Hurting in Haiti

The world’s eyes turn to Haiti again following more disquieting news: the abduction of 17 missionaries.

Haiti police say the 16 Americans and one Canadian—totaling five children, seven women, and five men—were kidnapped by a notorious Haitian gang, 400 Mawozo, while visiting an orphanage east of Port-au-Prince Saturday. The missionaries belong to an Ohio-based ministry called Christian Aid Ministries.

This isn’t 400 Mawaozo’s first kidnapping. Earlier this year, the gang took a group of Catholic priests and nuns, who were later released. The problem is systemic, as kidnappings in Port-au-Prince rose by 300 percent between July and September of this year, according to a nonprofit in Haiti’s capital city.

But the recent missionary abduction is the latest in Haiti’s string of disastrous events, including the July assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse and the August earthquake of 7.2 magnitude.

The island nation often captures the world’s attention for a time, but the perpetual plight of the Haitian people should be what holds it. But can we, having seen the destitution of the Haitian people, remain indifferent toward the continual tragedy on our doorstep? Can we pretend that we never saw it?

Unfortunately, experience shows that the answer is a resounding yes.

In the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we had a similar fixation on the country as it dominated the news media cycle. That interest soon faded and the Haitian people’s lives continued unchanged.

We follow the media’s cues and forget the past as soon as it is out of sight. We’re like the man who looks into the mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like (see James 1:23-24).

It’s easy to follow with intrigue the mainstream media coverage of Haiti’s calamities. But God has called us to more than social media outrage and hashtag activism.

The uncomfortable truth is that, far too often, we become conditioned only to care about tragedies while they’re in the news cycle, and we tend to distance ourselves from the troubles of those who live with the consequences.

My friend Ismael, a Haitian national and ABWE missionary, recently told me, “The problems in Haiti are obvious . . . murder has become commonplace, kidnapping is on the rise in all major cities and villages, corruption thrives, even among the political leaders, while the country’s economic situation keeps declining.”

Ismael believes that the general suffering and lawlessness in Haiti is inseparable from other fiascos—like the web of events that led to president Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.

“This socio-political chaos and anarchy eventually led to the assassination of our Haitian president, leaving the country with no real sense of direction.”

These continual problems deserve our action for three reasons:

  • US aid cannot replace what God has called individual followers of Christ to do.
  • God’s mission can’t be delegated to the government.
  • Only the church can address human suffering while proclaiming the culture-transforming hope of Christ.

The late Chuck Colson once asked rhetorically, “Where is the hope?” His answer to the question was quite right: “Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

The solution?

  • Involve American Christians and their churches.
  • Equip Haitian believers—who see the problems firsthand—to be able to apply the gospel to their context.

That’s why missions organizations like ABWE exist. Our missionaries have been on the ground, witnessed disorder firsthand and are building partnerships with nationals to spread the love of Christ.

Outside of the earthquake, other media attention focuses on the vaccination efforts in Haiti right now. But other spiritual ills will still be there when COVID is behind us. For instance, Haiti had 787 murders in 2019 alone. In comparison, to date, there are about 487 deaths in Haiti attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We must address the deeper issues—issues for which the only lasting solutions are spiritual. This demands a response from believers in Christ.

Our missionaries have identified two immediate things every person can do to help Haiti:

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Across the globe, ABWE workers share the gospel, plant churches, and empower nationals. Support their efforts with a one-time or recurring gift.