Last night on a skype call from near the Haitian border, we heard the tragic story of a mother with three children. Her three year-old had her crushed leg amputated at the hip. But even as she clings to life, her mother has to take her on the hard ride back to Port-au-Prince to search for her two siblings who are still lost and possibly dead in the rubble.
She represents the hundreds of thousands, still in a state of shock, trying to cope with the trauma. They desperately and urgently need our help. And we have to ask, how does the church respond?
I work with a group of people who listen to the heart of God and know how to run to where the spiritual battle is most intense. When people were fleeing the burning towers of 9/11, the courageous response of the NYC firemen was to go running in the opposite direction – toward the fire. That’s our kind of DNA.
Today and tomorrow, our team is flying to Santo Domingo, D.R., and traveling up past our base in San Juan, close to the Haiti border. Along the way we’ll be stopping at the distribution center of our partner, Jack Larson. Jack and I first became friends when we were missionaries to the D.R. in 1982 and have collaborated in the D.R. since then. He is perfectly suited to take shipments of food, medicine and equipment, and to ship it across the Dominican border.
Paul Young is a member of the team. A successful Atlanta-based financial adviser, Paul felt God calling him to do something to respond to Haiti. He called AIM board member Mac Schneider yesterday, who in turn called me. I saw that Paul could help us identify strategic partners in our relief efforts and called him to ask, “Can you join our team?” He responded, “Yes.” Later he explained why he’s going in a letter to his friends, “I have faith that the Lord can work out great healing from all this tragedy; he just needs a few willing tools to help do His work. I am blessed to be able to be one of those tools.”
Our plan builds on what we learned in responding to the Katrina flood. In those first tragic days when hundreds of thousands fled the rising waters, we brought in 70 missionaries to triage refugees from New Orleans in Baton Rouge. Then we set up a forward base in Reserve, LA. A few months later we set up multiple bases in the flood zone.
We built two response teams: One channeling individual volunteers who began showing up by the hundreds within weeks, and another leading groups who came for a week at a time. That first year, we led over 4,000 volunteers in rebuilding those devastated by Katrina. The thousands who followed in successive years rebuilt many homes and attended to spiritual needs in the process.
In responding to Haiti, our forward base is already in place. It’s led by a spiritual son of mine, Miguel Santiago. Miguel’s first step when he arrived as a missionary several years ago was to circumnavigate the island on a motorcycle prayer journey. That’s the kind of leadership he’ll bring to our effort – seeking first to understand what God is doing and then joining him in the effort. He’s focused on seeing a strategic, Spirit-birthed response to Haiti’s horror.
The reconnaissance teams leaving today and tomorrow will begin taking food, water and medicine in to the clinics and relief stations with whom we’re partnering. Our overall efforts will be directed by a group of Haitian pastors whom we trust with our safety and spiritual covering. One of the team members is a security expert who recently returned from Iraq, he’ll be addressing those needs. The rest of the 15 people going will be taking on different specific assignments that feed into our overall plan to help coordinate the church’s response.
In our second wave, we expect to send in an intercessor team led by Melinda Nelson, a coworker of Heidi Baker’s. The plan is to have prayer coverage at all times. Our intercessors will be based on the Haitian border and will be grouped into teams that alternately go and minister before returning to the base to pray.
We’ll also be sending in teams of individual volunteers to distribute food and medicines. Some of you generously gave enough to help us ship a million dollars worth of medicine out of Virginia Beach. Please continue to give
– we’ll need resources to target the aid quickly to where people need it the most. And follow our regular updates online here
. We make integrity in stewardship a top priority – we address urgent needs relationally, carefully and in a targeted way.
Our third wave will begin in March-April. Many churches are themselves formulating a response to the earthquake. Some are preparing to organize teams to go and help rebuild. They have questions about safety, logistics, and ministry effectiveness. We want to partner with them in helping to ensure that their volunteers really do make a difference and return home safely to tell their churches about what God does through them.
After next August, we’ll settle in for a more sustained effort to help Haitians rebuild and find hope. We invite and need your partnership. AIM’s response is just one small part of the compassionate action of those who take Jesus at his word. Please talk with one of our staff to see how you might join us.
Two days ago, when I assembled our leaders to begin formulating a strategic response to the Haiti earthquake. We looked around and saw that we already had three separate groups who had bought their tickets to form an assessment team. We looked a little disjointed, maybe looking before leaping, but compassionate, Spirit-led activism is what’s needed in a crisis of this scope.