Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Update

As you all have read, I was in Haiti for two weeks in September. Many people have written and called asking me for updates on our connections in Haiti. I thought I would depart from my usual entries to give an update here.

We actually had a team in Haiti at the time of the quake. They were doing the same work I did when I was there in September - staying at the Mephibosheth House and working with the kids there and also working at the Sisters in the mornings. We were incredibly fortunate.

The kids at the Mephibosheth House are all safe. The staff is all safe. Thankfully, one of the team members reacted quickly and got a text message out to her husband immediately. At the time of the quake, Dio and Lionette were not at the house so we here at home spent 24 hours not knowing their condition. I spent Wednesday glued to CNN, combing street scenes looking for them. We learned Wednesday evening that they had been at the church at the time of the quake and returned home safely about 8 hours later - a tough 8 hours for the kids, staff, and team.

Our team is all safe. They moved to the Embassy on Wednesday and they got out in two trips - the first four about 4am Friday (with the clothes on their backs and a backpack) on a military transport that ended up in New Jersey and the last three on a commercial flight to Miami that got out late Friday afternoon. They were all back safe in Minneapolis by Saturday at 5pm. That may sound a bit odd to some people and you may be wondering why they didn't stay and help. I understand those thoughts, but it is a little more complicated than that. What was, and is currently, needed in Haiti is medical personnel. People without those skills are, in many ways, simply a burden. They require food and water and, as you have seen, those are in very short supply. It was also the safest move for the Haitians we serve. White people are assumed to be wealthy, and where white people are there is assumed to be money. Moving them out quickly was the best thing to do for everyone, plus it made more room at the house which turned out to be badly needed.

In terms of damages: The MH is completely intact with no damage and we suffered only a hairline crack or two in the compound wall (thankfully the house was built to code - US not Haitian) even though a massive building just outside the wall went down. The MH is about a 20 minute drive north-ish, in normal circumstances, from the airport if that gives you any context from the maps you've seen, so the house was in an area that did receive damage. The church - Ebenezer Baptist - also suffered some damage. Luckily the first floor where they hold their services is standing. The second floor was under construction and it went down, pretty understandably. The Sisters' clinic made it through but we are unsure of how much damage they suffered. At last report, we have heard they lost one baby. Steve said the sights in Port-au-Prince were pretty horrific - dead bodies and destruction. He spent much of one day out in the streets with Joe - the MH driver and general manager. They found an open gas station and stopped - 2 1/2 hours later they left with a full tank. Most people will probably never know what happened to their family members, where they died, or where they were buried.

In terms of people: The church lost 1 - a young woman who was the girlfriend of one of the young church leaders. One of the boys at the house, Evans, lost his father and his brother. One of the girls, Ruth, lost many family members, various reports go from 2 or 3 up to 35. That news is still sketchy. We haven't had detailed updates about the families of the staff but I expect one this Saturday.

Current plans: As of Monday there are an extra 30+ people staying at the house (it could be far more by now!) The house has a well and it has solar power. From reports, everyone in the church lost their homes. To help people get back on their feet they've decided to move the kids. When the roads are passable and they are able to make arrangements, they are going to move the special needs kids up to the village of Tricotte (where Dio is originally from, up in the mountains, anywhere from a 6 to 12 hour drive depending on conditions and breakdowns - when we went in '96 it took 10 hours.) That will put the children in the safety of the countryside during this unstable time and allow the MH to be used for the church people while their homes are rebuilt and things settle into the new normal. I haven't heard, but I assume that situation might last quite a long time, given what I've seen and what I know about Haiti and how things 'work.'

Thank you to all of you who have written or called, asking for information and expressing your concern. From our perspective, there is much to be thankful for. We were incredibly fortunate and there is certainly no explanation for it. Amid destruction and devastation there continues to be grace and hope.

Many of you have asked me to suggest ways to help. I would recommend a couple of options for you. First, we are collecting money at the church to be sent to Dio for earthquake relief. You can make a check out to Church of the Open Door and mark it for 'Haiti relief'.
Church of the Open Door
9060 Zanzibar Lane North
Maple Grove, MN 55311
You may also donate on line at:

For those of you who are concerned that money in these situations is often 'diverted' or misused, I would tell you this. Pastor Dio is a man of integrity (I would trust him with my life) and he will be certain that your donations go directly to helping real people in real ways - food, shelter.

For those of you who might prefer to give online or more generally, there are a couple of organizations that will, I believe, use your money well. They are World Vision - and Samaritan's Purse -

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