Adventists in Haiti Struggle with Devastation From Four Major Hurricanes
Successive storms swamp nation; thousands left homeless
BY LIBNA STEVENS, Inter-America Division
he Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti is still trying to provide relief to thousands of people left homeless or stranded in the wake of four hurricanes that struck in as many weeks from mid-August to early September. Leaders say church operations and activities won't return to normal for months.
The storms pounded Haiti with severe winds and torrential rains, killing hundreds, including one church member. Because of lingering floods, many devastated areas are accessible only by air. Seventh-day Adventist schools, regional offices, and more than 40 churches have been either destroyed or severely damaged.
“All of the four mission offices in Haiti were struck harshly, some more than others; but the most damaged still remains in the southern and northwestern regions,” says Pierre Caporal, executive secretary and communication director for the church in Haiti.
Caporal, who recently visited pastors and church leaders in Gonaives, the most affected city, says churches are still not functioning because access is blocked by debris, mud, and flooding. Worship services are currently being held in homes. Cabaret, Azale, and Petit Goave are also among the hardest hit.
HELPING HANDS: Seventh-day Adventist Church volunteers help sort out clothes, shoes and blankets collected throughout dozens of less affected Adventist churches in Haiti to help aid victims of the worst hit areas such as Gonaives, Cabaret, Azale, and Petit Goave. [Photos: Pierre Caporal/IAD]
The situation in schools is no different.
“The Minister of Education in Haiti recently declared the opening of the school year, but schools are full with people who are homeless, in Gonaives particularly,” says Caporal.
The church in Haiti appealed to all of its members for a special day of collection of funds, food, clothing, and blankets to help victims in the most devastated areas.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Haiti, along with the church, created an emergency commission to address the needs of the community and the members, says Inter-America’s ADRA director Wally Amundson.
“Even though there are many members that are affected by the flooding, there are other members that have a little extra. Each member was encouraged during the first Sabbaths in September to bring anything extra they had in terms of clothing, blankets or food to church where they worship,” says Amundson. He says government and non-government agencies helped distribute the goods.
So far, Fritz Bissereth, ADRA Haiti director, reports that more than 64 congregations donated a sizeable amount of money, thousands of pieces of clothing, blankets, and other supplies in early September.
“ADRA Inter-America has pledged special funds out of our own reserves in order to match other ADRA funds from the world network,” adds Amundson. ADRA International and ADRA Canada have also donated from special funds. Other church union conferences throughout Inter-America have carried out drives to provide aid to the victims in Haiti.
Six 40-foot containers were sent from the church in Puerto Rico, where, in addition, dozens of churches collected donations from their members and other denominations in an effort to help victims in the neighboring island. The church in The Bahamas also took up a special collection.
“Supplies still exists within the country,” says Amundson, “so money is the fastest mechanism to bring relief to the population.”
“We are very concerned about the precarious situation in Haiti," says Israel Leito, president of the Inter-America Division. “The division stands ready to help, not only through ADRA to the general public, but specifically to the members.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti has nearly 325,000 members, and more than 451 organized churches and congregations.
To donate funds to help victims of the disaster in Haiti, go online to www.adra.com or contact ADRA Inter-America directly at (305) 403-4700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.