ELCA Companion in Haiti
Who is the Lutheran Church of Haiti and what are its ministries?
Eglise Lutherienne d’Haiti (ELH), translated the Lutheran Church of Haiti began with the ordination of three pastors on January 30, 2009. Formerly the Federation Evangelique Lutherienne D'Haiti (FELD' Ha ), this new church emerged as the L’eglise Lutherienne D’Haiti (ELH). The Lutheran Church in Haiti was officially registered as L’eglise Lutherienne D’Haiti in October 22, 2009. The Rev. Joseph Livenson Lauvanus was elected as president. He is one of four pastors that currently serve the church.
Eglise Lutherienne d’Haiti includes 8 congregations, some in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas extending through the country to the city of Jacmel. With an office in Port-au-Prince, Rev. Joseph Livenson Lauvanus works with the executive committee of Eglise Lutherienne to develop strong congregations. The work of the church also includes theological training, women's programs, scholarships, as well as other programs.
How do the Eglise Lutherienne d’Haiti and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the LCH.
This relationship is deepened and extended by its relationships, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the Florida-Bahamas Synod.
The Haiti sub-committee of the Florida-Bahamas Synod played an important role in the formation of the ELH. Together with ELCA Global Mission and International Development and Disaster Response, the Florida-Bahamas Synod continues to work very closely with this new church as we all respond to the needs of the Haitian people following the January earthquake.
This earthquake caused major destruction to churches and church communities. Through recent correspondence, it was confirmed that some of the church’s limited infrastructure was severely damage. Pr. Lauvanus also reported an absence of aid to parishioners who formed settlements behind demolished churches; even with a commitment from the government for aid, these individuals are not being responded to. It is currently the priority for the church to witness and respond to those in need now and in the rebuilding of Haiti.
Churchwide funding through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports the key priorities identified by the ELH. Although now disaster response and rebuilding from the earthquake have become key, other priorities of the church include mission outreach, women’s ministry, Biblical-theological formation of pastors and lay leaders and sustainability of mission and ministry.
The ELCA also funds significant work through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of 140 churches (including the ELCA) and 68 million people that is grounded in a common Lutheran faith. The LWF provides space for Lutherans from around the world to share joys, challenges, and expertise as they seek the healing of the world. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s relief and development arm, and the Department for Mission and Development (DMD), which focuses on holistic ministries through which the church participates in God’s mission to all creation.
ELCA World Hunger funds support the LWF regional program of the Department of World Service in Haiti.
DWS Haiti has four priority areas:
- institutional strengthening of community based organizations, professional associations and women's groups
- integrated community development to increase levels of participation and exchange, equity and social justice
- concerted action and networking among LWF/DWS Haiti partner organizations to increase their institutional capacity in decision making processes
- advocacy around issues of human rights and the core values of justice, equity and dignity
The ELCA also works in Haiti through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A ministry of the ELCA, LWR is a U.S.- based agency that works with community-based partners in 50 countries. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the work that focuses on:
Increase the production of food for consumption and marketing, through improved cultivation techniques such as soil and water conservation, introduction of improved seeds and new crops, post-harvest storage, and operation of community-managed seed banks.
Reduce maternal and child mortality by providing training to community members in how to recognize, treat and prevent major illnesses.
Reduce childhood malnutrition through diversification of household diets and training of parents.
Ensure consumption of potable water through the introduction of low-cost water filters.
Generate income through support to women’s and farmers’ savings and credit systems.
Build communities’ resilience to natural disasters through the development of community disaster preparedness plans.
In addition, ELCA funds support Church World Service (CWS), which works in Haiti. Supported by 36 denominations, including the ELCA, CWS is a U.S.-based ecumenical organization that works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world.
Haiti: The context in which the ELH serves
On January 12, 2010; an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck Haiti to the west of the capital of Port-au-Prince near the town of Leogane. As many as 52 aftershocks measuring at least 4.5 on the Richter scale followed. The Haitian government estimates that approximately 112,392 people have perished and nearly 200,000 injured. An estimated 225,000 residences were destroyed leaving over 1.1 million individuals homeless.
Since the country struggled to provide quick emergency response to the people affected. According to a United Nations preliminary report, many lives have been saved because of the bravery and fortitude of the Haitian people and their leaders, and the collective generosity and urgency shown by individuals, governments and the private sector, but the enormity of the destruction and the scale of suffering means much more remains to be done. The United Nations estimates that more than 3 million people – one in every three Haitians – were severely affected by the earthquake, of whom 2 million need regular food aid.
All this in a country considered a priority for humanitarian assistance before the earthquake. Haiti was considered a humanitarian, economic and political crisis before this catastrophe. Much has been achieved during the first month of the response to the quake, but Haiti needs much help to respond quickly to the emergency by providing temporary shelter before the rainy season, health assistance to the most vulnerable, and food and water.
The risk goes beyond humanitarian concerns. Haiti is so fragile today that it requires a U.N. peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH) to keep it afloat. Recall that food riots resulted in several deaths and occupation of public buildings in February 2009 and forced one Haitian government out of office. Political unrest and violence loom if there is not a rapid and extensive response to this natural disaster.
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