Thoughts on Haiti and Next Steps
Wherever I looked there was an overwhelming challenge in Port-au-Prince. No doubt, the situation is improving as rubble is cleared and the city is slowly rebuilt. But, honestly, the situation was desperate before the earthquake. The great, overarching need isn’t strictly humanitarian and it won’t be solved by outsiders. The ongoing challenge in Haiti will only be permanently solved by the people of Haiti.
On the Street
Imagine your family being in a financial pickle and you go to someone for help. Upon having people help, they also become very visible in providing the help by communicating to your children in front of onlookers how they intervened and had provided aid and rescue. How humiliating.
This may not be a perfect analogy. But, it is certainly in the ballpark in some of our dealings with the Haitian people in both our governmental and missions dealings. We should guard against the unintended tragedy of shredding the humanity of those we seek to serve.
I sense that a combination of the earthquake, long-term poverty, disease, and political corruption has brought young men in Haiti to a place of deep frustration. Throw in well-intended public declarations of foreign help into the mix and it seems like good deeds have the potential to become deeply offensive to a place that is already a powder keg.
Solutions for a Gospel-active Future
It’s ridiculous for me, as an American, to talk about vibrant spirituality in Haiti. Afterall, Christianity in America is taking a beating due to incongruence with our words and deeds, soft-pedaling on Scriptural absolutes, independence from God and others, and a failure to love one another with a dangerous love. At the same time, the Christians in Haiti, though pressed, injured, killed, diseased, and impoverished are joyous, worshipful, kind, hospitable, loving, and utterly dependent on God.
The Haitian situation has not stopped Haiti from advancing the Gospel in the USA, especially in areas like South Florida, New York, and Boston. And, the American situation should not stop Americans from advancing the Gospel or providing humanitarian help in Haiti. So, how are Americans to be a part of the solution in Haiti?
- Humbly and in the background. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus says, to do good deeds discreetly. First, doing good deeds with fanfare robs the giver of his reward. It also robs the recipient of worth. By serving discreetly, we are able to elevate humans in the struggle as opposed to foreigners outside of the struggle.
- By serving the most marginalized. James 1:27 declares that pure religion is serving widows and the orphaned. In serving these, we are serving Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).
- By developing those with high potential. The solution for Haiti is already in Haiti. We need to work to find those people and resource them to advance their education. They in turn will have their hands directly in the shaping of Haiti’s tomorrow. One such example is Pastor Joel Vibert. He was a student of the Eglise de Dieu Seminaire Biblique in Port-au-Prince in 1967. He began teaching there in 1974. He now is president of the seminary and pastors a church of 1,000 people in a densely populated community in Port-au-Prince. His influence is clearly visible as, seemingly wherever he is, he is surrounded by very sharp, contagious young men. The seminary was started by Dr. James Beatty, one of my seminary professors. There are many other Joel Vibert’s out there waiting to happen and we can have a hand in investing in them.
It is in my heart to focus efforts on developing young leaders. I never realized the massive impact Dr. James Beatty had on Haiti. I knew he’d started the seminary. I know pastors who came up through the seminary. I’d not been in touch with the highly relational, Gospel-faithful young men on the periphery of the pastors in the churches in Haiti to see and hear their passion…and to experience the far-reaching, long-term impact of an investment into leadership development.
So, we’ve decided that we will invest and work with other churches and individuals to establish the first endowment scholarships at Eglise de Dieu Seminaire Biblique. They will require of the recipients maximum academic focus with specific guidelines for areas of service.
In doing so, we hope to be a small part of a long-term Gospel solution among a massive humanitarian crisis. If only one Joel Vibert emerges out of that investment, then the exponential impact he will have will clearly demonstrate that to have been good seed planted in good soil.
I’m also praying that the spiritual vibrance of the Haitian people, a beautiful people who endure a massive struggle would impact my church family in South Florida, a beautiful people whose affliction is more subtle…a curse of prosperity, which lulls us into a false sense of independence and a lack of need for a redeemer.
Stay tuned…as soon as I have the next steps of formalizing an endowment solidified, I’ll give you the opportunity to be a part of serving our extended church family and the people of Haiti.