Todd/Leslie: For many people around the world, January 2010 was not the way you want to start a new decade. A devastating earthquake in Haiti, religious conflicts killing hundreds in Nigeria, and floods in Peru all took place in January, and all affected PEER Servants and our microfinance partners. It was a challenging month! And yet one wherein we were reminded that we are ultimately not in control and our gracious. merciful God is. More than ever, we are called to follow Jesus and be a means through which more of Him and His Kingdom can be seen in even the very troubled parts of our world.
Haiti: I (Todd) received a text from a close friend right around 5 pm ET on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 -- "Major quake hits Haiti." What?, I thought, Haiti? While Haiti had had everything else thrown at it but an earthquake, Haiti and earthquake did not seem to fit together. Having been to my beloved Haiti many times, I could only start to imagine the likely devastation. Within hours, CNN removed any need for my imagination.
In the hours and days that followed we confirmed that our two PEER Servants volunteers living in Port-au-Prince were both alive. They had both been in buildings that ultimately collapsed (one of them in the United Nations building) and left meetings they were in early for unknown reasons at the time. Our microfinance partner, ACLAM, had building and most of their staff in tact and set out on a mission to assess how many of their microfinance clients were killed or had their businesses totally devastated -- they may never be able to come to a final tally on that. We had four other PEER Servants volunteers living in North America who were originally from Haiti. Amazingly, Christina, the wife of volunteer Marculey Sanon, left Haiti on the last flight to Montreal just hours before the quake. She went to see a mother she had not seen for six years, and sadly, a mother she would never see again. Their house collapsed on her mother and she passed away the next day.
We will work more closely with our Haitian microfinance partner than ever before in the months ahead as we try to support them in the monumental task that lies before them. May the hand of God keep us from growing tired from the long path ahead of walking closely with our Haitian brothers and sisters as they start the rebuilding process.
Nigeria: The Sunday, January 17, 2010 Skype IM came in from the Executive Secretary of Good Seed Microenterprise Development: "We are being visited by evil once again." Looking out his window, he saw the smoke billowing from Jos. At least 25 were dead in the latest round of Christian Muslim violence. We were very concerned for our Nigerian brethren who live in a part of Nigeria that Muslims have been fighting to dominate for years. Given our plans for a January 29, 2010 departure of a team of seven, we were also concerned whether it made sense to stick with our travel plans. Both concerns were significantly heightened two days later when additional conflict left hundreds dead.
While a fragile peace has held under a very heavy military presence in the days since, the damage may be irreparable. Many Good Seed microfinance clients lost everything. Since many killed in this January violence were Muslims, there are real concerns that the Muslims will take revenge and kill Christians. Even the most mature Christian leaders are at a loss of how best to respond in a Christ-like manner given the jihad that some Muslims have declared against the Christians of the area.
Our team is still planning to go, leaving tomorrow (January 29). We are looking forward to the time with our Nigerian brethren and something we rarely have an opportunity to fully experience in North America - a need to be totally dependent on God. May God use our time there to strengthen our partnership with Good Seed and strengthen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and have the joy of doing so.
Peru: If the news out of Haiti and Nigeria were not enough, we then received this news on January 27, 2010 from the board chair of Kallarisunchis, our microfinance partner in Peru: "nuestra ciudad de Cusco en estos ultimos dias realmente ha sido golpeada como nunca antes" ("we have been struck in Cusco in these last days like never before"). Heavy rains lasted for days, leading to record flooding, massive destruction, and many deaths. Cusco is a beautiful city nestled in the Andes but a potential death trap if such heavy rains occur and cascade down the mountains into the valleys. Even the tourists at Machu Picchu were stranded.
The current assessment by our Peruvian partners is that their staff are OK and few of their clients have been impacted directly, but all of Cusco is dependent on the tourism industry. Machu Picchu is closed for an indefinite period of time, and that will dry up the tourism economy.
We never could have seen the likes of January 2010 coming. But we are leaving this most challenging of months with the assurance that our God is almighty and fully capable of taking these tragedies and turning them into something good, especially if we will act as the hands and feet through which He can extend more of His Kingdom among us.