Saturday, September 23, 2006

haiti, justice and mercy

A portion of our Haiti Mission Team has returned (including my wife), even as another church member begins her work there today. My thinking about Haiti has been shaped by personal relationships, with our own people but also with some remarkable Haitian staff members, and also by the writings and work of Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health, subject of Tracy Kidder's remarkable Mountains Beyond Mountains, recipient of the MacArthur (genius) Grant, and advocate for the world's poor and their access to health care. I have lately been reading some of Farmer's own work, which is admittedly not as accessible as Kidder, but still worth the exploration. The following are samples from his Pathologies of Power (U of California, 2005): In sub-Saharan Africa the median age at death is five years old. A rising tide of inequality breeds violence. Haiti's government has an annual budget of $300 million, less than the annual budget of Cambridge, Mass, a city of 100,000 people; Haiti's population is in excess of 8 million. The book begins with a quote from another of my heroes, the Kentucky poet/farmer Wendell Berry: "Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under justice and mercy." Having turned 49 this year, I contemplate the implications of the average lifespan of a Haitian (52 years), and also that country's nearness to the most affluent nation on the planet (90 minutes by plane from Miami or Fort Lauderdale). I am both grateful that God has led and leads our family and congregation to Haiti, and yet overwhelmed by the magnitude of the human suffering that is present there.


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