Hurricane Hannah and HaitiRich Stigall
Sent Tuesday 9:2:2008
As we stir to go about our days doing this and that, stop… Drop to our knees. Let’s not just fold our hands. Get on our knees.
First, give thanks. All of our children in the south are safe. We’ll have to assess damage, but the children are safe.
Second, boldly ask the Lord for help in Gonaive. You won’t read it on the news, even now, but the greatest Hurricane problem in Haiti is from Hanna, not Gustav.
250 of our children are huddled on the top floor of the only 2 story structure in our Gonaive village. By the grace of God, that happens to be where the food and kitchen is located. The rest of the village is turning into a lake that’s rising. And this is some of the “higher ground” in the Gonaive area. Most of the city of Gonaive is under water 5 or 6 feet high and rising. Water is pouring down in rivers from the mountains to the sea. The sea is too full to drink another drop. So, the water keeps rising as Gonainve joins the sea.
DouDou went to secure the children as best he could. The road from Port au Prince to Gonaive passes through a long, low-lying stretch. That stretch is now a giant lake, cutting-off Gonaive from the main route for help. DouDou had to swim across this lake.
This mess snuck-up on the people of Gonaive – again. Gonaive isn’t getting slammed with the hurricane. Rivers from rains elsewhere – a problem nobody saw coming – just started pouring out from the mountains like someone turned on a faucet. Even at this minute, if you look to international reports on the news and internet, you’ll see next to nothing about this problem. The news reports and hurricane updates for Haiti still focus on Gustav. Hanna is a blip on the radar screen. That blip is drowning a city, and has 250 of our children looking down from their perch praying that the rising water will miraculously stop.
This e-mail is not hype. It’s not drama. We know these children. Dan Tasset and I spent the day with them 3 weeks ago. Our village in Gonaive started with a local church sending a busload of orphaned pre-teen girls – about 15 of them. Dony wasn’t expecting the village to start with older children. He told the church leader that he could not take them. Those girls heard the news and scratched and wailed as they boarded the bus back to nowhere. Dony couldn’t take that pain. He relented and took the girls and started the village with a group he never anticipated. Those girls now help take care of the little children – they’re vital to the village. Dan and I watched 3 weeks ago while 1 of those “unintended” girls set tables for the wave of more than 100 little girls coming to take their turn for dinner. She led those children two-by-two, hand-in-hand to their tables. She led them in song and prayer giving thanks to the Lord for about 10 minutes, standing over their food full of contentment and gratitude to eat what was pre-prayer a warm meal. She was the first to the dining room, and the last to sit down to eat. The smile never left her face.
She and 249 other children are in that same dining room now watching the water raise, praying that it will stop, but knowing that their hope does not come from receding waters or the fragile life Gonaive has to offer. Their hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is what I’d like us all to do:
1) Pray that Hanna will pass and the water will stop short of the second floor.
2) Pray that others in Gonaive find higher ground.
3) Pray that Hurricane Ike, next in line, steers clear of Haiti.
4) Pray that the damage to our Gonaive village isn’t too great, and that we will have the blessing of repairing and doing whatever is necessary to make sure we can tuck every one of these 250 little ones into new beds, unharmed.
5) Take this personally! It’s easy to cast this off as just another tragedy detached from what we see as our reality. Then we just go about our days, status quo. This complacency – which I’m guilty of – is wrong. It’s wrong! There are no two ways about it. I’ve attached pictures of some of our children in Haiti. Look at them. Look into their eyes. They’re all over the world. Governments don’t help them. Parents don’t help them, as they have none. Neighbors who want to help them often can’t even feed themselves. These are God’s children, and as God’s people, these are our children. Distance and cognitive dissonance do not diminish this reality. There are times when I want to plead with God: Why do You allows so much suffering? On this point, a teenage girl recently reminded me of this: How will I respond when God asks me this question. “Why do you allow it? You are supposed to be my heart and my hands and my feet and my resources and my representatives amidst the suffering. Where are you? What in the heck are you doing about it? Throwing up your hands and ‘waiting for me’?” True, none of us can stop a hurricane. But it’s flat wrong for me to use that as an excuse for the status quo, and not to let the suffering get me off my butt and move me to action to help where I can. So I stand convicted. I pray you do, too. Take it personally.
I will keep you posted as I learn more.
Joe & Mike