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Monday, September 27, 2010

HAITI UPDATE

Pat Hansen, Co-Chair, Haiti Task Force
Florida-Bahamas Synod

Five of us traveled to Haiti at the end of August to participate in the 2nd Annual Assembly of Eglise Lutherienne D'Haiti. The four who had traveled to Haiti before were Mary Delasin, Co-Chair of the Haiti Task Force; Pastor Luther Kistler, known as the father of the Lutheran Church in Haiti; Pastor Tom Snapp, the chair of the Global Mission Committee of the Florida-Bahamas Synod; and me. Ms. Raeann Purcell, President of the Florida-Bahamas Synod Organization took her first trip to Haiti with us.

Rev. Livenson Lauvanus presided at the Assembly with the assistance of the other ordained Haitian pastors: Alfred Eniel, Denis DuClair and Ezekiel Elma. There were about 45 congregational leaders in attendance. The program consisted of worship, singing, discussion of the growth of Eglise Lutherienne and small group sessions working with the church priorities for the next three years. This is a relatively new process for Haitians because usually the pastor of the church makes all the decisions, and decision making by consensus is a new process for them. A small group of women met together to discuss the place of women in Haitian society and how they could be empowered in Eglise Lutherienne. Rev. Raquel Rodriguez,

Director of the Latin America and Caribbean team, who attended the Assembly, fortunately was able to sit in the session with the Haitian women.

I traveled to Haiti one week before the Assembly to meet with Louis Dorvilier, then Director of International Development and Disaster and Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, Executive Director of Global Mission for the ELCA. During the week I was able to accompany Louis and Rev. Malpica while they visited many groups gathering information about the situation in Haiti. Among these were officers of the ACT Alliance (Churches Acting Together), coordinators of the Federation Lutherienne Mondiale (LWF), and the Executive Director of the Initiative of Civil Society, Rosny Desroches. These visits helped me have a little more insight into the needs and problems of Haiti. And, it becomes more and more clear to me that those of us who so desperately want to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti need to be more conscious of and respectful of the sociological, psychological and historical background of the people we are trying to work with. We so often walk into a situation without having sufficient knowledge and actually make life more difficult rather than easier. Again and again I heard the phrase "Since the earthquake Haiti has been invaded by NGOs [non-governmental organizations]." Although good work has been done by many, it sometimes lacked the sensitivity that was needed. Eglise Lutherienne and LWF are cooperating fully with other organizations using a powerful accompaniment model unlike many other groups who simply strike out on their own.

The building that has been leased for two years in Petion-ville is multi-purpose. Under the direction of Rev. Livenson Lauvanus It houses the offices of Eglise Lutherienne as well as the offices of the Disaster and Recovery component being led by Bernard Gianoli. Bernard has lived in Haiti for 15 years and worked for part of that time with LWF and will is proving to be a God send as strategies and plans are developed with Rev. Livenson. The staff for this operation has been hired and is hard at work. The third use of the building is as a guest house where groups of ten will be able to stay at any given time. Plans will be made soon on how best to schedule groups into the guest-house without interfering with the growth of Eglise Lutherienne or with the recovery offices.

There are now 12 congregations in Eglise Lutherienne with many other pastors questioning how they might join. The oldest congregation. Redemption, in Sopatille (Carrefour) was the hardest hit in the earthquake and they will have priority in rebuilding. The current plans are for a community center which will be used for all types of community needs -- meetings, food distribution, medical clinic, etc. It will also be used for a sanctuary. A school will be built as well an as "atelier" or workshop where Haitians can learn various manual skills, such as masonry which are vital in the rebirth of the country.

Coca-Cola has negotiated a contract to buy Haitian mangos for their Adwala drink. Sae-A Trading from South Korea has just signed a contract to build a garment factory which is supposed to employ 10,000 Haitians. That contract has been approved by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Haitian government. The company supplies Wal-Mart, Target, Gap, Banana Republic and Levi's.

Weather is still a serious concern for the island. At the end of last week 6 people were killed and thousands made homeless again as a freak storm hit the Port-au-Prince area and devastated tent cities. Camp dwellers are protesting the slow progress in getting resettled. But, it is a difficult process because of the lack of documentation regarding ownership of land and the fact that displaced Haitians need to be in a place close to family and work. Only 2% of the rubble has been removed. One estimate is that it will take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days to make a dent. Where to put the rubble is another problem since bodies are still in many of the destroyed buildings and that rubble is considered contaminated.

For anyone who reads French, you can go to www.haitielections2010.com for information on that process.
There are nineteen candidates from different parties.

Keep our Haitian brothers and sisters in your hearts and prayers!

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