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United Methodists in Haiti before quake hit

Pam Carter, a volunteer from Providence United Methodist Church, Charlotte, N.C., hugs
a Haitian child in May 2009.
A UMNS photo courtesy of
Ken Carter.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy Gilbert*

Jan. 13, 2010

It didn’t take an earthquake to bring United Methodists to Haiti. And it will take more than an earthquake to keep them away.

Hundreds of United Methodists from across the United States are in Haiti. More have plans to go to the poverty-stricken country as soon as possible on mission teams to work on schools, clinics and homes, and to bring medical supplies and food.

In a country already suffering from overwhelming poverty and little infrastructure, that kind of help is what Haiti desperately needs in the aftermath of a massive earthquake.

“If assistance doesn’t come from outside, it is a death sentence,” said the Rev. Sony Augustin, a native of Haiti and pastor of First United Methodist Church, Asbury, N.J. He is waiting to hear about family members still in Haiti.

Ready to go

News from mission teams already in Haiti started trickling back to worried congregations after the earthquake hit Jan. 12.

Patty Kauffman of Hawleyton United Methodist Church in Wyoming arrived on Monday for a meeting organized by the Methodist Church of Haiti. She got word to the conference she was safe at the Methodist Guest House, said the Rev. Roger Richards of the Haiti Partnership with the Wyoming Annual (regional) Conference.

More volunteers are ready to go.

“We have three teams scheduled to go there in February,” Richards said. “We’re waiting for instructions. If they are ready and we won’t be a burden, we will go. We want to be helpful.”

Richards said he has been on more than a dozen mission trips to Haiti since the embargo was lifted in 1995.

“It is very important for Haitians to know people care about them. They are in a desperate situation with so many obstacles to overcome,” Richards said. “Anderson Cooper is reporting for CNN, ‘There’s no electricity. There’s no water. People are in the street.’ He doesn’t realize that’s how it is most of the time in Haiti.”

The Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference has a medical team on the ground. All members of the team are “well and accounted for,” according to Lorna Jost of the North Central Jurisdiction.

The Dakotas Conference planned to take a mission group to Haiti in late February or early March. Jost said they are waiting to hear from their Haiti training director and are “quite concerned because he and his wife live near the epicenter of the quake.”

Pray for the Haitians

Jim Switzer, mission team organizer for Faith United Methodist Church in Farmington, Minn., said a team was scheduled to leave for Port-au-Prince on Jan. 16.

“We thought we would have to cancel the trip but people on the ground in Haiti contacted us via e-mail and asked us to continue with plans to come,” he said. Switzer said they would make sure it was safe to go to Haiti.

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“We go there on a medical mission, but our greatest goal is to save lives by turning people to God. Providing medicine is great. Providing food is great. But the real reason we’re there is to bring them to Christ. The medicine and the gifts of candy and pencils is how we reach some people, but what we really offer them is God’s word. Nobody leaves without being prayed with or for,” Switzer said.

The Rev. Don Gotham, team leader for the Detroit Annual (regional) Conference, said the team was all well in Jeremie, Haiti, on the northwest coast of the country.

“We are due to fly back to Detroit on Saturday (Jan. 16), but are unsure when we can fly back to Port-au-Prince. With all the devastation, we are unsure of what provisions there will be if we come before Saturday, and are unsure of when American Airlines will resume passenger service out of Port-au-Prince.

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“Thanks for the concerns and prayers, we appreciate them,” Gotham said. “At this time, the concerns and prayers are best directed to those harmed."

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn. United Methodist Communications staffers Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Joey Butler, Susan Passi-Klaus and Kathy Noble contributed to this report.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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