Newsline Special for January 15, 2010


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Newsline Special: Haiti Earthquake Update
Jan. 15, 2010 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

1) Brethren disaster and mission leaders to go to Haiti, first contacts are received from Haitian Brethren.
2) IMA World Health team and United Methodist staff are rescued.
3) Emergency Disaster Fund grants go to Haiti relief effort.
4) Member of Lititz Church of the Brethren is still in Haiti with mission group.

For those concerned to locate family and friends affected by the earthquake in Haiti, two helps are being recommended by the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), in which Brethren Disaster Ministries participates: The International Committee of the Red Cross has opened a family/friends unification website allowing both those in Haiti and those outside Haiti to list their contact information in hopes of being reunited with friends or family affected by the earthquake. Go to . In addition, the US State Department has help line for family reunification, call the State Department Operations Center Helpline at 888-407-4747.

1) Brethren disaster and mission leaders to go to Haiti, first contacts are received from Haitian Brethren.

A group representing the Church of the Brethren has scheduled a flight to Haiti with Mission Flights International. The group will include Ludovic St. Fleur, coordinator of the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti and pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla.; Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries; Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the church’s disaster rebuilding project in Haiti; and Klebert Exceus, consultant for the Haiti rebuilding program.

The group will travel to Haiti on Monday, Jan. 18, barring unforeseen circumstances.

“We will further assess the situation of the Brethren members and likely set up a base camp at the new church built in the mountains about 40 miles north of Port-au-Prince,” reported Winter. He added that Brethren Disaster Ministries and the church’s Material Resources program also may work with Mission Flights International to get supplies to Haiti in the short-term, until containers can be transported.

A report has been received from one of the three Port-au-Prince congregations of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Church of the Brethren in Haiti). “Good news from Sister Marie in Croix des Bouquets,” reports Boshart. “Her house is fine and so is the immediate neighborhood and the church members are well also.”

The denominational staff is still waiting for confirmation of the wellbeing of the congregation’s pastor, Jean Bily, who also serves as general secretary of the Haitian Church of the Brethren.

In other news from Brethren in the Dominican Republic, the amount of $5,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund grants for Haiti relief efforts (see story below) has been delivered to Servicios Sociales de Las Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID) to assist in local relief efforts coming from the Dominican Republic. SSID also is a partner organization of Church World Service.

The money was delivered by Irvin Heishman, a Church of the Brethren mission coordinator in the Dominican Republic along with his wife, Nancy.

“Lorenzo Mota King, SSID executive director, expressed profound gratitude,” reported Heishman, “and said the funds will help support the following goals for the first two weeks of response: continued support for a team of rescue workers in Port-au-Prince; mobilizing a network of Haitian partners and churches for distribution of humanitarian aid; establishing medical and food services in the border towns of Jimini and Ford Parisien, where many of the wounded are congregating–this includes putting in place a mobile kitchen for preparation of food and opening a temporary medical clinic in a school; finalizing arrangements with the Dominican customs department for the efficient movement of containers of relief supplies through the Dominican Republic to Haiti.”

The Heishmans are working on other response activities with the Dominican Brethren, reporting that Brethren there want to do what they can to help out. An additional amount of $2,000 has been sent to the Dominican Church of the Brethren to support the effort. Heishman reported that the board of the DR church is meeting today and tomorrow.


2) IMA World Health team and United Methodist staff are rescued.

IMA World Health reports that three of its staff–including president Rick Santos–who were missing in Haiti are safe and not seriously hurt after having been rescued from the rubble of the Montana Hotel. The hotel collapsed in the earthquake.

Also rescued from the same hotel were a United Methodist group including Sam Dixon, head of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief); Clinton Rabb, head of the United Methodist denomination’s Mission Volunteers; and James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant .

IMA World Health had requested prayer when it was unable to contact the three staff who had been visiting Haiti from its headquarters at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The three included Rick Santos, president of IMA World Health, along with Sarla Chand and Ann Varghese. IMA also had requested prayer for its five national staff in Haiti: Abdel Direny, Giannie Jean Baptiste, Execkiel Milar, Ambroise Sylvain, and Franck Monestime.

