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Haitians in Florida await news of family, friends after earthquake

Patience Nave of Florida visits with a
teacher from a school in the mountain
town of Carrenage, Haiti, during a 2008
trip. UMNS photos courtesy of
Patience Nave, Florida Conference.


A UMNS Report
By Jenna DeMarco*

2:15 PM EST Jan. 14, 2010

Sorrow, shock and stalled communications. United Methodists in Florida with connections to Haiti have experienced all since a major earthquake struck the Caribbean nation Jan. 12.

“Most of my church members are still waiting to hear about their loved ones,” said the Rev. Charline Pierre, pastor at St. Johns Haitian United Methodist Church in Boynton Beach. “Some have received news that their families are fine. Others have received news of entire families trapped and killed under the rubble. It is a very difficult time for us.”

Pierre did receive word that her sister and extended family were all right. Her church, she said, will be helping in “the effort to support our brothers and sisters in Haiti” in any way they can.

At South Dade Haitian Mission in Homestead, the Rev. Montreuil Milord called the earthquake a tragedy with a potential for “great loss of life.” Milord is chairman of the Haiti/Florida Covenant, a three-year-old relationship between the Methodist Church of Haiti and the Florida Annual (regional) Conference.  

Travel canceled

Milord was among three members of the covenant team who planned to travel to Haiti Jan. 14 to develop ongoing relationships with the Methodist churches there and to plan future mission trips.

Patience Nave, a member of First United Methodist Church in Homosassa, who had also planned to make the trip, said she was disappointed and conflicted about the cancellation. “I cannot tell you the mixed emotions I have that I am safe and all these other people are not,” Nave said.

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Nave, who is in her late 70s, has traveled to Haiti numerous times. On this week’s trip, she had planned to deliver $2,000 to the Carrenage Methodist Church to help feed the children who attend school there.

“I keep thinking about people who had nothing and now they have less,” Nave said. “Isn’t there a bottom? If you were sleeping on the floor, now you have no floor. You had a piece of bread, now you have no bread. …”

Relief efforts begin

Despite the devastation, Nave also said Haitians are a “remarkable people” who are very resilient and capable of recovering from this disaster. She expects that will take years, however, because of the extent of the disaster and weak infrastructure.

Schoolchildren in Carrenage, Haiti, gather for a photo taken during a 2008 fact-finding trip sponsored by the Florida Conference.


She is among those urging people who want to help to participate in one of the organized relief efforts. People “should not do a knee-jerk reaction to this,” she said.

The Rev. Tamara Isidore, a native of Cité Militaire, Haiti, is awaiting word about her family and working with others to organize the gathering of specific supplies for loading into shipping containers. Isidore, senior pastor at Grace United Methodist and Oak Grove United Methodist churches in Tampa, says the effort will send aid where it is needed.

In the coming weeks, she said, a 40-foot shipping container will be available on the campus of Wellspring United Methodist Church in Tampa. Financial contributions will allow organizers to ship a container to Haiti when it is full. Donations may be sent to Wellspring United Methodist Church, 10701 Sheldon Rd., Tampa, FL 33626, with “Haiti relief” in the memo line.

Isidore and her husband are waiting for information about the status of her sisters and her husband’s two older children, who all reside not far from Port-au-Prince. “We still cannot account for them,” she said, noting that communication was difficult even before the earthquake.

Other Florida Conference churches are also planning to collect relief supplies.

Hope offered

At Branches United Methodist in Florida City, the Rev. Audrey Warren said the tragedy affected many of the congregation’s families, who were in a state of uncertainty. She estimates that 60 percent of her congregation has ties to Haiti.

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“Mainly, I’m just a comforting, counseling, praying person for them right now,” she said.

Warren says the Sunday worship service will focus on hope in the face of destruction, emphasizing “as Christians we have the promise that we’re going to see a different picture — that all things will be healed and put back together, and God hasn’t let go of us,” she said.

One of her members, Jean Daceus, said he had not heard any information about his father or brother, who live in Port-au-Prince.

“I couldn’t even sleep last night,” he said. “They could be alive or dead or they could be injured. We have no idea.”

Donations to UMCOR’s “Haiti Emergency” relief efforts can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, P. O. Box 9068, Room 330, New York, NY 10087-9068. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #418325 and “Haiti.” Online donations can be made at www.umcor.org. Those making credit-card donations can call (800) 554-8583.

*De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Kathy Noble, (615) 742-5441, or newsdesk@umcom.org.    

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