- John 15:9-17
At 3.30pm on 12 January 2010, Pastor Clément set out from his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. He was travelling to Gros Morne, a town 160km away in the north of the country, because his mother had died three days earlier. He was returning to the town where she was born for her funeral the next day.
Two hours later, at 5.30pm, he was just 15km from Gros Morne when he heard that there had been a major earthquake in Port-au-Prince. He tried to make contact with his family, but couldn’t get through. He was anxious and tired, but, carried along by sadness at his mother’s death as well as happy memories of her, he continued his journey.
When he got back to Port-au-Prince, he found his wife and children. They were struggling in truly horrific conditions. The earthquake killed thousands of people, and Pastor Clément’s family saw the streets strewn with the bodies of those who could not afford a simple burial – many had even started to decompose where they lay. Fortunately, their own house was still standing, but they were afraid to go in, so they were forced to search for a safe place of shelter.
For two nights they stayed in a temporary camp in the suburbs, before crossing the border to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, to a town called Jimani. There, a local pastor helped Clément to find a house which he could rent for his family.
Clément then went back to Port-au-Prince to help those in desperate need. He coordinated the response of one of Christian Aid’s partner organisations, the Social Mission of Haitian Churches, and set up four camps in the grounds of churches. These camps welcomed in those made homeless and vulnerable by the earthquake, and provided urgently-needed shelter for more than 20,000 people.
One evening, Clément returned to the Dominican Republic, feeling completely exhausted. He spent a few minutes with his family, then went out to a nearby town square where many homeless people were forced to wander. It was there that he met Benito, a young Dominican man, who showed Clément his sleeping bag and the corner where he had spent the previous night.
Assuming he had been visiting Haiti when the earthquake hit, Clément asked him how he had managed to survive. To Clément’s surprise, Benito told him that he had travelled to Haiti’s border to live alongside people displaced by the earthquake. He had wanted to send money to help, like many people around the world. But because his family was poor and he didn’t work, he had nothing to give. Benito came to Jimani to be with the Haitians, to sleep alongside them and to share their suffering.
What kind of love does it take to leave the comfort and safety of your own home behind to travel to be with those who are suffering? This is a lived example of a life being laid down, literally beside those considered friends. As we abide in this example and in the love that moved Jesus to dwell among us may that be the inspiration and challenge we need to get involved as much as we can in Christian Aid Week beginning on 13 May.
Pointers for prayer
Christian Aid Week begins next Sunday 13 May.
Pray for organisers of Christian Aid groups and Christian Aid Week events who are doing last-minute preparation this week. Pray that they would each be encouraged in their work to support communities across the world.
If you are an organiser or collector, may you know the presence of God as you step out in faith.
Pray for safety and a sense of achievement for all those taking on a challenge event for Christian Aid.