On Saturday, Aug. 14, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, with the earthquake’s epicenter located near the city of Les Cayes on the Tiburon Peninsula.
As of Aug. 16, the death toll was estimated to be near 1,300, with that number anticipated to increase in the coming days. An estimated 12,000 homes have been either damaged or destroyed, with thousands of people displaced. Many Haitians are finding it difficult to obtain basic supplies, including food and water. The country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, is now in the path of Tropical Depression Grace, further complicating the relief effort.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response has begun to evaluate and respond to the situation in Haiti in coordination with the LCMS’ partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Lutherienne d’Haiti), and those LCMS Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) that have longstanding expertise operating in and providing assistance in Haiti.
“Our mercy work is done in the name of Christ, along with spiritual care, and through local Haitian Lutheran congregations,” said the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response. “This distinction makes giving though LCMS Disaster Response different from giving through other relief agencies such as the United Nations or the Red Cross.”
The LCMS has a well-established track record of relief work in Haiti, acknowledged by many outside observers, of effectively directing funds and other resources where they are most needed and beneficial. This work is evinced in the Synod’s response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in 2016. Following that storm, Disaster Response coordinated a $500,000 effort, including rebuilding 18 congregations, repairing the homes of 33 pastors, digging 14 new wells, and providing various supplies for basic human needs.
LCMS Disaster Response responds to disasters in three stages, a process that seeks to address the greatest need first. The initial stage involves providing food, clean water and medical supplies. During the intermediate stage, basic needs continue to be met while the focus moves toward reconstructing or repairing homes and church buildings and providing care for church workers. The third, long-term, stage focuses on continued reconstruction and provision of long-term care for church workers affected by the disaster.
All work by LCMS Disaster Response is conducted in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry. The pastors of the congregations in the affected areas visit those receiving aid, pray with them, share with them the Word of God, and connect them with the local congregation.
The situation in Haiti is complex, with economic and political instability, corruption, rampant violence and criminal activity. Accordingly, the LCMS does not recommend that any individual or congregation attempt to provide aid directly to recipients within Haiti. Such efforts, though well-intentioned, have the potential to harm rather than help.
The most prudent course of action, toward the best stewardship of aid resources, is to work through established agencies such as LCMS Disaster Response and our trusted RSO partners. Please contact LCMS Disaster Response (lcms.org/disaster) for more information, and please keep the people of Haiti, and those who are providing care for them, in your prayers.
Posted Aug. 17, 2021