Here is a disclaimer… There is so much happening right now in Haiti that I hope no words, thoughts or disagreements will slow the aid to the desperate physical, emotional and spiritual needs that are so abundant right now.
I will just come out and say it… There is something that bugs me about how some Christians are responding to the needs in Haiti right now. Really it is a deeper philosophical issue that I have with the approach of local churches and ministers, but it is just on display right now. The thing that bugs me is not that some churches and ministers are actually helping; they are! And because of that I am thankful. Sitting on our hands and doing nothing would be more tragic then anything I am going to say. But my concern is that we are not providing the BEST help that we can for the sake of Christ.
In the past 24 hours I have heard of several pastors who I respect personally going to Haiti with supplies. Is there anything intrinsically wrong with this? Absolutely not. Yet, I am forced to ask, is the BEST use of our resources?
Today I heard an interview with Bill Clinton in which he said, “What we need now is cash to buy water, food, shelter and first-aid supplies. That’s what we need. And we need that the next week over and above everything else. They are not able yet to coordinate physical supplies and redirect bodies. So I just want to urge people to donate directly to the agencies.” As a former president I trust he is exposed to some of the best information available on the needs and situation in Haiti. He is clear… Send money.
I have heard countless accounts that there is a major bottleneck at the airport in Port au Prince. A CNN article states that, “the airport in Port-au-Prince ‘can’t handle all the aid that’s coming through.” The article goes on to say, “’literally hundreds’ of flights are trying to land at Port-au-Prince, which has “one tarmac, one runway, one ramp for all the aircraft. ‘It is a sheer volume issue,’… . “There are more planes that want to land here than we can accommodate in any given hour.” Simply put, there is aid that is needed on the ground right now, but they cannot get it on the ground because the airport has too many planes that want to land. The situation seems to be clear… Don’t make the airport any busier, aid is circling the airport and can’t get on the ground.
I think there are some incredibly well-meaning Christian leaders who are doing incredible good, but not the BEST good they can do. They state that we are to help Christians first, based on Gal 6:9-10. I think that verse does encourage that, but it does not dictate a time frame. I feel we are robbing Haitian Christians the aid that they need in this very moment as we send high profile ministers to take up a spot on an airplane that could have been critical aid. It may be that they can raise awareness through filming videos and tweeting and Facebooking their experience. Yet I feel like I see this happen over and over with ministries. My support goes to the ministries that were there in Haiti the day before the earthquake, the year before the earthquake, the decade before the earthquake. Not to mention those that will still be there in a decade. These ministries already speak the language, know the names of the families, their birthdays, their schools, their relatives. These ministries already have the networks and infrastructure to provide aid.
Once again, I think those ministers who are in Haiti are going incredible good. I even have a friend who is there right now, even risking his life in this disaster. Yet I hope that we can provide the BEST help by giving money to those who already are doing good work in the name of Christ. Let us fulfill Gal 6:9-10 through a more thoughtful way that utilizes the best information we can get. May I suggest ministers who want to help rally their churches to give now, the CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC video footage surely should be good enough to get the point across. Then as the situation gains some stability, send in teams to help rebuild the churches over the next months and years. I wonder how many churches are continuing their support of the Indonesian 2004 tsunami that killed over 230,000 people. Maybe the new organizations rising up can adopt those churches as well.
My thoughts, prayers and money go out to Haiti, my brothers and sisters in Christ there, and also my fellow American ministers who have just arrived. I hope a profitable conversation arises about how affluent American ministers and churches can best leverage our blessings for the Kingdom of God.
UPDATE: Christianity Today has a good article about World Vision’s long-term efforts in Haiti. In this article it says that, “World Vision has a staff of about 800 around Haiti.” Their long-term presence allows them to state that they are among, “organizations that had been on the ground long-term, that had been building relationships with local community leaders and national government staff. So that serves us well when you’re in a chaotic situation like this… We don’t have to fly in on the ground and then figure out who speaks the language or what the infrastructure is.”