All posts tagged “quake

comments 2

Spiritual aftershocks in Haiti

When the earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, a Tuesday afternoon, I was wrapping up work at the office in DC where I was interning at the time. I was part of the media relations team at one of the NGOs that was quick to spring into action, and over the next several weeks our team worked long hours in support of our organization’s response. During this time I had stories from Haiti fresh in my heart and mind, stories connected to names like Frefre and Madam Sylvanie and Gardinal.

That’s because in the week right before the earthquake (by chance?) I’d read a book by a guy named Kent Annan, who co-directs Haiti Partners, an education-focused nonprofit. The book was Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle, and I remember it as a really honest, challenging spiritual memoir about living fully and loving dangerously, as the subtitle puts it.

I just read Annan’s new book, After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken. It’s a quick read, but it packs a punch. Like Annan’s first book, this one is brutally honest and at times rather uncomfortable, reading more like the kind of personal journal most of us would keep to ourselves. The theme of theodicy runs throughout, coupled with the problem of suffering and all the questions left unanswered after a tragedy of the magnitude of the Haiti quake with its 230,001 dead (the figure he cites throughout as a reminder that every life lost counts). In other words, why did this “act of God” have to happen in the first place, considering the orthodox Christian belief in an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God?

It’s something that’s confounded many down through the ages, so I hope it’s not a plot-spoiler to say that Annan doesn’t resolve the issue in these 120-odd pages. And as I said, some of the questions he asks and the ways he describes his own spiritual wrestling — including doubt and anger — are uncomfortable to read. On the other hand, he tells stories of remarkable hope and faith and joy emerging from Haiti’s rubble among his friends there. He describes the scene as night fell on an open square later that Tuesday, where hundreds camped out for fear of returning to their homes, or what was left of them. It wasn’t chaos or anger, at least then, according to his friend Enel:

They sang church hymns together. Other times people improvised their own hymns in response to what they’d just survived. And they prayed. Angry prayers? Questioning prayers? No, mostly prayers of gratitude because we were spared, Enel tells me, and prayers for those who weren’t. All night long. An evening of suffering and faith passed in that square and city that was worthy of being recorded in the book of Acts. It doesn’t seem an exaggeration to say Enel took part in one of the more remarkable nights of faith in the world’s history.

There are encouraging vignettes like this interspersed throughout the book, and Annan even works in some humor to keep all the questioning from making the book an all-around downer. But the book is inescapably weighty, and while some might construe it as dangerous ground for a Christian to tread, it’s in keeping with scriptures of lament, like Psalm 13, which asks, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”

In the face of suffering on an incomprehensible scale, like what Haiti endured in the quake and continues to endure day after day, I’m also reminded of the man who said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” That’s a prayer worth praying, I think, and one God honors.

Check out Kent Annan’s blog and the work of Haiti Partners, and if you’re so inclined, give his books a read.

comment 0

Repaso: Haiti 18 months later, poverty/dignity, humanitarian journalists, Latin America’s game, and more

1. Paul Farmer on post-quake Haiti
NPR’s Fresh Air had a half-hour interview this week with Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, in which he talks about Haiti a year and a half after the devastating quake in January 2010. It’s tied in with his new book, which is one I’ll definitely plan to read and possibly review for the blog or a magazine. Farmer has been working in Haiti for a very long time, and his perspective is sobering but worth listening to. In the interview he says:

Some people talk about Haiti as being the graveyard of development projects. Our own experience has been very positive working in Haiti — building health facilities and working with the public sector and creating jobs — but [we are now thinking about] how we can now make these other, more ambitious projects also effective on the implementation front.

2. Haiti: 18 months later
Roseann Dennery, a good friend of Katie’s, has a new piece in Relevant Magazine on Haiti as well, focusing on the country’s tragic orphan crisis. She has been living there for the past year, working with Samaritan’s Purse along with Justin, her husband. Her first-hand experience of the crisis has led her to a unique perspective:

It is one thing to read statistics about Haiti’s expanding orphan crisis, but it is quite another to witness it; to walk down a squalid dirt road and visit several overrun orphanages within a few minutes of one another, each with greater need than the last. Wide eyed, hungry, soiled. Each humble face tells a different variation of the same story. It is unsettling and overwhelming. And it feels harshly unjust. What does it mean, then, to be a Christian in the midst of a swelling sea of abandoned children, a trend that shows no sign of slowing?

3. Snapshots of Suffering
My friend Chris Horst, who works for HOPE International, has a great personal reflection on dignity and suffering, based on experiences in the Dominican Republic. He concludes:

I’m thrilled to serve a God who truly knows me. A God who does not define me by my weaknesses. A Creator who made me in his image. A Father who “exults” over me, his child. These truths convince me that If God and I sojourned across the Dominican together, his pictures would look strikingly different than mine.

4. Are humanitarian groups doing the media’s job overseas?
This was an interesting one for me, since I’m a communications specialist for a large NGO not unlike the one featured in this post. It is an interesting observation Tom Paulson makes about this trend of NGO communicators doing something very similar to journalism and what this means for mainstream media.

5. Is baseball becoming Latin America’s game?
NBC Sports has an interesting piece on the rise of Latino players in the MLB:

Much like the recent influx of immigrants from Latin America into the general U.S. population, MLB has seen a remarkable shift in it’s demographic over the last 20 years. Ozzie Guillen, the outspoken manager of the Chicago White Sox, said last year that within 10 years “American people are going to need a visa to play this game because we’re going to take over.” And while Guillen’s comments can be taken as a humorous exaggeration, there is an element of truth to what he says. Baseball might be America’s pastime, but the sport is becoming increasingly Latino at heart.

6. Trailer for :58 film
I highlighted the new :58 campaign here on the blog a month ago today. Now here is the trailer for the campaign’s feature length film, due for release this fall.

58: THE FILM Trailer July, 11 2011 from LIVE58NOW on Vimeo.