If you want to know how to help RIGHT NOW, please skip to the bottom of this Blog. Below I am just giving my story of the earthquake and letting friends and family know what’s going on.
Well, after days of trying to just secure survival for a handful of families, I have found an internet connection. I was amazed to find the computer lab at the school I work at unlocked, and my friend Shawn’s Macbook Pro not only ON, but connected to the internet and not password protected. SO shawn, when you read this, thank you for your irresponsibility. There were 243 messages in my Email inbox, so this blog is my whopping Response. I don’t know really where to start, so I’ll start before the earthquake:
While preparing to go to school on tuesday I found the pants that I wanted to wear and noticed that they were (luckily) inside out. I went to invert them and felt a rubbery action-figure stuck in one of the pant legs. Thinking my son Zebedee had misplaced a toy I pushed it out with my hand only to find that it was actually a very scared and agile lizard. That is the only thing I remember about that day, other than all hell breaking loose at about 5:00. Shelley and I were debriefing our days at school and the beading program and walking through the house when our kitchen began spitting its contents onto the floor, shattering coffee mugs, hucking the water filter onto the floor, snapping the propane tank valves on our stove in half and just being altogether poltergeisty. We hurried to the back door of the kitchen, holding our adoptive Haitian babies and each other and watching the wall between our house and our neighbor’s wobble like cellulite. We yelled out for Keziah and Zebedee, our biological children, and could not see them or hear them over the rumbling and crunching. When the quake stopped I ran and shut off the hissing propane tank and we went looking for our kids. Keziah was outside, and looking almost embarrassed by the awkwardness of the moment asked, “WHAT WAS THAT?” I said, “That was an earthquake.are you scared?” She said, “Yes!” I asked where Zebedee was and she said, “He wasn’t scared, he went outside and started riding on his plastic motorcycle.” At that moment Zebedee strolled up nonchalantly and asked the same question Keziah had, only a little more stoicly. (Later he would say, “Hey, if we all had helmets, we could RIDE the Orfquake!”)
There were many of the poor Haitians who work with our program in the house when the quake hit. They were able to run outside and nobody got hurt, but we were soon to find that two of their houses had collapsed entirely, while others had had a few cinder blocks fall on family members. It was a good thing that the people at our house had been there when the quake came. Other than throwing almost everything on the floor and putting a few cracks in some of our walls, our house was well in tact. When we looked out our front gate we saw about a third of our neighbors cinder block exterior walls lying in the street, having fallen as one big panel.
We began to gather all of our Haitian friends at our house and find out who needed immediate aid. One of our beaders, Chrysaline, could not find her daughter and knew that she had been hit by falling bricks. She wailed in our driveway not knowing where to go to find her child. Others began to show up reporting wounded and lost family members while some of our beaders went to remove people from rubble. Some of our missionary friends set up an emergency room in their clinic down the street and they began taking the most “Grav” situations. We used our car to take people to this makeshift emergency unit, while people shred bed sheets and improvised to clean and treat wounds. There were people with severed limbs sitting in the street, but most people had scrapes, bruises, and simple fractures. We began taking these minor cases at our house, as we had quite a bit of medical supplies at home. Jocelyn (Carey) MacGreggor is at our house and she helped bandage the wounded and make a safe place for people to sit during the tremors that have continued even through today (Sunday). Families whose homes had collapsed came to stay with us as many houses continued to dangle in danger of toppling.
Haitians pray with hands waving and eyes open, much like the early church “orant” posture for prayer. The hills and streets were alive with waving hands, and above the wailing and weeping, we could hear many people saying “Meci Jezi, Meci Senye” (Thank you Jesus, Thank you Lord). Many others cried out loud prayers of repentance for all kinds of sins. Because houses were not safe, people had gathered on barren hills and local parks to pray and wait. It was amazing to see.
Knowing that most people were going to horde gas and that there are not very many ambulences in Haiti, I went out to find hurt people. Two of the largest hospitals collapsed, so the small missionary run hospitals like the one on our street run by Bill and Suzette Manasserro were the only hope for many, but because these were created in the aftermath of the quake, many people didn’t know where to find this help. As I drove up Delmas the gravity of the tragedy really came home. I saw building after building crushed, and driving up to Delmas 60, an impoverished ravine near where we live (Where our friends Josue’ and Emmanuel live) I saw a pile of houses with dead bodies strewn across the street. The neighborhood, which is built on a hillside, used to look like a grey Cinque Terra, now it is a heap of rubble in the bottom of a ravine. Richard, a Haitian who lives with us and whose family lost their house in the quake, helped me load our 4 runner up with as many wounded people as we could cram in, and we sprinted off to the Hospital on Delmas 33, one of the only standing hospitals.
