Columbia Union Adventists Respond to Haiti Earthquake
By Taashi Rowe
Seventh-day Adventists are already making efforts to help Haiti after Tuesday’s earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale brought massive damage to the Caribbean nation. News reports are estimating that the earthquake caused thousands of deaths and injuries after rippling through the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. Untold numbers remain trapped under the rubble of fallen buildings.
Though the tragedy occurred thousands of miles away, Columbia Union members are affected because many have family there. Pastor Smith Olivier, of the New Jersey Conference’s Maranatha French church in Newark and Bethesda French church in Roselle, has been fielding calls from concerned members all day.
“We all have family in Haiti,” he said. “However, the communication system does not seem to be working at this point so it is difficult to know how they are doing.”
Haitian members from all over the New Jersey Conference are planning a 12-hour prayer vigil for the country this Sabbath at the Maranatha French church. On Sunday they will begin a week of prayer with the hope of collecting donations to send to the country. They plan to work with the North American Division’s Haitian Advisory members to find channels for sending aid. In addition, as reported by Adventist Community Services (ACS) Disaster Response coordinator Claudia Ramirez, the conference is asking all of its churches to collect a special offering on the next two Sabbaths.
“We really are asking people to get family, friends, and coworkers to collect some items, whether it be food or clothes or money, to help Haiti in this critical moment,” Olivier continued. “The Haitian flag has 'United We Stand’ as a slogan, and I really believe this is the time to combine our forces and help the country get through this tough situation.”
Upon hearing the news, Charles Cheatham, president of the Allegheny East Conference, and Minnie McNeil, director of the conference’s ACS department, convened a conference call with all the pastors of its 10 Haitian churches.
“We have so little information right now, and don’t really know what the needs are yet, but we wanted them to know that they would not be facing this tragedy alone,” McNeil said.
The conference is encouraging every church member to give liberally this Sabbath so they can begin to help. Starting Thursday members will also be able to go to the conference’s website (myalleghenyeast.com) and make donations for the relief effort.
According to spokesman John Torres III, ADRA has already raised $85,000 through ADRA International, ADRA Canada, and the Inter-American Division, but expects the need to be much greater. He and another employee are heading to Haiti tomorrow to better assess need. “This is tremendously devastating,” he said. “It’s these kinds of tragedies that make us happy that our church has ADRA in place to help.” They’re getting updates and keeping in touch with ADRA Haiti personnel through email.
Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference, is concerned about the local impact. “When one part of the family suffers we all suffer, and so we pray that God will bring healing and comfort to our members who have lost loved ones,” he said. “We join with our conferences as they reach out to those who have suffered from this terrible tragedy.”
ADRA officials say that all donations earmarked “FOR HAITI” will go directly to that effort. Call (800) 424-ADRA or visit adra.org and click on the Donate Now link.