What’s the story?
Just six years on from the devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Haiti, the small nation has been ravaged again by natural disaster. Hurricane Matthew tore through Haiti – one of the world’s poorest countries – in early October, leaving an estimated 900 dead and tens of thousands of people without proper shelter and sanitation.
In early October, the hashtag #PrayForFlorida began trending on Twitter, in response to reports that a ferocious storm was bearing down on the American state. Yet while Hurricane Matthew did wreak havoc on parts of Florida, the real damage had already been done, on a much larger scale – to Haiti. The small Caribbean nation, one of the world’s poorest, was devastated when Matthew struck, killing over 900 people and leaving more than 60,000 homeless. In response, even Floridians urged people not to #PrayForFlorida, but to #PrayForHaiti instead.
Matthew passed directly through the country’s Tiburon peninsula, driving seawater inland, and flattening thousands of homes, many of which were cheaply-constructed. While many died because of the instant impact of the hurricane, many others were endangered by rising flood waters and the collapse of a key bridge which hampered rescue efforts.
The Category Four storm, which weakened before reaching the US, was the strongest to hit the region in a decade. Its consequences were immediately devastating, with many dying in resulting floods and building collapses, but there are fears that further disaster may follow in the shape of a cholera outbreak. 13 people have already died from the disease since Matthew hit; it killed thousands of Haitians in the wake of 2010’s earthquake.
The project to rebuild Haiti again will soon begin, once disease and other after-effects can be controlled. Charity Unicef said it needed at least $5 million to look after the immediate needs of 500,000 affected children, but the nation will need hundreds of millions of dollars in international support if it is to begin to repair its infrastructure, which was never really replaced after the earthquake.
What have others been saying?
Florida residents urged people to #PrayForHaiti rather than #PrayForFlorida, according to Christian Today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more attention in the West has been paid to the effect of the storm on America than on Haiti, despite the disparity in its effects on the two nations.
The site also reported that Christian groups were swift to move in to help Haiti ‘in Jesus’ name.’
#1 – WHY SUCH SUFFERING?
It’s only natural in the face of disasters like this to ask why God ‘allows’ such suffering. Why doesn’t He intervene? It’s clear that there are no pat answers which satisfactorily resolve the question, although the Bible does seem to contain fragments of explanation. It’s clear that creation is broken, as part of the fall, and until the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth, is slowly degrading (Romans 8: 19-23 says the earth ‘groans as in the pains of childbirth). We also know that in the long-term, God is ‘making all things new’ (Revelation 21 v 5), and that He’ll ‘wipe away every tear’; that this life is not the end, and that God is remaking the world so that rich and poor alike can have a certain future hope. Yet this doesn’t answer the question of why God doesn’t intervene; in fact this is a difficult aspect of the mystery of God. The church is at its best when it simply stands quietly with those in their moment of greatest pain, and reaches out a hand to help.
#2 – TENACIOUS FAITH
The BBC reported that Haiti was ‘in national mourning’ in the days after Matthew struck, but in doing so it provided a vivid insight into the extraordinary Christian faith of the nation. The story explained that survivors picked their way through debris and devastation in order to attend church, with many worshipping outside because their church buildings had been destroyed; an echo of how Haitians were pictured fervently worshipping God after the 2010 earthquake. This is an incredible picture of faith which endures, which is ‘sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see’ (Hebrews 11 v 1).
Points for prayer
- Pray for Haiti – that its people will somehow find the strength to recover from more tragic loss and another national disaster.
- Pray against a cholera outbreak, and that medical resources would swiftly reach those who need them.
- Pray for the church in Haiti – that it would be equipped to support and bring hope to broken people.
- Pray that the international community would be moved to support Haiti as it rebuilds, despite the country’s lowly stature.
- Pray against further natural disaster in Haiti; that God would intervene and prevent any further impending tragedy.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor ofYouthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.