How can I help?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The news reports pouring out of Haiti are gutwrenching. Never in my lifetime have I seen so much death, so much destruction and so much despair. Images of bodies piled in the streets and newly orphaned children crying for their parents and reaching out to any adult who comes their way are ones that will forever tug at my conscience. New estimates place the death toll at 200,000, and there are 1.5 million people, half of the capital city's population, displaced. Makeshift tent cities are appearing all over the broken landscape, covering soccer fields and empty lots all across the devastated city.

The newscasts we watch from Haiti all lead to one universal question: how can I help? First of all, I believe one of the best ways to help is to pray for the people of Haiti and those who are there right now or travelling there to assist. Pray for the rescue attempts that are continuing. Even after a week, people are being pulled from wrecked buildings alive. It is these miracles that give us hope and remind us that despite all that is occurring, God is in the very middle of it. He didn't cause the earthquake, but it didn't take Him by surprise either.

God's presence can be seen in the uplifted hands and voices of a church congregation in Haiti that gathered at the site of their destroyed church building to sing hymns and comfort one another in a time of crushing sorrow and pain. One woman was quoted as saying: "I have nothing but I still have God." This is just one of many stories that are surfacing about God's provision and the hope the Haitian people still carry in their hearts. God is often most real to us when times are the toughest, and it is my prayer that the people of Haiti discover God's love in the middle of the chaos.

In addition to prayer, Haiti needs our financial help. Already the poorest nation in the world, Haiti has no reserves of cash to help them rebuild or to even meet the basic needs of its people for water, food, shelter and medical care. I have heard people say they aren't going to give money, because it could land in the wrong hands. That is always a risk, but right now, money is what Haiti needs. Some situations call for us to give generously and trust that our money will go where it is most needed. I have always believed the American Red Cross is the best avenue for giving money. They are the best in the business as far as I'm concerned, and I know they have policies in place to make sure your money is spent prudently. For information on how to give to the American Red Cross Haitian Relief Fund, visit www.redcross.org.

Once the situation in Haiti stabilizes, there will also be a need for volunteers. You might consider what talents you have to offer and then find an international mission organization you could plug into to offer your skills and abilities to help rebuild Haiti. Local churches are a great resource in this area, and I'm sure we'll be learning of many local mission trips being planned to Haiti in the coming year.

The needs in Haiti are enormous, and it's going to take a worldwide, long-term relief effort to rebuild the small nation. None of us should look the other way. Instead we should each answer the question "How can I help?" and then get busy acting upon our answer.

Lisa Schlichtman