“I am happy to pass on the good news…that Rick, Sarla, Ann, and Sam Dixon (executive director of UMCOR–the United Methodist Committee on Relief–who also was missing since the earthquake) are safe and not seriously hurt,” said an e-mail note this morning from Don Parker, chair of the board of IMA World Health.

“We have much to give God grateful thanksgiving for,” his note continued. “Yet we still need to keep all our Haitian staff and many thousands of Haitian people, who continue to grieve and suffer, in our prayers.”

A follow-up announcement from Gary Lavan, vice president of Human Resources for IMA, added, “This great news is tempered by our still needing to find out the status of our Port-au-Prince staff members. We have had some encouraging news but not on all staff as of yet, please keep all in your prayers.”

IMA received word late yesterday evening that its country director for Haiti, Dr. Abdel Direny, is with staff from the University of Notre Dame who were in earlier meetings at the Montana Hotel on that Tuesday afternoon but had left the hotel before its collapse. However the organization is still trying to locate the following IMA staff: Dr. Franck Monestime and Mr. Execkiel Milar.

News about the rescue of the three IMA headquarters staff has appeared on Good Morning America, go to, see the video “Alive Under Haiti’s Rubble”; on MSNBC at; and in the “Baltimore Sun,” go to,0,644214.story.

The three are to be evacuated to the Dominican Republic today.


3) Emergency Disaster Fund grants go to Haiti relief effort.

Two grants have been given from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) for the Haiti earthquake relief effort. The grants total $50,000, and had been bolstered by the more than $16,500 that already has been given through the Haiti donations page at the denominational website as of yesterday evening.

An EDF grant of $25,000 has been given for Brethren Disaster Ministries and Church of the Brethren work in Haiti following the earthquake. The grant will provide for travel and support of assessment teams from the US working in Haiti; support for the Haitian Church of the Brethren members impacted in Port-au-Prince; initial response activities developed by the response team; and a grant to partner with SSID through the Dominican Church of the Brethren.

An EDF grant of $25,000 has been given to the Church World Service earthquake appeal. The money will support cooperative efforts with CWS, and will help in the provision of immediate relief assistance that may include material resources, temporary shelter, food assistance, and health services.

Church World Service released a situation report on the earthquake yesterday, saying that “the global humanitarian effort…faces enormous challenges, given difficult logistics, collapsed infrastructure, and rising tensions.” The situation report cited statements from authorities that looting has been reported in parts of Port-au-Prince, and as of yesterday power remained out, food supplies were dwindling, telecommunications were rarely functioning, and most medical facilities in the city had been severely damaged. The report cited a tentative casualty estimate from the Haitian Red Cross of about 45,000 to 50,000.

Today a report from the ACT Alliance global network of churches and related agencies said Haiti’s capital “looks like a war zone,” and that one million people are without shelter. The ACT statement appeared in Ecumenical News International, the news service of the World Council of Churches. “Thousands of people in Port-au-Prince–injured, hungry, and desperate–have spent days outdoors…without food or shelter,” ACT said. “Desperate Haitians have blocked streets with corpses in anger. Food is stocking up at the airport, but has not yet been distributed.”

CWS has issued an appeal for $200,000 for its relief effort; the Church of the Brethren has given $25,000 toward that total from its Emergency Disaster Fund. CWS is sending funds to local partners in Haiti as it continues to assess the situation. CWS-supported efforts will include the construction of temporary water systems, providing water purification materials, tents, and food packages. Additional efforts will be announced once assessments are completed.

SSID, which also partners with CWS in the Dominican Republic, is sending pre-positioned CWS Kits and Blankets from its warehouse in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the DR.

Don Tatlock, CWS Latin America and Caribbean program manager, is coordinating the CWS efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Tatlock also has a relationship with the Church of the Brethren, having been at the center of food assistance projects that the church’s Global Food Crisis Fund has sponsored in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the DR.

