By Elizabeth Mowery
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick shared time with leaders and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH) as he visited the disaster-struck nation March 1-2.
While in Haiti, Kieschnick brought words of encouragement on behalf of the Synod, prayed with Haitian Lutherans, and witnessed first-hand the devastation of the Jan. 12 earthquake there.
ELCH President Rev. Marky Kessa expressed the church body’s thanks for the help that the LCMS has provided to Haiti.
Kieschnick said the “images on television don’t come close to capturing the devastation wrought by the earthquake, nor do the news stories adequately convey the very difficult living circumstances facing the people who have been injured and who have lost their homes and possessions.”
He thanked God “for the financial gifts from our members which have enabled us to send food, water, medical supplies, and tents to the people of Haiti.” Those gifts have exceeded $4 million to date. “I pray that our heavenly Father will sustain our generous donors and tireless staff, volunteers, and partners as we work out our long-term response plan for helping the people of this ravaged country to return to a life of relative normalcy,” Kieschnick said.
The Synod president was accompanied in Haiti by Dr. Jorge Groh, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean with LCMS World Mission; Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of disaster response for LCMS World Relief and Human Care; Dr. Douglas L. Rutt, associate professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; and James Neuendorf, communications specialist missionary for LCMS World Mission.
The trip, said Groh, “represented the sensitivity and the direct contact that we are trying to establish with those who are suffering in Haiti.”
Kieschnick, he added, “had a tender moment when we stopped at a refugee camp and he had some copies of Jesus Blesses the Children, a children’s book that Concordia Publishing House had provided. He began giving away some of the books and was immediately surrounded” by smiling children, Groh said. (Click here for related story.)
According to Kessa, most ELCH congregations continued to offer worship services following the earthquake. At some church buildings that were damaged or unstable, church members brought pews outside for worship.
In Jacmel, Haiti, where Kessa serves a congregation, 104 people have been baptized since the earthquake, he said.
After visiting different sites in Haiti to assess needs, an ELCH team will put together a list of priorities that will be used to guide future ministry. According to church leaders, many refugees from the hard-hit capital, Port-au-Prince, have migrated to smaller towns and rural areas, where damage was not as widespread, so ministering to them will be more challenging.
“The initial stage of providing for immediate needs in Haiti is coming to a close,” said Groh, “and we are transitioning to a second stage of seeking how we can help provide steady and permanent housing for those who are living in precarious situations, especially as the rainy season approaches.”
On behalf of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, LCMS World Relief and Human Care is working cooperatively with LCMS World Mission, LCMS congregations and districts, and U.S. and international partners to provide immediate and long-term assistance to the people of Haiti.
Elizabeth Mowery is mission communication manager for LCMS World Mission.
Posted March 10, 2010