Hurricane Recovery Continues in Haiti
Rebuilding efforts are underway after Hurricane Matthew hit the country in October 2016.
A father thankful he can give his child “water to drink that won’t make him sick.”
A pastor whose new roof better equips him to care for his congregation and community and to preach the Gospel.
Those are just two of the people “who were constantly coming up and thanking us,” said the Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, after returning from a mid-February trip to Haiti to check on recovery since Hurricane Matthew ravaged the poorest region in one of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest countries.
The area of devastation in Haiti’s southern Tiburon Peninsula also is home to the greatest concentration of Lutheran congregations — “congregations that are the hub for much of the charitable work in Haiti, the feeding programs, the orphanages and other children’s programs,” Johnson said. “Helping the pastors and their families get back on their feet means they can get back to helping others.”
Although the Oct. 4 Category 4 hurricane has disappeared from news headlines, mercy work made possible by donors contributing to LCMS Disaster Response continues in Haiti, where more than 500 people were killed and some 175,500 were displaced, according to reports.
Working with Partners
Immediately after the hurricane, LCMS Disaster Response provided emergency food and medical supplies. Recently, the primary focus has been on rebuilding roofs on the homes of some 50 pastors and drilling 10 wells deep enough to ensure water free from contamination that causes diseases like cholera.
To work as efficiently as possible, LCMS Disaster Response partnered with trusted nonprofits and LCMS Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) “that have years of experience and expertise of doing ministry in Haiti, who understand the culture, the government,” said Johnson.
LCMS Disaster Response gave a total of $80,000 in grants to Ministry In Mission, an RSO that coordinated the initial air drop of emergency supplies and later repaired roofs on pastors’ homes. LCMS Disaster Response also gave $50,000 to the nonprofit Water for Life to drill the water wells 150 feet deep.
In February, Johnson checked on the installation of the first three wells, all located within easy walking distance of a Lutheran church. In broken English, a pastor thanked Johnson “for taking care of my community.”
Along with providing safe drinking water, the wells “break down barriers that non-churched Haitians have against the Gospel,” Johnson said, helping them “see that Lutherans care about them spiritually with the Gospel and that [Lutherans] care for their most basic human needs, both which voodoo cannot provide.”
Johnson said he was “overwhelmed with the great work” in Haiti and “the efficiency and the accountability in meeting essential human needs through Lutheran congregations.”
Johnson also sees more opportunities to help these hard-hit communities by rebuilding damaged Lutheran churches. That’s why he approved an additional $50,000 grant in June to rebuild the walls and roofs of a dozen churches that suffered significant damage.
Each village church would be repaired “in a humble manner,” he said.
Many Americans may not realize how Haitian Lutheran churches serve in ways that extend beyond worship, said Jackie Rychel, Ministry In Mission president, including for “schools, workshops, for social reasons and sometimes even centers for shelter and protection.”
“In Haiti, the churches are everything,” she said.