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Church World Service, NCC member communions
and millions of individuals support Haiti relief

New York, January 22, 2010 -- As the massive devastation and urgent need for relief in Haiti is comprehended, Church World Service, the member communions of the National Council of Churches and millions of people in their congregations are sending help to the Haitian people, and supporting relief efforts now under way.

Following Friday's 5.9 aftershock in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Church World Service staff on the ground continue to expedite emergency aid to those in need, while also turning attention to vulnerable children and people with disabilities.  Emergency hygiene and baby care kits and blankets now are being distributed.

With ocean shipping schedules backed up, the agency quickly diverted part of a 40-foot container shipment of emergency kits scheduled to leave Wednesday night, with the remainder to be expedited by fastest means available.

"We've also scheduled an air shipment on Thursday (January 21) of medicine boxes given the ongoing desperate medical needs of survivors," says CWS Disaster Response Program Director Donna Derr.  "As soon as they arrive in Port-au-Prince, we'll provide some of those to our long-time local partner the Christian Center for Integrated Development (SKDE), who manages a small clinic there.

"It is during times such as these that we learn what it truly means to live in faith, hope and love," said representatives of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Week of Compassion. The denomination's relief efforts with its partners, including Church World Service and Action by Churches Together, are outlined in daily reports. "There are challenges," representatives say, "but there have also been fantastic accomplishments in the immediate aid efforts in Haiti."

Immediately after the earthquake hit, the College of Bishops of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church called for volunteers to serve on mission teams and asked congregations to receive offerings for the relief of Haiti.

Relief materials are being sent to Haiti by the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The Material Resources staff led by director Loretta Wolf, are working to coordinate shipments to Haiti being made on behalf of Church World Service (CWS), IMA World Health, and Lutheran World Relief, among others. A $25,000 grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund is supporting the initial CWS response to the earthquake.

Helicopters, satellite phones, a little shared rice, prayer and the laying on of hands were all part of the Episcopal Church's continued efforts to help the country of Haiti nine days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake decimated parts of the impoverished nation.

The hardware is coming into Haiti by way of the Dominican Republic, the Episcopal Church diocese there and Episcopal Relief & Development, and the rice and ministering prayer is coming, in part, from the three sisters of the Couvent Sainte Marguerite, adjacent to the cathedral and operated by the Sisters of Saint Margaret, who have told their Boston-based colleagues that they are staying put.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) plans to scale up operations and strengthen logistics capacity in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic following the Jan. 20 arrival of the first DWS convoy with urgently needed relief supplies in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is sharing funds given to the church by members in response to the Haiti earthquake with the LWF/DWS, Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, and Church World Service, New York.   Earlier this week, the ELCA News Service reported more than $1.2 million in credit card gifts had been contributed to the ELCA for Haiti relief.

Since news of the earthquake came to light, International Orthodox Christian Charities staff have been contacting partners active in Haiti and attempting to reach Orthodox parishes on the island to coordinate our response to the growing need. Like many Haitians who have been struggling to reach their loved ones, IOCC is finding direct communication difficult – symptomatic of the widespread destruction and ruined infrastructure that is now beginning to be revealed.

The Mar Thoma Church is urging parishes and congregations to collect voluntary contributions for the relief work.

The National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., published on its Web page a list of items urgently needed rot relief in Haiti and announced journeys to Haiti amid fears that NBC mission sites have been destroyed.

National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. President, the Rev. Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, requested "the cooperation of all National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Auxiliaries, Boards, Commissions, Ministries, Churches, State Conventions and District Associations to work together under the leadership of the Parent Body.  By working together, our impact will be multiplied.  As the situation in Haiti becomes clearer and more stable over the next several days and weeks, the Convention will develop and execute a disaster relief plan with measureable goals and objectives.  In the meantime, we must focus our efforts on raising funds which ultimately will determine how much assistance we will be able to provide."

The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends reported that Julian Brelsford was on a volunteer service trip in Haiti with his sister Christa when the recent earthquake hit. The building they were in collapsed, and Christa's leg was crushed. They are now both safe in Miami (Christa’s foot had to be amputated), and are speaking out to raise awareness about the thousands of Haitians currently in desperate need of medical care and emergency supplies.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is coordinating its efforts with our ecumenical and international partners in the relief work in Haiti. Carlos Cardenas is on the ground in Port-au-Prince as part of the initial response team. The past few days’ priorities have focused on search and rescue, medical attention for those injured by the earthquake, along with food distribution for the survivors.

Leaders of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. noting its mission work in Haiti since the 1960s, appealed to its member churches for financial contributions "to support the millions of people devastated" by the earthquake.

David Dethmers, coordinator for Reformed Church World Service, was able to report that while most of the news coming out of Haiti is bad, there are encouraging signs -- including the relative calm of the Haitian people and the hard work of the Haitian government to provide needed supplies such as drinking water.

The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, Archdiocese of the Eastern United States, expressed empathy for "the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Today, we are collecting a special collection for the people of Haiti. We appeal to your generosity and ask you to donate as much as possible to this important cause. After receiving your donations into our Archdiocesan Relief Fund, we in turn will channel the collected donations to the people of Haiti, through trusted Christian Charity organizations, who are already working in the relief operations there."

Giving to the United Church of Christ Haiti earthquake response is shattering previous online giving rates, indicating a generous outpouring from across the United Church of Christ, church leaders say.

Within six days of the disaster, a total of $250,603 has been received from 2,366 online donors. That far exceeds a previous online giving record set in early 2005 when $112,000 was raised at ucc.org over 23 days from a little more than 1,000 donors to aid victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

"It's no surprise that UCC people are being very generous in reaching out to our sisters and brothers in Haiti," says Susan M. Sanders, the UCC's minister for global sharing of resources. "But this unprecedented outpouring also shows that people are remembering to give through the UCC in times of disaster, and demonstrates that we are getting more comfortable with offering our gifts through online methods."

Kay and Gary Walla, mission volunteers from St. Luke's United Methodist Church, arrived in Haiti the day before the massive earthquake that rocked the nation Jan. 11, and only got back home to Indianapolis six days later. But they are ready to go back to Haiti when the rebuilding starts.

“We are raising funds for immediate medicine and food needs, and gathering building supplies for a future trip,” Kay said. “We are looking for medical personnel who are going there now and willing to transport what we’re collecting. “The Haitians are a hardy people. They can sleep on the ground, but without food and medicine, they’re going to die.”

In outlining American Baptist relief efforts in Haiti, General Secretary A. Roy Medley rejected the notion that the earthquake was an act of God.

"For some persons, this terrible tragedy will raise theological issues," Medley wrote. "We reject the suggestion that this earthquake was God’s punishment for a pact made with the Devil.  Jesus, himself, when confronted by his disciples concerning the situation of the man born blind, rejected the notion of a punitive God who had imposed this affliction in retribution for sin.  There are many, many beloved brothers and sisters in Christ in Haiti who faithfully serve God who have been devastated by this event.  In a broken world of tragedy where natural and human-generated disasters such as war are a part of our lives, we believe that our crucified Lord is ever-present among those who suffer through the presence of the Spirit and through the presence of the church serving as the hands and feet of Christ."


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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