Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God Bless the People of Haiti

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

Our hearts have been broken as we have learned of the devastation suffered by the people of Haiti since the recent earthquake and its aftershocks. So much suffering for a country that had already experienced more than its share… Their tragic situation is not helped by the thoughtless suggestion that the massive destruction, leading to the deaths of more than 200,000 people, may have been “a blessing in disguise” (because it could lead to massive rebuilding) or the suggestion that Haiti’s troubles are to be attributed to an imagined pact its people made with the Devil (Pat Robertson: “They got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story! And so the Devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’”). Such tragedies strain our faith and challenge us theologically, just as they challenged Job’s “friends.” The best thing they did was provide comfort by their silent presence for seven days (Job 2:13). But then they also made inappropriate applications flowing from their limited theological understanding. We would also do better to remain silent than to offer such imaginatively unhelpful analysis. Too many Christians have spent too much time coming up with theological grounds for blaming victims of tragic events, as though the world we live in is one where things go well for people unless they have given God or fate some excuse to bring destruction their way. Followers of Jesus Christ, of all people, should know better.
The people of Haiti suffer from tremendous poverty, but such a large number of them demonstrate an equally tremendous faith in and love for God. I remember my wife telling me about the joyous expressions of faith she encountered during her time in Haiti on a mission trip years ago. The news reports have been filled with Haitian people praising Jesus Christ upon every bit of good news in the midst of all the bad. In one extended interview a woman who had been pulled out of the rubble (and who was now in a hospital bed) focused on how her faith in God had sustained her through her time under the rubble and how she reads her Bible every day and was able to remain strong in hope through her reflection on psalms and other relevant texts from Scripture. The constant references to and expressions of Christian faith should not surprise us since the World Christian Database indicates that 95.21% of the country’s population holds to one form of Christianity or another. I am not so confident that I and my fellow countrymen would have such a bold, open and even joyous faith if were to live such materially impoverished lives.
Our own church is supporting the people of Haiti in a few different ways, through special offerings for Hope for the Children of Haiti, and organization that we regularly support and other funding going to World Relief. I hope you and your church will also find a way to make a difference in this and/or other areas where people have such a desperate need for both material and spiritual help. Paul reminds us that even those who are experiencing their own severe trials and extreme poverty may demonstrate rich generosity (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). May God bless the people of Haiti and help them overcome the many factors that promote economic poverty in that country (and the conditions that lead to living and fragile and even inherently dangerous housing). And may God help the rest of us to learn from the humble faith of those who know how to worship and honor God with all they have even what that “all” is very little in comparison to the resources found elsewhere.

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