CWS is pressing the US government to grant “Temporary Protected Status” to Haitians, allowing them to remain in the United States for at least 18 months as part of a comprehensive response to the current humanitarian crisis. CWS noted that Haiti’s current circumstances fall well within the criteria for granting the status, since it may be granted when requested by a foreign state that temporarily cannot handle the return of nationals due to an environmental disaster. The special status has been granted in similar situations to nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and to Salvadorans after an earthquake in 2001.


4) Member of Lititz Church of the Brethren is still in Haiti with mission group.

A group of youth adults in Haiti on a mission trip with the Feed My Sheep Ministry includes Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren member Mark Risser. He is with a group of three other young men from the Lititz area, including Trevor Sell, Ty Getz, and Ben Wingard.

Betsy and Bill Longenecker, also of Lititz Church of the Brethren, and their son Billy helped coordinate the mission trip. The Longeneckers for 13 years have been taking annual mission trips to Haiti through Feed My Sheep. The family was in Haiti just last week as part of a Feed My Sheep mission group that also included several others from the Lititz congregation. Their group returned to the US on Saturday, Jan. 9, before the earthquake struck.

The group of young adults currently in Haiti are scheduled to return to the US next Wednesday, Jan. 20, through Port-au-Prince on Delta Airlines. Yesterday, while the Longeneckers were meeting with the parents of the group, Billy Longenecker “was finally able to directly connect with the Delta airlines to reschedule reserved seats for his friends,” Betsy Longenecker said in a report today.

The group hopes that waiting until Wednesday will give time for humanitarian aid distribution to begin and for “the current airport chaos to settle down, and security forces to be better strategically placed throughout this devastated city. In addition, it was agreed that the displaced, who lived in Port-au-Prince, should be evacuated first,” she said.

The group is safe and staying at the Feed My Sheep Ministry Base in Montrouis, a town of about 40,000 people in a “very poor” area 70 miles up the northern coastline of Haiti. “These young men are choosing to continue the tree planting/drip irrigation project that they had originally planned to do in addition to helping with local clean-up efforts,” Longenecker’s report said. Other Americans at the Feed My Sheep Ministry Base include directors Bev and Richard Felmey and a young adult longterm volunteer Leah Bomberger.

Since Montrouis was spared major damage from the earthquake, life there is going forward somewhat normally, Longenecker said. “However…there is incredible sadness as people learn more about the extensive damage and loss of life just 70 miles away. In the midst of this sadness, many churches in Montrouis are having 24-hour prayer services.”

She also expressed concern that the crisis in Port-au-Prince will make getting essential supplies for Montrouis an even larger task and more expensive. “We were also just informed that many people are coming up the coast from Port-au-Prince to be with their families or to just get away from the situation. The needs in Montrouis for basic supplies will be an issue as the week goes forward.”

She asked for prayers “for Haitians and missions throughout the country. Thank you for praying for the safe return of Trevor, Mark, Ty, and Ben. Continue to pray too for Haiti, a country filled with wonderful people who are again experiencing tragedy.”

The Church of the Brethren is offering a number of ways to help the relief efforts in Haiti: The Emergency Disaster Fund is receiving donations at . Or  donate by check to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. A “Prayers for Haiti” page is for church members, congregations, and others to express prayers for the Haitian people, go to . Regular updates on the Church of the Brethren earthquake relief effort are at .
Sarla Chand (center) of IMA World Health was rescued from the rubble of the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince last night, along with two other IMA staff who had been missing since the earthquake were rescued also: Rick Santos, president of IMA World Health, and staff member Ann Varghese. All three work out of the IMA offices at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Also rescued from the same hotel were a United Methodist group including Sam Dixon, head of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief); Clinton Rabb, head of the United Methodist denomination’s Mission Volunteers; and James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant. (Photo courtesy of IMA World Health)


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren,  or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues as needed. Jeff Boshart, Irvin Heishman, Carol A. Hulver, Howard Royer, Roy Winter contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Jan. 27. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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