Haiti Earthquake: A Call for Prayer and Support

Map Image: WikiCommons, CC-BY-SA 2.0.

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging prayer and support for the people of Haiti following a devastating 7.2 earthquake.

The quake has destroyed or damaged more than 84,000 homes, and hotels, schools, churches, medical facilities, and other infrastructure have also collapsed. So far, more than 1,400 people are confirmed dead with hundreds still missing. Adding to the danger, a tropical storm in the area is bringing expected rainfall of up to 38 centimetres (14 inches) in some areas.

“The people of Haiti need our support,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the ILC. “Responding to this disaster is made all the more difficult by the economic challenges, security issues, and political instability at work in this country. May God be merciful to our Haitian sisters and brothers in this difficult time, and may He move Christians around the world to remember them in prayer and acts of mercy.”

Prayer: Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts. Your ways are not our ways. In Your wisdom, You have permitted this disastrous earthquake to befall the people of Haiti. We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor their faith in You fail, but sustain and comfort them. Direct the efforts to attend to the injured, console the bereaved, and protect the helpless. Bring hope and healing that the people may find relief and restoration. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The impact of the disaster on the members and congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH) will take days to become clear.

The tragedy comes eleven years after another major earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure. A hurricane in 2016 further devastated Haiti. The country, which is considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, already faced widespread poverty even before the latest earthquake. That need has been exacerbated in the latest earthquake zone, with some areas already going days without food or safe drinking water, let alone medical care.

The International Lutheran Council is coordinating with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Disaster Response team, which has previous experience organizing effective relief work in Haiti alongside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti. Individuals and member churches of the ILC wishing to assist with relief efforts may give online. In the message section, please indicate your donation is for “Haiti Disaster Relief.”

You may also send a cheque by mail to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, IN  46850

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are member churches of the ILC. The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions.

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COVID-19 and ILC Churches in Ghana and Haiti

ELCG President John Donkoh leads evening devotions online.

WORLD – Lutherans continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic spreading around the globe. In this report, we focus on the response of ILC member churches in Ghana and Haiti.

Ghana

Ghana has reported 2,719 cases of COVID-19, with 18 deaths. In response to the crisis, the country banned all public gatherings on March 15, including worship services. Several regions have been gone into partial lockdown or quarantine.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) has urged its members to follow all government protocols and remain at home. At the same time, the church is working to identify members at risk because of the lockdowns. “We note that in some communities, the majority of people live from hand to mouth, and cannot stay at home and isolate themselves, because that would bring about their swift starvation,” notes ELCG President John Donkoh. Thanks to support from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the ELCG is rolling out a range of various activities to reach out to the needy and less privileged in their communities.

COVID-19 awareness material shared online from the ELCG’s National Lutheran Youth Executives.

The church is also launching an interactive online program in collaboration with the Lutheran Media Ministry, to keep faith alive for youth, women, compassion children, and their parents. Each Sunday, regional pastors preach in turns live via Facebook, and sermons are translated into local Ghanaian languages where broadcasts are taking place. At the same time, the church encourages its members to also engage in personal study of Scripture, to pray, and to continue studying the Catechism.

The Lutheran Media Ministry Studio in Accra is also assisting with Christ-centered programs to share the good news of Jesus with the whole country. From Maundy Thursday through Easter, the church presented a series of messages on suffering, death, and the resurrection of Christ to the nation via FM radio.

The church is also responding to questions of faith and fear from the general public as well as major media on various theological topics.

“This is a very challenging time, but we don’t lose heart because Jesus has overcome the world,” says ELCG President Donkoh. “The period of lockdown has been uncomfortable for many…. People are grieving that life has not worked out as they had hoped.”

“We seem to be living in a broken world,” he continues. “A world with bad news. COVID-19 is indeed disorganizing our normal life.” And yet, he says, “the Holy Spirit through the blessed Word relieves us from the fear of death, and gives us the power to triumph over this great and final foe. Through the great power of the Gospel—the good news of Jesus’ blessed death for those who are subject to death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead—we are gifted with hope in this world.”

Haiti

The country of Haiti has reported 100 cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths so far. To arrest the spread of the disease, the Haitian government has restricted gatherings of more than 10 people, including at churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH) is reaching out to people during this difficult situation, which is aggravated by recent instability in the region. The church reports that a lack of infrastructure in the nation also creates challenges; a majority of the population, for example, do not have access to electricity.

The ELCH is relying on WhatsApp—a form of communication in widespread use in the country—to distribute messages, sermons, and other information to congregation members. But this is often an imperfect solution, as those without regular access to electricity may not be able to read or hear sermons until several days later.

Visitations are also prohibited in order to prevent the spread of disease, effectively preventing pastors from visiting the sick.

“In this time of distress, we focus on God,” notes ELCH Secretary Thomas Bernard. “As we are battling with this pandemic, God is the only one who can save us with His message of grace and forgiveness. As Christian leaders, we encourage our members to remain faithful in times of suffering because through suffering we may be equipped to comfort others. We know that even in times of suffering, ‘God is still our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble.’”

ELCH President Eliona Bernard sends greetings to Lutherans around the world, encouraging pastors and church leaders: “May our Lord continue to equip and strengthen you all so that you continue to faithfully serve His flocks!”

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For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.