HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF REBUILDING
(Huffington Post) - By Lamar Vest, CEO - The American Bible Society
'When the rubble is cleared away, the roads repaved and the buildings rebuilt, will the people of Haiti be back on their feet? Helping Haitians recover from the personal trauma and devastating losses wrought by the earthquake will be a much more difficult task than the overwhelming job of physical reconstruction.
One of our family members, a true hero who survived the earthquake, flew to New York to make this urgent appeal: "If we don't do anything to rebuild the people of Haiti, rebuild the human beings -- all of our efforts are in vain."
Especially now, at the six-month anniversary of Haiti's worst disaster, I am powerfully reminded that the most significant need of Haitians right now is hope.
As first responders during 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and now Haiti, our team at American Bible Society has witnessed the remarkable relationship between the physical recovery of a place and the emotional and spiritual recovery of a people. If we feed the body but don't feed the spirit, people cannot fully recover from tragedy.
The Bible has proven time and time again to be effective in uplifting the human spirit and providing the foundation for stabilizing a person following a traumatic event or a crisis. At a distribution of Bibles by the Haitian Bible Society, a near-riot broke out as people clamored for a copy of God's Word. "My people don't have anything," Haitian Bible Society Program Coordinator Marie Carme Derivois told us, "and when you don't have anything, only God's Word can bring you comfort -- that's why they are fighting for a Bible."
Food, shelter and water are getting attention, but Haitians are also crying out for spiritual resources to help sustain them through the long process of rebuilding their nation and their lives.
As relief workers continue to make their way to Haiti, we are able to supply them with a most important rebuilding tool -- God's word to Haitians in their "heart language." The Creole Bible was first brought to the Haitian people 50 years ago with the translation efforts led by current Haiti UN Ambassador Raymond Joseph. As a teenager in the 1950s, Joseph told his father, "We need a Bible in Creole." American Bible Society became the catalyst, publishing the first Creole Scriptures in 1960.
Another of Haiti's greatest heroes is Magda Victor. Magda leads one of our international partners, the Haitian Bible Society. She has committed her life to Haiti. She was just outside Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck. Although her own home was damaged, she and her staff were among the first responders in the rubble, helping to bring comfort and care to hundreds of survivors.
Now six months removed from the quake, I know Magda is getting tired. She shared in a recent correspondence, "I constantly read the Psalms and am reminded that indeed 'God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble, so we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths.'"
Magda tells of one man she met within Haiti's growing displacement camps. Dressed in borrowed clothes under the cover of a plastic tent, he had food, shelter and safety, but a dim future. Magda had just one thing for him: a Creole-language Bible. But she reports that his response was absolutely unforgettable: "Please, take a picture of me," he said, raising this Bible. "I am a new person."
I believe that people everywhere are hardwired for hope. For almost 200 years, American Bible Society has helped people find hope in God's message to them in the Bible. So I'd argue that anyone concerned with Haiti must focus on more than hiring contractors, planning for industry and removing rubble. Rebuilding Haiti means first rebuilding Haitians.