By Kim Plummer Krull
Three years after the LCMS launched a body-and-soul response to the deadly 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, a new video spotlights how thousands of lives have been touched in ways that “continue to make a difference today and for eternity,” says the Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response.
The video, “From Horror to Hope: Haiti 2013,” chronicles “the relief and recovery efforts that the LCMS offers to partner churches in the wake of catastrophic disasters — in this case the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti” (ELCH), Merritt said. “With the support of LCMS donors and staff, the ELCH has been able to expand local ministries of mercy throughout Haiti.”
The video is scheduled to be available online beginning April 19 at lcms.org/video/haiti2013.
The story began when the LCMS partnered with the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission team to work alongside Haitian Lutheran pastors immediately after the Jan. 12, 2010, quake, providing shipments of emergency supplies and operating medical clinics.
The LCMS also addressed an urgent need for shelter, first providing temporary housing and then permanent homes. Through the LCMS and ELCH initiative “Building Homes and Hope in Haiti,” quake survivors moved from squalid refugee camps into three Lutheran villages in Jacmel, Beaudouin and Leogane.
Today, the villages include 67 homes, two apartment buildings and two new churches that “overflow with children,” Merritt says in the video, “not just 50 or 60 children, but hundreds of children” in Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.
The video also shows how LCMS mercy work is drawing families to Christ. Haitians who grew up practicing voodoo or who never belonged to a Christian church are joining local Lutheran congregations and asking to be baptized.
“Most impressive to me is the large number of people who were unchurched or even practitioners of voodoo who turned — and who continue to turn — to the Lutheran Church,” Merritt said in a telephone interview. “They found that the pastors and the laypeople of the ELCH are able to meet urgent physical and emotional needs and to
fill a spiritual void in their lives with Christ and His love.”
To strengthen theological education in Haiti, LCMS partners built an ELCH seminary headquarters in Leogane. Today, future pastors study a solid Christ-centered curriculum with ELCH professors who are assisted by visiting professors from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Challenges, hard work
Extending a helping hand in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country also meant tackling hurdles, including complex governmental and land ownership issues. Despite the challenges, Merritt said, LCMS partners persisted with hard work and determination.
In the video, Merritt thanks caring donors who gave $5.6 million for relief and recovery work in Haiti. Those gifts also made possible support for orphanages and the installation of clean-water wells and sanitary latrines — mercy work that continues to yield blessings today.
The Synod’s response in Haiti went far beyond the Church “merely coming in and helping in an hour of need,” Merritt said of the quake, which killed some 300,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless.
“Even in the midst of desperate circumstances and even as they continue to struggle, there are Haitians who now know that God truly loves them and who know that members of the local Lutheran churches love them, too,” said Merritt, who took part in meetings March 11-13 in Santiago, Dominican Republic, of LCMS and ELCH leaders that marked a formal end to the Synod’s earthquake response in Haiti.
Ongoing needs will continue to be considered as development project grants, coordinated by the ELCH in consultation with the Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and prioritized by Haitian Lutheran leaders, said the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of LCMS Mercy Operations.
“As we reminisced over the devastation and suffering that captured the attention of the world, we also joined in prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings given by our Lord,” Fale said. “In the midst of such suffering, many people gave very generously of their time and personal resources to bring relief.”
Also taking part in the meetings were the Rev. Randall Golter, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission; ELCH President Rev. Marky Kessa; the Rev. Eliona Bernard, president of Concordia Theological Seminary of Haiti; the Rev. Paul Touloute and the Rev. Daniel Paul, who both serve as ELCH district presidents and parish pastors; and Lophane Laurent, a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Port-au-Prince, who facilitated the LCMS sanitary latrine and water-well project in Haiti.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.