It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. No people were less able to take this tragic blow than were the people of Haiti. It is also a nation that has been the recipient of a large amount of American missionary activity over the years; schools, orphanages, hospitals, clinics, feeding programs and community development projects, as we as evangelism. The earthquake has wiped out decades of small, incremental advances. It is as if in one blow the demonic has set back all the good that believers have done for a lifetime.
Haiti is a test for the authenticity of American Christianity. Will we give up on Haiti or redouble our efforts. Circulating rumors that this happened because the Haitian people entered into some kind of pact with the Devil is not helpful. That only results in many people thinking that Christians (or devout, conservative Christians) are nuts. It is time for every true follower of Jesus to make a sacrifice on behalf of the needs of the Haitians. Give now, give again and again, and give more than you first thought about giving. Be generous and then up the ante on yourself even more!
I have received literally hundreds of phone calls, Emails and text messages from people asking about how to give effectively or go to Haiti as a volunteer or do something helpful. If you are serious about helping the people of Haiti, let me suggest a few guidelines:
1. Give immediately through an established organization with sufficient capacity to actually deliver in Haiti. We often trust smaller, "human-sized" organizations over "big, bloated bureaucracies with high overhead." In fact, the reality is that the 10 or 15 largest relief agencies (World Vision, ADRA, Red Cross, etc.) are much, much more likely to be able to meet the needs in Haiti at this moment than are the small organizations. Later, when redevelopment kicks in, many smaller organizations will play a significant role. Right now they are being told by government, the international military and the UN to stay out of the way.
2. Do not let some organization that has never done community development or health care in Haiti snag your dollars. There will be hundreds of organizations that will come out of the woodwork and send out Haiti appeals. If they have no prior track record in Haiti, that is really dishonest at this point. I am somewhat sympathetic to these small nonprofits who see their fund raising going out the window if they do not make an appeal for Haiti, and that is really the fault of the American people who are somewhat fickle in their giving patterns. Please do not stop giving the regular giving you have been doing for your local church and other ministries and charities that you have supported. They still need your support. Go the second mile in your giving for Haiti.
3. Use the on line information available (the 990 forms filed with the IRS, etc.) to get facts about organizations before you send them money. Unless they are among the few that everyone knows to be large, international relief agencies, you need to be responsible and check them out. Use Google; look at objective evaluators as well as the organization's own web site.
4. Educate yourself and others about Haiti. There is an abundance of good information easily available. The average middle class Christian in America does know what they do not know about poverty in a developing nation like Haiti. Take time to learn now. Help your children learn. Encourage them to make a sacrifice for the poor, suffering children of Haiti.
5. If your instinct is to offer to adopt a child; now is not the time. It will be difficult enough to get children out who were already adopted and waiting for paperwork. New adoptions are not going to be possible for a year or more. The file cabinets are all at the bottom of mountains of collapsed buildings, both at the orphanages and the government agencies. The social workers are overwhelmed with immediate, emergency needs. If your wish to adopt a child is genuine, it can wait a year or so. If you are afraid it will wane while you wait, then maybe it is better to do something else.
6. If you have skills (as a medical professional, etc.) and want to go to Haiti to help, you need to be patient. There is a massive bottleneck and people coming in mean less water and food for those already there. The only personnel that will go into Haiti for several weeks will be the people already trained and organized by recognized relief agencies. If you want to be ready to help next time, you can get started on the training here. You may say, I am a trained professional, but that does not mean you have been oriented to the particular protocols of an international disaster situation, or that you have been vetted and credentialed. That all happens between disasters (the "off" time) in the organizations that do this. Right now their hands are full.
Authentic followers of Jesus will be praying for the people of Haiti, giving to help fund the workers who are there and need massive supplies, and preparing for the long haul. It is not just a matter of feeding the hungry or caring for babies while CNN is talking about it; it is what we do "in the closet" (to quote Jesus) when the spotlight of the news media has moved on to a new story, that is a genuine witness to the compassion of Jesus.