When I arrived home Shelley and Joceleyn informed me that the end of our street has become a mass grave, with 25o buried there yesterday and more today. I’m smashing days into hours here, as the last few days have all seemed like one big long one.
There is a lot of weeping everywhere, and as this is really the first time I’ve processed anything (I’ve been in ER mode), this is the first time I think I have felt the emotional weight of this all. I have felt angry that many people who come here to help won’t be able to tell the difference between what is normal Haiti and what has been hit by the quake. Haiti was in shambles before the earthquake, and for a very long time. And people made money off of that pain by being here, but didn’t really do much observable good (i.e. the UN). I find myself thankful that people are going to pay attention to the cries here now, but I’m so deeply saddened by how big that cry is . I am even more thankful for those friends who came to help before. Maybe now is not the time to rant…. but I will say, the people making an impact are the small independent Christian missions, and not the big organizations (US Army, Red Cross, etc.) who are fighting red tape and ignorance of Haitian culture to try to help. Later, those big organizations will save many many lives, and their support will be absolutely necessary, but right now it’s the small guys and the many many prayers coming this way that are making the difference. It will take the giant NGOs a while to set up to operate as they intend to.
I’ve not had access to TV or internet before just now, but I have heard that CNN and other major networks are not drawing attention to the spiritual and religious implications of this quake, so I will say something about that. One, I will say that EVERYBODY on the street in the midst of searching for food and water is having theological conversations. They typically sound something like this:
“God has hit us hard, he is so mad at us. We forgot him and he is mad at us”
“But he hit the church up the street too.”
“But it was a bad church! It was a catholic Church!”
“But Father _____ loved God, that was his church.”
(ecumenical compassion has not quite made its way to haiti yet… maybe now)
“This has happened because we tell so many lies, because of voodoo, and because we have not trusted each other.”
This is the kind of talk I hear in the street… not just at my house, or at the missions, but everywhere. The Powers have been hit hardest… the police, the palace, the banks, the markets, the UN, the places that tend to exploit poverty, use corruption, etc. These are crumbled in the streets, while many many homes stay standing. On a natural level, this is obviously because people with a lot of power have big buildings, but…. so did Babel. After praying for so long that orphans who were caught in a cycle of corupt dealings on the government level, for example, it looks like this earthquake is allowing orphans to go home this week who have been victims of governmental processes for 3 to 6 years. Walls and fears that separated neighbors are coming down. Missions that fought over doctrinal issues are coming out of their compounds to help each other help others.
So people, including myself, see significance in this. However you think of it, what is clear is that this situation demands theological reflection, or said less academically, everybody cries out to or at God in a situation like this.
This, however, is not an act of God, if you ask me. Here’s my theological take from the middle of a disaster area:
Ezekiel 18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
While people are wounded and mangled and destroyed and die because of sin, it is not the desire of God. The anger of God has been sufficiently taken out on himself on the cross. The death of God is sufficient to appease him. He doesn’t need people to die. His love, a Father’s love, would rather take on hurt than see his children hurt. And He would rather avert his anger towards himself than destroy his kids. BUT, when people elect as king the killer, stealer, liar, accuser, and destroyer, then his (Satan’s) reign is what they get. And in whatsoever way that we trust selfish ambition, bitterness, sensual seductions and all the other temptations of life over the sure and strong ground that Jesus has laid for our lives, we elect Satan to a place of power over us, our relationships, and our property. The powers in Haiti have consistently elected riches, power, abuse, poverty, and exploitation as king and this week, perhaps we see the fruit of this election, not as the wrath of God, but as the normal outworking of the reigning government. We also see the response of God in all the miraculous survivors, healings, and the benevolent aid and responses of people. And we see a re-vote as to who will be the prince of this world. Casting the vote for Jesus, as it were, however, means living as he has asked. But he is the knight in shining armor rescuing us from a tyrant king… He is NOT the tyrant king. As John says in one of his epistles “The world is under the control of the evil one”. This is why Jesus asks us to pray that his kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven…. because it’s not fully here yet. One day, says the book of Hebrews, all of Jesus enemies, including death and natural disasters, will be put under his feet, but the battle is not over, and it is not against flesh and blood.