Port-au-Prince, UMCOR headquarters
On Saturday morning, our group from the Western North Carolina Conference shared a van ride to the new UMCOR headquarters with a team of nurses, doctors and a dentist. They were doing an assessment of health-care needs in Haiti. There we met Samuel Kinge Namanga, head of mission for the UMCOR office, who is a bright and capable leader with a clear vision of helping Haiti rebuild; and listened as he talked about the work ahead. We are very lucky to have him working on behalf of the church. His focus is on building capacity—on doing ministry in such a way that the people of Haiti have the resources and skills they will need to provide for themselves when we no longer serve beside them. This is a worthy goal, of course. Samuel stressed that he will need our prayers, our continued financial support and the help of United Methodist Volunteer in Mission teams.
This morning, As we drove back to the Guest House, we sped through the center of town. Along the way, I was numbed by the sight of so many severely damaged homes and the vast number of tents and tarps serving as shelter in the sweltering sun. I felt for Samuel and the other servants who will be a part of this effort. Where to begin? The landscape ahead will be harsh and challenging.
At one point along the way, we asked the driver to stop so we could photograph a sea of tents near the center of the city. We were surrounded quickly by a swarm of children in ragged clothes. Some rubbed their bellies and said, “Grangou, grangou!” which means “hungry.” Others had learned the English phrase—“One dollar, one dollar!”—which I am sure they hoped would insure their survival. My friend who speaks Creole told a young boy, “I don’t have any money.” Despite his young age, he responded matter-of-factly, “Don’t tell me you don’t have any money. Just tell me you aren’t going to give me any.” It was a stunning moment as she realized the truth of what he said. Yes, often we do have money, but will we give it?
The work ahead in Haiti will call upon many of our resources – spiritual, financial, emotional, physical and intellectual. We will need the best minds and abilities of persons like Samuel Kinge. We will need the deepest and most compassionate responses that we all can make, including the financial gifts we can offer. We will need the strength of our Volunteer in Mission teams to help stand beside Haitian workers and labor side by side. We will most definitely need the love of Christ to guide us.