This reflection from Zach and Sharon Segaar-King, missionaries in Haiti with Christian Reformed World Missions, was written on the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. I wonder, what can we in North America learn from this?
Today is the anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince and its surrounding communes, killing hundreds of thousands and causing an untold number of injuries and massive loss of economic resources. For us it is a milestone, because we survived the earthquake which struck at 4:53 pm as we were eating an early supper on a Tuesday afternoon. Though our home didn't collapse and bury us, we were terrified and a little cut-up from all the broken glass and falling furniture. After the earthquake came a month of almost constant activity and physical deprivation as there was little to no access to food and water and an overwhelming need to provide what basic food supplies that could be located to those who were in a far worse situation than ourselves.
No doubt the question on your mind is, 'What are things like today?' Things have changed a great deal. The debris of the majority of the collapsed buildings have been removed and many urban properties sit empty as a testament the tragedy that befell them. Some properties have been rebuilt, but not to the same degree. In places where four or five-story concrete structures once stood, now a small wood and tin-roofed structure take its place. The international community has invested a lot in developing the hospitality sector in Haiti. If you visit Port-au-Prince today, you will find several four and five-star hotels to choose from (with per night prices rivaling those of New York and London)! The United States has funded a massive factory project in northern Haiti where, today, only several organizations are operating because international businesses are afraid to invest. Many of the myriads of international aid organizations have departed Haiti or drastically scaled back operations. The International Disaster Response organization that is part of World Renew has recently closed relief operations (at the end of December) after constructing over 3000 transitional houses in the Leogane area, assisting in debris removal, digging wells and other kinds of assistance. In its place there is a long-term 'livelihoods' program (helping earthquake survivors develop economic projects in agriculture and business). Many have noted that residents of the Leogane area have better quality housing than before the earthquake.
The greatest weakness of earthquake response is that the majority of the secular and even many of the religious relief organizations did not address the cultural and socio-religious reasons why Haiti was so vulnerable to a natural disaster and why it struggles economically to this day. The predominant model of leadership in Haiti is one of dominance and self-aggrandizement, not the concept of leadership as service. This means that relief and economic development projects flounder as local leaders absorb resources that were destined for beneficiaries. Distrust and mismanagement are pressing challenges and local populations react violently when projects are delayed and/or abandoned. What does Haiti need to truly recover from the earthquake? It needs Godly leaders who understand that they have been chosen to serve and not be served. And it needs a population which will demand a different model of leadership for its government and community. While other philosophies contain parts of these important teachings, no others encapsulate them as well as biblical Christianity. We will continue to develop this kind of leadership in our work here, no matter how long it takes! Please pray for God's grace and patience.
I wonder, are our church leaders and government officials Godly leaders who understand that they have been chosen to serve and not be served?