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Interpreting Haiti’s pain and promise

by Linda Bloom
December 8, 2011

With a year full of record-breaking disasters – the Japan earthquake, the tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., flooding from North Dakota to Thailand – it may be easy to forget the catastrophe in Haiti nearly two years ago.

In their new book,Rubble Nation: Haiti’s Pain, Haiti’s Promise, Chris Herlinger and Paul Jeffrey help us to remember, showing us the struggle of a people trying to rebuild their nation and the efforts of others to assist them.

Jeffrey, a United Methodist missionary and stellar photojournalist, and Herlinger, an outstanding journalist who now works for Church World Service, already collaborated on a previous book,Where Mercy Fails: Darfur’s Struggle to Survive.

Both Sudan and Haiti are complex and heartbreaking places where the situation can seem hopeless and hopeful at the same time. In both countries – and now in the newly-formed South Sudan – United Methodists have forged a connection with the people there.

The connection in Haiti runs long and deep, which is why so many church teams were ready to jump on the first plane available after the earthquake to do whatever they could. Some of those stories can be found at HaitiOne Year Later. The denomination also raised more than $40 million for Haiti’s recovery through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

It’s kind of a cliché to say that Jeffrey and Herlinger “put a human face” in words and photos on the suffering in Haiti after the earthquake, but that’s exactly what they did. They are professional yet compassionate, experienced but not hard-bitten, possessing just enough cynicism to see through self-serving bureaucrats. Damn fine journalists, in other words.

Rubble Nation can be ordered through any religious or secular bookstore; any online bookseller; member stores of the Episcopal Booksellers Association or direct fromCokesbury Christianstores or from Cokesbury customer service at 800-672-1789