations of Gift of the Heart Hygiene Kits and School Kits, which will be in large demand. The kits should be sent to the Brethren Service Center, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776. For instructions to make the kits, go to www.churchworldservice.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kits_main.

Donations of food and water supplies as well as clothing will not be needed at this time--food and water supplies will be purchased in bulk by the agencies doing the disaster response.

More news will be released later today as information becomes available. Look for more to come at www.brethren.org.

Source: 1/13/2010 Newsline Special

Credits

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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