2010 to 2016

I want to start by making one thing perfectly clear.   I never was in Haiti in 2010.   I did not feel the ground shake when the big one hit or the countless aftershocks.  The only way I saw and felt the quake was through the words and pictures of others.

But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t use me during that time.   But God knew that I could do more good from “here” than I could if I went “there.”  So, I stayed in Michigan and worked the phones and the internet and organized and coordinated and calmed and collected and had, as I described it then, “a front row seat to watching God at work.”
I’m privileged to be able to “watch” a discussion among people who are living and working in Haiti as they come to grips with what Hurricane Matthew means and how do we attempt to minister to and care for the devastated victims of this awful storm.   There are a couple of things that I find very encouraging….

  • An overwhelming sense of the importance of learning from the past.   Let’s not make the same mistakes that were made in 2010.
  • A greater understanding of the importance of knowing who you are and what you can do.   If you are a medical clinic, don’t get into the house building business, support those who do.   If you are, well, know who you are, where you are and do what you can inside your area of expertise.  
  • Ask hard questions – questions about money, questions about plans, questions about whether there is a way to do “that” and support the local economy at the same time.
  • If an organization is not willing to answer hard questions or gets offended by hard questions, take your support elsewhere.

Besides for the obvious difference of the type of natural disaster (earthquake vs. hurricane) there is another significant difference that I think is going to be very challenging as we attempt to move forward.

  • In 2010, the complete damage was known rather quickly.   The vast majority of the damage happened in 37 seconds at 4:53 PM on January 12, 2010.  It very rapidly went into the disaster relief mode because it was very obvious what was needed, where the damage was and what the damage was.
  • In 2016, this is looking like it’s going to be the disaster that never stops causing problems.   OK, never is probably too long of a time.
  • Because of the nature of the disaster and where it hit, there are places where we haven’t been able to do anything other than air drop some food (thank you U.S. Military) and take pictures flying over.   
  • We don’t know whether clean water will reach enough people before Cholera runs rampant.
  • We don’t know how the people in the southern part of Haiti are going to make a living.   If you made your living selling mangoes and 100% of the mango trees are destroyed, you not only lost this year’s income, but you probably lost the next 5 years worth of income.  
  • The entire country of Haiti was already dealing with scarcity of food supplies – and they just lost 35% of their total agricultural production.  How are they going to replace that before people starve?

And then don’t forget the Rice and Peanut Catastrophes.   What?   In the past, the US government has granted significant subsidies to US rice and peanut farmers and has “donated” the excess rice and peanuts to places like Haiti.   Guess what the unintended consequence of that was?

The U.S. government effectively wiped out two agricultural industries in Haiti and put many many Haitians out of work and out of a way to support their families.

After Hurricane Matthew, we can not allow a government, any government, or any big non-profit to do things that will jeopardize what the Haitians need to be able to come back from this.  

There is a lot that we can do to help Haiti.   There’s a lot we can learn from 2010.  May we have the grace and patience to learn and to help in ways that really help.

More to come,

photo credit to Troy Livesay of Heartline Ministries

Do it, but do it right…..

There are a couple of interesting and thought provoking things that have made their way around the internet this past week (since Hurricane Matthew devastated soutern Haiti).   Let me share them and a few thoughts about them……

Make sure you do it right this time:  There is plenty of evidence that much of the “relief work” that was done after the earthquake in 2010 didn’t actually help Haitians.   And much of the money that was donated could not be properly accounted for.

Do it local – When at all possible, use Haitian labor, supplies purchased in Haiti and help the Haitian economy while helping rebuild.

Huge parts of the farm land in Haiti was almost literally wiped off the map – and just before harvest.  That means there is and will continue to be a food scarcity issue for a long time to come.

