Friday, January 15, 2010

Lessons from Haiti

I watched at a distance when the news from Haiti started to come in. I was in Frederick, interviewing candidates for ministry with the Board of Ordained Ministry. I saw the pictures on the copy of USA Today that was slipped under my door. I watched a few minutes of coverage on television in the breakfast room of the Hampton Inn. But, I did allow it to come to me. I did not allow it to really break through a barrier.

I then learned on Wednesday that a colleague from Duke Divinity School was in Haiti. She had left on early Monday morning with a team from two United Methodist Churches in Indiana. She posted an update on Facebook asking for prayers on Monday morning. I saw the posting, but I did not do much about it. But, I started to pray fervently on Wednesday when I learned that no one had heard from Jamalyn or anyone on her team. No one knew if they were alive. No one knew if they were safe. No one had heard from them. And with this initial message, the situation in Haiti started to come home. Once I knew someone, I realized the pain of the situation. Once I knew someone being impacted, the situation started to break my heart, keep me up at night, and cause me to pray more than I have prayed in a long time.

And all I can think about now is, "Shame on you, Donna." Shame on you for not seeing the people in Haiti as your brothers and sisters. Shame on you for not weeping earlier for the living conditions of people living in the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere. Shame on you for not asking questions about why half of the people in Haiti do not have clean drinking water or why only one-third of the people have access to sanitary conditions. Shame on you.

And, I keep thinking about God's reaction. I keep thinking about how God has been weeping all along - weeping over the fact that many people live with so much while many others live with so little, weeping over how many people like me have chosen to not pay much attention to the pain of people living less than 300 miles from the edge of Florida, weeping at how we selfishly go through our lives, choosing to see only what we want to see.

Imagine. Imagine how different things might be if we responded to the needs in Haiti and so many other people in the way we respond when we know someone? Imagine what could happen when people who have been given so much respond accordingly. Imagine what could happen if the businesses who have been bailed out on Wall Street last year and are now reporting the best year ever discerned a call to be just as generous with efforts to bail out individuals living in poverty. Can you imagine?

I have also learned another lesson this week as I have reflected on the comments made by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club as Pat concluded that the devastation in Haiti was a result of Haiti making a pact with the devil. I have realized that Pat also sent a fault line through the minds of so many people who want nothing to do with the church, how destruction has happened as a result of his words, destruction that is not easy to repair. And, I have thought about conversations held earlier this week about effectiveness in ministry, about what we need or expect from our pastors. A question was raised about whether someone's effectiveness in ministry could compensate for their lack of theological understanding or a statement made about how God works that is not in line with our Wesleyan theology. As I think about Pat's statement on the 700 Club, I have been convinced that the thing we need to be looking for more than any other thing as a Board of Ordained Ministry is effectiveness in being able to articulate a sound theology - a theology that builds up the Body of Christ and tells of God's all-encompassing love for all people and God's heart that weeps over broken places like Haiti - Haiti as it was a week ago and Haiti as it is today. Many people would say Pat is effective. He has a television show, is making millions, and has quite a following. But, I would say his ministry is destructive instead of effective. I hope and pray we will make the same decisions as we seek to cultivate and prepare people to serve our churches in the years to come.

It's been quite a week. I hope and pray that the words of the cartoon featured in today's Washington Post are not true, "A desperately poor neighbor is now the epicenter of media attention. Following a strong series of aftershocks, it will soon become invisible again."

God, help me. God, help us. God, help the people of Haiti - all who live, all who have died, and all who mourn.

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