More than rubble: Haiti displays touch hearts
On Jan. 12, pedestrians traversing San Antonio’s Main Plaza moved swiftly from place to place in the uncharacteristically chilly temps. Still they took time to notice the three tons of rubble tidily showcased in a 10-foot clear cube silhouetted against the age-old San Fernando Cathedral.
The United Methodist Church placed the debris there – as well as in Atlanta; Kansas City, Mo.; and Charlotte, N.C. – to remind people that hundreds of miles away in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an earthquake one year ago left behind 25 million cubic tons of rubble, 95 percent of which still remains. Richard Holt was at the display to remind people that everyone can do something to help.
Holt, dressed for a long day outdoors in a parka and knit hat, says the mix of construction debris and trash is very similar to what he saw in Haiti when he was there last October.
"You drive down the roads and see piles of trash, a lot of rocks and twisted-up rebar, pieces of metal, and the remnants and remainders of homes,” said Holt, assistant director of outreach ministries at University United Methodist Church. "It's really quite remarkable, the amount of debris, garbage and litter that's still there, and people are living right in the midst of it." Yet Holt cannot wait to go back.
Mary Holland, a volunteer from the 6,000-member church, struggled to hold back tears as she reflected on the representation of the devastation. "Everybody that can around the world needs to do something. We need to pitch in, we need to help.”
Albert Melifaite, pastor of the 150-member First Haitian United Methodist Church in Atlanta, is doing his part to assist. Melifaite was present at the cube display at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. For him, the experience was deeply personal.
“I know a lot of people who passed in the earthquake – friends of mine, colleagues, ministers, people I went to school with, my wife’s family,” said Melifaite, a Haiti native. “Everybody knows somebody, so that’s why it’s so devastating to each and every one of us.”
Melifaite has traveled to Haiti eight times since the earthquake, most recently in Nov. 2010. He devotes much of his time to helping children, including orphans.
“(The children) actually eat mud pies. They lay them on the floor so they can dry out. It’s heartbreaking.”
With help from United Methodist churches in Georgia, Melifaite has been able to provide food and care for approximately 2,400 Haitians.
“Last December, we were able to send money to give toys to the kids,” he said. “We’ve been doing what we can for them.”
Melifaite says that the need is ongoing, especially in tent cities, where people are most vulnerable. One million people still live in these homeless camps, according to the International Office of Migration.
“Some of the folks I meet didn’t have money or houses in the first place. So it’s harder for them because they are really waiting to see what God is going to do for them.”
Seeing God at work makes Melifaite thankful that fellow United Methodists are passionate about caring for Haiti’s people.
“They do what they preach, which is very important,” he said. “It is very good to be part of this denomination.” – By Diane Degnan and Ben Rhodes
What touches your heart about Haiti? Video responses:
Got Questions?Originally Posted: Apr 27, 2011