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East Central District launches ‘reBuild Haiti’

East Central District launches ‘reBuild Haiti’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

East Central District launches ‘reBuild Haiti’

By Jenna De Marco | June 8, 2010 {1179}

The Rev. Lynne Austin of the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church has a passion for Haiti that will take her back to her roots this month.

The Rev. Lynne Austin spends time with a child at Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church in Winter Park. Photo #10-1460. View in photo gallery with longer description.

Austin, who grew up in Central Florida, is the featured speaker at the East Central District’s June 13 launch of a multi-church project called “reBuild Haiti.”

The event is being billed as an opportunity for people from many congregations to come together to support the needs of the Haitian community.

Although now a district-wide cause, “reBuild Haiti” was spearheaded by members of First United Methodist Church in Winter Park — Austin’s church in her teen years. Austin’s mother, Martha Austin, is still a member there.

Even before the Jan. 12 earthquake, the church had been connecting with Austin and her husband, clinical pathologist Dr. Ray Aller, about the couples’ ministry with Haiti, primarily through International Child Care (ICC). As an ICC board member, Austin regularly travels to Haiti as part of the global relief effort.

After learning about the quake’s devastation, the church’s members “knew God was calling us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” said Carol Smith, director of lay ministry at the church. Linking the East Central District with Austin was one way to do that.

As part of the “reBuild Haiti” kick-off, Austin will preach three morning services at her former church June 13. She will then speak at a broader “reBuild Haiti” gathering from 2-5 p.m. that afternoon at Emmanuel Haitian United Methodist Church, 701 W. Concord St., Orlando.

In a message titled, “Poured Out,” Austin plans to talk about the emotional and spiritual impact of the earthquake.

The Rev. Eliantus Valmyr, pastor at Emmanuel Haitian, will also speak at the afternoon gathering. Valmyr, who has helped with local and global relief efforts since the earthquake, said support from the United Methodist connection is critical.

“We give thanks to United Methodists because they show us that they care about us, about the Haitian people,” Valmyr said. “We love that. They are connecting with us.”

The long-term goal of the district-wide initiative is to develop a coordinated, cohesive response to the needs of Haitians, as well as local members of the Haitian community, said Heather Traynham, who is serving as the Winter Park church’s lay leader for the project. The effort will include several United Methodist churches raising awareness and funding and providing mission team support.

The event will include a joint worship service led by Valmyr and Austin, with the group “United Brothers” performing. Other leaders who plan to attend include the Rev. Bob Bushong, senior pastor at the Winter Park church; the Rev. Marilyn Beecher, a General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) Church and Community Worker serving in the East Central District; the Rev. Britt Gilmore, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Orlando; and the Rev. Thomas Toussaint, pastor at Berea United Methodist Church in Pine Hills.

“The day will be centered around how we can build our community here to help around the world,” Traynham said.

There will also be a hands-on service project assembling supply kits from materials gathered in local elementary school drives, Traynham said. Local churches are providing refreshments for the afternoon, and information about Haiti mission team opportunities will be available.

Hopes for Grace Children’s Hospital

Austin’s most recent trip to Haiti was in March 2010, where she provided spiritual care to staff and patients at Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, which is the ICC’s flagship ministry. The hospital, which treats seriously ill children and families, is also GBGM Advance Special #418520.

Austin works to connect churches in the United States with the hospital, generating awareness of its micro-loan, pure water, health care and literacy initiatives. She also provides pastoral care to hospital workers and is helping to build a volunteer-based chaplaincy program.

A slide show at the “reBuild Haiti” event will feature the ICC earthquake response with Austin. Videos on the topic may be viewed at or

Children in cribs are placed under makeshift tents at Grace Children’s Hospital after the earthquake, which damaged hospital buildings. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Lynne Austin. Photo #10-1461. View in photo gallery with longer description.

The hospital’s services were “severely impaired,” since it was mostly destroyed in the earthquake, Austin said. About 70 percent of the hospital’s staff members are homeless after the disaster.

The most pressing needs include financial contributions for rebuilding and sustaining the hospital, as well as long-term partnerships with individuals, churches and a United States educational or medical institution. The partnership ideally would be a “two-way street,” with medical professionals on both sides sharing their expertise.

As opposed to a quick fix, Austin said, “I’m hoping (this event) will inspire the kind of longevity that Haiti needs.”

More information about “reBuild Haiti” is available by contact Traynham at or Smith at More information about ICC is available at

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News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.