HAITI — Strong winds ripped the tin roof off the house, allowing rain to flood the interior and ruin all the belongings inside. For many of those first on the scene, job No. 1 is scraping a thick layer of mud off the floor.
Mark Havel has seen a few photos and received emails. He’s hoping for more updates after a friend travels to the Fondwa area to assess the damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew.
Havel, pastor of Cross of Grace Lutheran Church in New Palestine, is one of many Hancock County churchgoers receiving word of the hurricane’s impact on ministries they support in Haiti — and pondering what to do now to help.
Field representative Max Wright of Greenfield-based World Renewal International knows a Haitian pastor who’s still anxiously waiting to hear from one of his friends in Jeremie, which is on the northern coast of the country’s southwest peninsula.
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“It affects him mentally,” Wright said. “It plays with people’s minds no matter whether they’re hit directly or not.”
Mike Wilkins of Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville has heard some initial reports but is also waiting for more information. It will help Wilkins, missions and outreach minister at Outlook, determine what kind of help from the church will be most effective.
No one has plans to go there right now; Wilkins said the last thing the church’s friends in Haiti need is a team of Americans to house and feed. But he and other local churches who’ve had longstanding relationships with churches in Haiti are looking ahead to when they’ll send a team there, as they have before; they know the next trip will probably include post-hurricane help.
Havel said Cross of Grace members donated funds to help build a school in Haiti after a 2010 earthquake and later gave money to help build a a maternity center. Now, he said the church will likely turn those donated dollars to helping rebuild the living quarters of an order of Catholic nuns. The nuns house Cross of Grace mission teams; one house in particular suffered damage when the storm peeled back the roof.
“The house wasn’t destroyed, but everything in it was,” Havel said.
Long term, Cross of Grace teams can help by keeping on building the homes that are often constructed during trips. Havel said since Cross of Grace began its relationship with Fondwa in 2009. It’s provided money and/or labor for nine or 10 cinder block homes in the area; all of them are still standing after Hurricane Matthew.
Wilkins reports a similar success rate among the homes Outlook members have helped build through the church’s partnership with Haitian Christian Outreach.
So does Greenfield Christian Church, which participates in a Week of Compassion through the Disciples of Christ. Funds raised from those weeks helped build houses after the 2010 earthquake; the houses were flooded by Hurricane Matthew, but they’re still standing and offering refuge, Sharon Feister wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.
Until those are built, many homes are wooden structures with corrugated metal roofs. Even if the roof is not ripped off by the force of hurricane winds, a deluge can set such a structure adrift.
Wright said a newly launched church was built with poles and walls woven of indigenous grasses. About three weeks after it went up, it was flattened.
World Renewal hopes to help rebuild four churches at a cost of $4,000 each. Wright said Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield did a text-to-donate campaign soon after the storm. A church in Virginia has pledged to help one of the four churches; World Renewal supporters in Kentucky have pledged to help the pastor who was looking for his friend.
“Churches are stepping up,” Wright said.
More immediate concerns weigh on the minds of those partnering with Haitian believers, though. What will they eat?
“They lost most or all of their livestock, which is a huge blow to them as far as food and finance,” said Havel, who over a half-dozen trips to Haiti has seen chickens roaming and the occasional goat or cow tied to a tree in the owner’s yard.
“Everybody lost anything planted,” Wilkins said. “Whether you’re a subsistence farmer, or a farmer growing crops to sell, … there will be nothing. The big concern is what do we do about that.”
He’s also concerned about four to six months from now, when plants that would have matured won’t be there to harvest, and the hurricane is farther from people’s minds.
Havel said those preparing for a 2017 trip — a trip that will likely occur a few months later in the year this time, after all the hurricane has wrought — have been pondering how to get food there. Carry in bags of nutrient-and-rice packets, the kind often packed at group events? It’s hard to take enough of them when each person is limited to 50 pounds, he said.
Send a crate of supplies? That brings its own challenges, Wilkins said.
“It’s pretty remote, and then there’s the whole government corruption thing,” Wilkins said. “There’s a history of things being in port, but they can’t get access to it because they won’t pay the bribe.”
For those reasons, many are pointing to another method: Simply donate funds.
“What they need right now is money,” Havel said.
For many, this is not their first time to see Haiti bear a major storm, and figuring out how to help comes with the thick-and-thin of being in that relationship.
“My hope was always that it would be more than just a one-shot deal,” Havel said of his church’s partnership with those in Fondwa. “That’s what’s meaningful about it for me. …We’ve established relationships.”
And churches who partner with Haiti are partnering with a people of strength, Wright said.
“They’ll survive, even though they’re devastated,” he said. “They’re the most resilient people that I’ve ever met.”
These are some avenues for donating to Haiti relief recommended by local churches.
-Donations can be made to/through Cross of Grace Lutheran Church, 3519 S. County Road 600W, New Palestine, IN 46163. Or see crossofgrace.org. The Rev. Mark Havel said the money will go toward a building project when the church next sends a team to Haiti in 2017.
-Some area mission teams have traveled through Go Ministries, which serves Haiti. Find storm impact updates on the blog at gomin.org/ministry/news. The gomin.org site also offers an opportunity to donate.
–Haitian Christian Outreach (haitianchristian.org).
-Gary Sickle, pastor of Shirley Christian Church, recommended texting “helpIDES” to the number 76959. He said International Disaster Emergency Services is in the process of providing more than $100,000 for aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew in multiple countries, including Haiti and the United States. Learn more at https://www.ides.org/news/pray-for-those-in-the-path-of-hurrican-matthew.
–Park Chapel Christian Church is having a rice-and-nutrients bagging event for Haiti on Nov. 12 at the church, 1176 E. McKenzie Road, Greenfield. Learn more at http://parkchapel.org/event/2016-11-12-food-bagging-project/ or by calling 317-462-4513.
-Write a check to Greenfield Christian Church, 23 N. East St., Greenfield, IN 46140, with “Week of Compassion Hurricane Relief” on the memo line. Or donate online at weekofcompassion.org.
-Visit worldrenewal.org and click “Partner,” “Give Today,” and “Haiti.” Call World Renewal International at 317-467-9899 with questions.