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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brief Update and Reflections

Last evening, Rev. Glenn Merritt phoned me via satellite phone from Jacmel, another city afflicted by the earthquake and the location of some of our sister Lutheran congregations. After just finishing touring Port-au-Prince, he reported Jacmel is in just as much in need or even more so than Port-au-Prince. He said the destruction from the earthquake is something no human should have to witness... The level of devastation made a deep impression on this former homicide police investigator and rescue response worker. He also asked Matthew Harrison and me to coordinate a food shipment with our sister church in Haiti a soon as possible. Ms. Barb Below, Director of Social Ministry Organizations, has been hard at work in cooperations with partners in the Dominican Republic to purchase food here and ship it to the Jacmel in Haiti. We hope to have emergency aid there in less than a week.

Last night Rev. Carlos Heranandez, assessment team member and interpreter/translater here in the Dominican Republic, keyed in some "Reflections" on his cell phone last night about the earthquake in Haiti and the LCMS' response. I thought I'd share these with you this morning.



Reflections. By Rev Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Jimani, Dominican Republic, January 22, 2010 -

Today was our first full day on the ground responding to the emergency/crisis/"life or death" needs of the victims of the forceful and destructive haitian earthquake that has decimated this already poverty-ridden carribean country.

Our initial response, which is part and parcel of our LCMS World Relief and Human Care disaster relief plan, began very early this morning on the Haitian side of the Dominican Republic/Haitian border where a grant $30,000 was given to President Marky Kessa to begin to address the most basic survival needs of the earthquake victims of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti and the communities they serve, most of them already barely surviving before the earthquake.

Another emergency grant is in the planning stage to bring in much needed food to Jacmel. After an on-sight assessement this afternoon in the Port-au-Prince, Haiti area, Rev Glenn Merritt called our temporary WR-HC administrative base for the Haitian earthquake here in Jimani, Dominican Republic, to alert our Executive Director, Rev. Matthew Harrison that food and water is still a crisis, urgent need among President Kessa's pastors, their congregations and the communuties they serve!

Our whole team ceremoniously witnessed his signing of our grant agreement which insures a high level of accountability. In my brief conversation with President Kessa, I wanted to impress upon him that we at LMCS WR-HC are in it with him for the long term, as we move from the emergency, to relief, to transition, to recovery, and rebuilding stages. "Good. Good," he smiled, "That's what we need!"

At this point, though President Kessa invited us all to come ("you have to see the need with your own eyes," he said pleadingly to all of us), We split into two teams in accordance with an administrative agreeement with those of us staying behind - Pastors Hernandez, Collver and Harrison - providing urgently needed pastoral care along with Pastors Ted Krey and Walter Ries at 'hospital samaritano' where many have been airlifted from haiti by two helicopter (donated by two wealthy donors) for what one surgeon said was the best medical care they can receive. Top surgeons from all over have come to donate their time and skill, including Helen, Glenn Merritt's daughter.

And our pastoral skills were mightily used!

About mid-afternoon, a earthquake tremor shook the buildings in the hospital compound including the building where we are sleeping on mattresses.

We were taking a brief break, drinking water to recoup from the exhausting and draining heat, when a nurse ran to call us back to pastoral care duty. She said: "The sitution has turned chaotic and dangerous! Please come and calm them! Some are jumping from the second story building fearful that another tremor might kill them! "

In their post traumatic stress, they were re-living the original haitian earthquake. it was dinner time. So as we distributed meals, we shared gospel words of comfort.

Wait! We just had another tremblor!!

All of us - nurses, doctors, pastors sleeping on mattresses in the empty house near the hospital just ran out!

This one was worse than the earlier one!

We're sleeping outside tonight!

Suffice it to say, we are in the middle of crisis - caring for victims and fearing we might become victims ourselves.

One final reflection. It has been gratifying for me as a Latino to see how neighboring Latin American countries, with a lot of impoverished conditions of their own, are coming to the aid of their Haitian neighbors. The Dominican Republic, of course, Haiti's nearest neighbor, but also Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico, whose governor accompanied a caravan of supplies and volunteers to 'el hospital samaritano' - good samaritans all indeed!

There is also a lot of concern among Latinos in the U.S. About the victims of the haitian earthquake. I have had three interviews in Spanish since coming here by a national bilingual station--Metro News in Phoenix. I am happy to tell them that the LCMS shares the gospel with both comforting words and compassionate and merciful actions in the face of this terrible tragedy that will occupy our time and energies for some time.

Pastor Hernandez can be reached even while in the Dominican Republic/Haitian border by cell phone (314-956-2005) and by email (

Another $30,000 is desperately needed for a first shipment of much needed food and water.

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