As the reports continue to come in, the initial shock and the growing fears give way to ever clearer knowledge of what has happened and what actions must accompany our prayers.
Again, we are proud to be part of Week of Compassion and its approach to ministry: we work with local partners, we cooperate with international partners, all of our disaster relief gifts go to disaster relief (and not to overhead). "Earthquakes are acts of nature, extreme vulnerability to earthquakes is manmade," wrote Tracy Kidder in the New York Times (Country Without a Net). Our response will always address the immediate need as well as reduce the systemic, extreme vulnerability to natural disasters.
Our current focus, as part of the coordinated effort of Church World Service, is on transporting basic material supplies like tarps, blankets, hygiene kits and baby supplies to Haiti's capital area. We are grateful for our strong relationship with our historic partner from the Dominican Republic, Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas. Their proximity makes our response possible.
The second prong of our response addresses another basic need: clean water. Our response is targeted and effective because we work closely with ecumenical church partners. This is a powerful reminder that church unity is not a mere matter of opinion or doctrine, but of faithfulness in witness and service.
At Vine Street, we want to make sure that our response always includes even our youngest members. They overhear the news reports, they ask questions, they remember the people of Haiti in their prayers, and they want to help. And we want them to always be part of our mission and ministry.
The hygiene kits that are being shipped to Port-au-Prince via the Dominican Republic come from Church World Service warehouses, and the shelves are now empty. On Sunday, before we gather in worship, we will assemble one hundred of these basic kits from hundreds of towels, tooth brushes, bars of soap, etc. we have already purchased. This is one small thing even the youngest member of our community can do. We will dedicate those gifts in worship together with a special offering for Week of Compassion and with our other gifts.
Because we work with our partners on the ground and in countries around the world, we will soon know what else we can do to honor God in our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
Kim Bentrott has written a powerful and moving account of the earthquake and its aftermath. She and her husband, Patrick, are currently living and working in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
They are employed through our Global Ministries and partnered with the ecumenical Haitian church organization CONASPEH.