Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to help Haiti ...

If you've ever felt the earth move under your feet, you will never forget it.

In October of 1989, I was doing some work on my computer, sitting at a desk in a small cottage I lived in in the San Francisco bay area, when the earth suddenly started to shake. I immediately looked up, out the window, and saw the utility poles and wires swaying violently. It struck me that a big earthquake was hitting, and I had better get outside quickly.

Fortunately, my little cottage survived the hit, but the result of the Loma Prieta earthquake would strongly impact the bay area for quite some time to come. The 7.1 quake damaged the Bay Bridge, and a double decker portion of freeway going into Oakland had collapsed. Fires raged in San Francisco's Marina district. Sixty-three people died.

For the next couple days and nights, I assisted a bay area lumber company in hauling timbers to the site of the collapsed freeway. The timbers were being used to hold up portions of the collapsed freeway so emergency responders could search for survivors. The area looked as if it had suffered a direct hit from a bombing.

The entire bay area was dramatically impacted by the quake. Fortunately, California was richer in resources at the time, and with federal aid and assistance from other states, emergency response poured into the area to help those impacted directly by the crisis.

Remembering that experience, I can only imagine the tremendous impact now being felt in Haiti after being hit yesterday by a 7.0 earthquake that has wrecked that nation's largest city. Early estimates are as many as three million Haitians are impacted by the devastation of the quake, and sources are estimating the initial death toll could be anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It's citizens struggle for survival on a good day, so the devastation of this earthquake is tragic in its proportion, and the country lacks the resources needed to respond to the imemdiate needs of this crisis. Many lives are at risk, and Haiti needs the help of the world right now. Here are some ways you can help:

1) PRAY - Only God will truly be able to see the people of Haiti through this disaster in the fullest way needed. From those who are still trapped in the rubble, to those who have lost loved ones, and for all those who will be working diligently to provide emergency assistance, pray constantly for God's care and provision for them. The hope of the people will be hurting during this time; pray God will be the source of their hope and strength.

2) GIVE - The fastest way to provide immediate assistance is to give financially to those organizations that are already in Haiti responding to this emergency. Here is a link listing many of the charitable organizations doing work in Haiti right now

3) RALLY SUPPORT - If you don't know whether your church is responding to the needs of Haiti, call and find out. If it hasn't started a response yet, offer to help coordinate efforts on behalf of your church. Your church can organize a prayer vigil, provide members with information about how they can give financially for emergency needs, and donate needed supplies.

4) PROVIDE MANPOWER - The agencies providing emergency relief to Haiti, both government and non-profit, may need additional manpower with their efforts. If needed, and you are able, be willing to go and provide direct assistance. Healthcare professionals and others with special skills will be needed. Please don't be a "lone ranger" by doing your own thing, as that creates more problems during the chaos of a disaster. If you have skills that could be useful in the emergency response, follow the news disseminated by relief organizations and the government as to manpower needs. But consider going if you can, and if you're needed.

When some of the poorest and most needy among us suffer such great tragedy, today (and tomorrow, and throughout the coming months) simply cannot be "business as usual" for us. Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our love. In that case, pour out your love and compassion on Haiti today!

Today, we all need to be Haitians.

God bless all that you do for the people of Haiti.


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