United Methodist Haitians are hopeful for homeland (March 22, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

United Methodist Haitians are hopeful for homeland

March 22, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0044}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - The photographs and news reports depicting destruction and violence in Haiti are excruciatingly accurate, according to the Rev. Montreuil F. Milord.

He and other Haitian United Methodists in Florida are urging all United Methodists to lift up the country in prayer and provide assistance.

Milord, pastor of South Dade Haitian Mission in Miami, said he aches seeing his homeland in turmoil. He has lived in the United States for 16 years.

"It's heartbreaking," said Milord, who is a native of the western part of Haiti. "We are praying the good Lord will open doors for this troubled land."

Violent opposition and turmoil have plagued the country since rebel groups called for the resignation of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in mid-February after months of political unrest. According to media reports, rebels said Aristide's government was corrupt and called for new elections.

Nearly 40,000 Haitians fled the country after a 1991 coup that ousted Aristide, who was restored to power in 1994 after U.S. military intervention. Unrest developed in Haiti, home to approximately 8 million people, after Aristide's party won flawed legislative elections in 2000. Opposition politicians refused to participate in new elections until Aristide stepped down, but Aristide had insisted he would stay until his term ended in February 2006. Aristide left Haiti in early March after being pressured by rebels and the American government to step down.

The turmoil is affecting United Methodists here at home and in Haiti. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams working in Haiti returned to the United States, and immediate future teams were canceled or postponed. The Methodist Guest House in Port-au-Prince is closed until the political situation improves.

Milord said the situation in which Haitians live is complicated by the country's lack of infrastructure. He said Haiti needs a working system that will alleviate the sufferings, hunger and diseases so long endured by the Haitian people.

Regardless of what transpires in Haiti, Charline Pierre says she will always be proud to call Haiti her home. She has lived in the United States for 10 years.

Pierre, who resides in Miami, said the news of unrest troubled her because her family and friends could not escape the violence. She and others have compiled a list of critical supply needs to aid Haitians.

"It's pretty sad," said the native of the Haitian town Petit-Goave. "I have contact with family and friends who said they could not leave the house."

Milord said he hopes to travel to Haiti in April or June to assess the situation for himself. "Things will get better," he said. "That's why we're asking our sisters and brothers to extend their hands across the borders to help with necessities."

Hospital supply closets are bare and relief agencies such as the Red Cross have little, if anything, to offer, Milord said. Grace Haitian United Methodist Church in Miami is collecting needed food and medical donations to help restock bare medical and pantry shelves.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is also doing what it can to help during the current crisis. It supports several projects in Haiti, including a hot lunch program for the Methodist schools, Grace Children's Hospital and community agricultural programs. Aid workers are warning that hundreds of thousands of Haitians are at an increased risk of hunger, illness and poor water quality if the violence and unrest continue.

Help can be offered by making donations to a Haitian Advance or to the Haiti Civil Emergency Advance Number 418325 for emergency relief.

More information on the United Methodist Church's response is available on  UMCOR's Web site at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/news.stm. The General Board of Global Ministry's response to the situation in Haiti can be found at http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/pr.cfm?articleid=2199#text. A list of Advance projects in Haiti is available at http://gbgm-umc.org/advproj/AdvProj_Search.cfm. More information locally can be obtained by contacting the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the Florida Conference's Missions Ministry office, at lrankin@flumc.org or 1-800-282-8011, extension 131.

Medical supplies being collected by Miami's Grace Haitian United Methodist Church include Advil, rubbing alcohol, aspirin, bandages, bed sheets, blankets, cotton balls, gauze, Ibuprofen, medical gloves, Motrin, peroxide, soap, sterilizer, syringes, towels of varying sizes, Tylenol and vitamins. Food items include canned and powdered milk, dry beans, rice, shortening, spaghetti and V-8 juice. These items should be mailed to the church at 6501 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL  33150.

For more information regarding donation routing contact Pierre at 305-758-8897 or chagapie@yahoo.com.

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This article relates to Missions.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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