(L to R) UMCOR President, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of General Board of Global Ministries, and Rev. Gesner Paul, Methodist Church in Haiti.
I recently returned from a four-day visit to Haiti. I was there in my capacity as President of the General Board of Global Ministries to review the progress of our disaster recovery work one year after the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince and left nearly 300,000 dead. This trip also provided an opportunity for further consultation and coordination with the Methodist Church of Haiti. I was accompanied by Mr. Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of GBGM, Rev. Cynthia Harvey, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR, Bishop Janice Huie, President of UMCOR, and Ms. Melissa Crutchfield, International Disaster Coordinator for UMCOR.
I had last visited Haiti during Holy Week of 2010, just a few weeks after the January 12 earthquake. I was surprised and pleased with the recovery progress I witnessed a year later. Despite the media reports that nothing has been accomplished a year after the quake, there are many signs of hope and resurrection in the midst of what remains a very devastated, chaotic and poverty-stricken country. Most of the rubble has been removed from major streets and highways. Garbage is being picked up. Over half of the 1.5 million people living in tents immediately after the earthquake have returned to their homes, retreated to the country to live with relatives or been removed to temporary housing camps. Many church-related schools are operating in temporary facilities. Micro-lending, work-for-pay and agricultural programs have enabled many people to start supporting themselves and their families. Our United Methodist VIM program is operating extremely well. And, after a slow start, our UMCOR recovery work is engaged in building schools, providing housing, and starting livelihood projects such as agricultural and micro-lending programs.
One of the most sacred experiences of the trip was visiting the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince where Sam Dixon (then Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR) and Clint Rabb (then coordinator of our VIM program) were entombed and eventually died. We were accompanied by Jim Gulley who was trapped with Sam and Clint, but was safely rescued. Jim guided us over the mound of rubble that once was the hotel’s lobby and guest room tower and retold the harrowing experience of the 35 seconds of the earthquake and his 55 hours of being trapped.
Shortly after last year’s earthquake I wrote to the clergy and laity of the West Ohio Conference. In my statement, I quoted Isaiah 40:8:
The grass withers, the flowers fade;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
I have seen with my own eyes the truth of this prophecy. God’s word of love, salvation and new creation is active and eternal. God’s faithfulness is absolute. Even in the midst of massive destruction and a non-functioning government in Haiti, God is speaking a word of resurrection. Even in the midst of chaos and grinding poverty in Haiti, God is speaking a word of hope. Even in the midst of withered grass and faded flowers, God is speaking a word of redemption.
I thank you for not forgetting God’s people in Haiti. I thank you for joining with God to speak and demonstrate the word of mercy. We need a sustained response in Haiti. The recovery will likely take a decade or more. I urge you to continue your prayers, your financial support, your volunteer labor and your relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters.
By Bishop Bruce Ough, president, General Board of Global Ministries
Click here to view original posting on the West Ohio Annual Conference web site.