Shelley wrote on the AP blog yesterday and explained very well the situation and the importance of not only giving to help disaster relief but of helping to develop Haitian businesses by buying Haitian and creating jobs.   You can read her post at http://apparentproject.org/after-the-hurricane/  

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook.   She and her husband have been living and working in Haiti for over 30 years.   She said that 99.9% of the $25,000 they have received for hurricane relief has come from Haitians.   I don’t know whether they are Haitians in country or Haitians who live elsewhere but I do know this, what she said shows the importance of creating jobs and creating income in Haiti.

Because if you buy Haitian, it supports someone in Haiti (duh) and they can then support their family and others who are in need.

Beyond the original emergency relief need, helping in a way that empowers Haitians will go a long ways towards making sure that the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew is a better road than the post earthquake road was.   

So give.  Donate –  but unless an organization directly asks for a particular item, don’t donate things.   Let them buy the things in Haiti if at all possible.   It most likely won’t be possible to buy everything to rebuild half of the country without purchasing some things outside but do as much local as possible.

Buy – buy things from Haiti.  Urge family members to buy from Haiti.  Give the Haitians the income to be able to support their families – not only their children but their extended family.   I don’t know statistics but let’s just say based on the people I know, a LOT of them have family in the disaster zone they will help.   If they have the money.

Go to http://apparentproject.org/donate/ and donate – we will make sure that money goes to organizations in Haiti who are providing disaster relief.

And then go buy Haitian.  Because if you buy from Haiti, the Haitians will have the means to support their families.

And that is disaster relief with dignity.


Don’t Yell At Your Neighbor

It’s times like these that make social media really uncomfortable.

There’s no escaping it.   Whether it’s what someone said years ago or what happened somewhere last week, there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s the weather in St. Augustine or the storm surge in Jeremie, there’s no escaping it.

Whether you think someone is “the right man for the job” or the “wrong man for anything,” there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s bombings in Aleppo or wind gusts in Les Cayes, or blowhards in Washington, there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s shootings in Baton Rouge or random acts of kindness by police officers in New York, there is no escaping it.

This all reminds me of two famous quotes:

Margaret Meade – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Bob Goff, author of Love Does and skateboarding attorney, said,  “Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.

As you read the news, scan your Facebook feed, look at what’s happening on Twitter, remember that – a small group of people can change the world.

And most of those voices that are screaming for attention on the social media front don’t need advice, they just need love and acceptance.

I might disagree with you – but love me anyway.

I might get mad about this – but love me anyway.

Don’t unfriend me just because I don’t like your opinion – because I still like you.

The world is very small but very big.   That means your neighbor isn’t only the guy across the fence – your neighbor is also the black man who is marching in a protest, the Haitian mother who is watching her children die of cholera because they can’t get clean water.   The list could go on and on.

There is way too much giving of advice, way too much yelling advice.   God calls us to do differently…….

Because Love Does,


After the Hurricane | Shelley in Haiti

Haiti will be at the center of attention again for several weeks or months until the next big tragedy draws the eye of the media away.

And life will continue. Babies will die of malnutrition. Maternal health will continue to be one of the worst in the world. Children will still not go to school. Parents will be looking for orphanages where they can leave their children (many new ones will have sprung up by then), cholera will have killed thousands more Haitians, and tents and tin will become the materials used to house those displaced once again.

Nothing will change. Life will go back to the “normal” and Haitians will continue the struggle. That is their reality. Never enough. No opportunity. No jobs. No education. And No change.

Unless we do something that might last past 12 weeks of disaster relief.

*Before I say anything else, please stop and give. Give to the relief efforts. It is absolutely necessary and lifesaving in this moment. Find one you trust and give today.*

But everything will go back to normal. It will of course.


Unless what?

Unless education.

Unless Jobs.Unless we can invite Haiti’s privately owned businesses to the international table of trade.

Unless we can deal with their harsh reality and realize they might not have their shit together but we make a commitment to buy from them anyways until they get better.

A country never has and never will become a sustainable developed country because it was given rice and beans.

A people group has never grown in self esteem and dignity because of a free meal.

A job is what they need.


Source: After the Hurricane | Shelley in Haiti