Yesterday, Jan. 12, 2010, at 1:50 p.m., the island country of Haiti was the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. People there lived in abject poverty, many had little or no food, no clean drinking water, and shoddy shelter. They were a nation in need of our prayers and our help. And yet many people in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, weren’t even aware of the state of this poor country.
Then at 2:00 p.m. disaster struck, as if these poor people needed any more disaster. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the capital city of Port-au-Prince and nearly leveled the entire city, leaving people crushed under the rubble. Those who were not killed or injured were left with the awful task of digging out their neighbors and surviving with no shelter and even less food and clean water than they had before. Suddenly all of America, and the world, is praying for and offering aid to this devastated country.
This morning I wonder why it takes this kind of catastrophe for so many to care about the people of Haiti. The island on which Haiti is located is a mere 600 miles from the coast of Florida. This is roughly the distance from the northern border of Washington state to the southern border of Oregon. But it might as well be a million miles away for many people.
There are certainly those who have provided aid and assistance to the people of Haiti. The news reported on two Oregon churches that had members in Haiti providing aid at the time the earthquake struck. My own church has been sending a mission team to Les Anglais, Haiti once or twice a year for over 13 years and sponsors a local agronomist who teaches the Haitian people how to grow crops to feed themselves.
But more is needed in this small country – more love, more prayers, more food, more clothing, more shelter, and more mercy and grace. When the rubble is cleared in Port-au-Prince and the dead are buried, the work in Haiti will not be done, the need in Haiti will not cease. My hope is that the world will continue to pray and to care, that more churches will develop relationships with sister churches in that small country and provide the people with skills and knowledge to increase their standard of living.
You might think I am pointing fingers at others, but I am well aware of the fact that when I point a finger at someone else there are three pointing back at me. I have given to our Haiti mission team, but not as much as I could. I can spend $4.50 on a latte at Starbucks, but do I ever think about what could be done in Haiti with that same $4.50? Not usually, but maybe I should. Especially when you consider the average annual income in Haiti is $270! (No, I did not forget any zeros.) That’s less than 74 cents per day. That means the average Haitian would have to work 6 days to earn enough to buy my latte.
Yesterday I wrote about relativism. It occurs to me that while the doctrine does not make sense in terms of religious beliefs, it does have its place in the world. What constitutes “a fortune” or being “wealthy” is definitely relative. I could double the annual income of a Haitian person without much hardship to me, but that extra $270 per year might seem like a fortune to them.
But then, money isn’t everything. One positive thing about the Haitian people is their faith. This is one thing I have learned as a result of the relationship my church has with our sister church in Les Anglais. And they are a grateful people. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. My prayer is that in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, in the years to come, the world will respond to the need and the gratitude of these wonderful people.