Methodist-related Groups Form Partnership to Address Haiti Crisis
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, May 7, 2010 -- A coalition of Methodist and ecumenical church groups has formed a partnership with the Methodist Church of Haiti to address long-term development objectives in response to the crisis in Haiti. The initiative continues and expands work under discussion in Port-au-Prince on January 12, the very day an earthquake devastated much of the island nation.
Six broad priorities, proposed by the Methodist leadership in Haiti, were explored at a mission roundtable in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on April 19-22. The six are education, reconstruction, health, development, evangelism, and Christian education.
Earthquake Intensified Needs
"The earthquake intensified the need for both short- and long-term action, but all of these areas of ministry existed before January 12," said the Rev. Jorge Domingues, deputy general secretary for Mission and Evangelism of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and a participant in the Santo Domingo meeting.
The projected work of the coalition is in addition to the general relief and rehabilitation work being done by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and other Methodist-relief organizations.
Roundtable participants were from:
Global Ministries was represented by several units, including the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Women's Division, Mission and Evangelism, and its subunit on Mission Volunteers.
Methodists Working Together
The four days in Santo Domingo were historic in bringing together so many groups that previously have pursued separate pathways in response to economic and social needs in Haiti. "The agenda was that of the Haitian church," said Cynthia Harvey, the director of UMCOR.
In separate interviews, Domingues and Harvey pointed to unprecedented proposals for collaboration in Haiti.
"The inter-Methodist and intra-board work that is coalescing around Haiti is a significant step in our mission strategy," said Thomas Kemper, the general secretary of Global Ministries who is a strong advocate of a "roundtable approach" in mission planning and implementation.
The Dominican Evangelical Church hosted the roundtable. "This was an important component of the meeting," said the Rev. Edgar Avitia. "These two churches are not often in contact, and this was an important occasion for them to begin to work together." Rev. Avitia, the secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean of Global Ministries, had spent a week in Haiti prior to the Santo Domingo roundtable.
Some of the same persons who met in Santo Domingo were in Haiti last January 12 for talks with leaders of the Methodist Church in Haiti about possible development efforts. The Rev. James Gulley, a consultant who survived the earthquake, was the UMCOR continuing link.
Absent in April were the Rev. Sam Dixon, former head of UMCOR; the Rev. Clint Rabb, former director of the Office of Mission Volunteers at Global Ministries; and Haitian minister of agriculture Fritz Boutin--all three of whom were killed in the earthquake. They were remembered with appreciation during an opening service of worship.
"Worship played a significant role in our time in Santo Domingo," said Harriett Olson, deputy general secretary for the Women's Division of Global Ministries. "The worship leadership was broadly drawn from the partners and contributed a powerful sense of our theological as well as humanitarian motivations."
Pivotal in the four days of talks in Santo Domingo were the presentations made by the Haitian delegation, led by the Rev. Gesner Paul, president of that district, and other members of the Haitian delegation of lay professionals and three clergy.
Concerns of Women
The Rev. Maude Hyppolite described the feedback from women in the Haitian church about the needs in their communities. A survey of grassroots Methodist women in Haiti was initiated by a team of regional missionaries linked to Women's Division prior to the roundtable. On the eve of the meeting, 537 responses had been received, the preponderance of which favored family and community ministries over institutional considerations.
Several of the projects under the development rubric are geared specifically to challenges that daily face women in Haiti, according to Olson. These include access to clean water and food security.
The six priorities were listed on a large spreadsheet, and the various partners penciled in their initials on projects they are equipped to support through human, material, and monetary resources.
An important component in the partnership is a monitoring committee, with professional liaisons, organized by the church in Haiti. While funding for particular projects was discussed, budgets remain under consideration, and cost-sharing among the partners is explored.
Date posted: May 07, 2010