In January 2010, the Rev. Jim Gulley was in Haiti and witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the earthquake. One month later he returned to Haiti to continue the work of the church.
In this interview, Gulley recalls being trapped at Hotel Montana and speaks of the work being done today in Haiti.
I went to Haiti in early January 2010. As we walked across the lobby floor of the Montana Hotel we heard this tremendous rumbling behind us. I said, “It’s an earthquake.” Dust is coming up and we’re all falling down. And I remember my thoughts were, “This is the real deal. Is this is how we’re going to die?”
Five of us were trapped in a space about 5 foot by 8 foot by 3 foot high. I opened my laptop and tried to see if I could get a Skype connection. There was nothing. And I just found blood draining out of my head onto the laptop. So we were there for 55 hours together. We prayed together. Sometimes together out loud and sometimes individually to ourselves.
When I go back to the Montana Hotel, I’m also reminded of my colleagues, Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb. I could not help but walk over to the spot where we had been trapped and think about them and their lives and their families, particularly how they have lost them, just the same as 300,000 Haitians lost their lives.
A woman walked up toward me. And I almost knew immediately who she was. I’d never met her before. And I said, “Are you the owner of the hotel?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “I understand that you were trapped for 100 hours. And yet you survived.” And she said, “Yes, that was true.” So anytime we think about our own situation, how difficult it was, there’s someone there whose life has been affected even more radically than our own.
I’ve really reflected a lot upon our time under the rubble of the Montana Hotel and there is the time where you realize that you are only a human being that can only do a few things.
The United Methodist Church has been very generous. I think more than 43 million dollars has been raised. It’s going to cost between 11 and 14 billion dollars to rebuild Haiti or as they say, “to build Haiti back better.” So the 43 million we’ve given is great. But we ought not to grow weary in our generosity. We should continue that. Pray for the people of Haiti. Pray for the leadership of the Methodist Church of Haiti. They have tremendous burdens to carry for the church. Pray for the political process there. Pray for UMCOR and UMVIM and the leadership of those two organizations that represent you United Methodists in Haiti.
UMCOR is working to build schools for the children who need to go to school. We also have someone who’s working on livelihoods—how can people generate some income out of these camps.
A person is working on health and sanitation…water, health and sanitation, such a big important issue now with…with the cholera epidemic that has occurred.
I was working in Haiti before the earthquake. My sense of calling was to be there in agriculture and community development.
I’ve had people ask me, Well, didn’t you find it hard to go back? And I had to say, “No.” I didn’t find it hard to go back. In fact I would have found it hard not to go back because I was doing what I was called to do when I was there. And I could not abandon it. I needed to go back and to re-engage. And even though my contribution might be small, might be like a drop in the bucket, we need every drop that can be put in place in order to make the transformation of Haiti what it has to be and needs to be for the people of Haiti.
To learn more about UMCOR efforts in Haiti, visit www.umcor.org/haiti.
Posted: January 11, 2011
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