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Local congregations find a variety
of ways to respond to needs in Haiti

A disaster, such as the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, brings out the personal and organizational connections of people in the Inland Northwest with people in other parts of the globe.

Awareness of the calamity first arrives through media, but the ties lead to ongoing concern and action.

Prayers and donations are immediate ways to share in God’s caring. Readiness to go to share one’s skills and help heal wounds or to help rebuild is another common response.
People involved in faith communities know that the disaster response ministries of denominations and faith organizations had resources available in Haiti and ready to send.  They know their donations will help resupply hygiene, health and baby kits for the next disaster.

300 Catholics Relief Services staff in Haiti continue to help
Parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Spokane and across the United States took collections during January for Haiti relief.

“That money will go through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which is coordinating the response of several Catholic organizations, including Caritas International,” said Bishop William Skylstad, who is sharing updates from CRS.

Scott Cooper, director of Parish Social Services for Catholic Charities in Spokane, said the focus was to raise money because of a limited capacity to deliver things and difficulties distributing donated goods effectively.

“Donations will support Catholic Relief Services which has been working in Haiti since 1954.  It has a staff of more than 330 people working in nine program areas—including HIV/AIDS, mother-child health, rebuilding in the South after the 2007-08 hurricanes and reforestation,” he said.
Scott heard of no losses to CRS staff and its building had only slight damage, but Haitian Archbishop Joseph Serve Miot and his vicar general Charles Benoit were among those who lost their lives.

Catholic Relief Services also helped convene NGOs—non-governmental organizations—to coordinate what each church and organization would do, in order to avoid duplication of efforts, Scott said.

“In a few months after the dust has settled on emergency response, we will be there working to rebuild over the next decade and perhaps sending volunteers to help do that,” he explained.  “The message is that we have been there and we will continue to be there.  Haiti is a challenge for many historical reasons, in which the United States has played a part.”

Scott said CRS may help arrange adoptions as appropriate and will work to prevent trafficking children.

For information, call 358-4273.

Presbyterians pray, donate and send kits

The Rev. Sheryl Kinder-Pyle, acting executive presbyter for the Inland Empire Presbytery since Jan. 1, said the presbytery is promoting an appeal for funds to go to Haiti through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

“Our response now is threefold:  pray, send money and assemble kits,” said Sheryl, who was parish associate at Latah Valley Presbyterian Church.

“It’s a blessing to be a connected church, because the structures are in place for response and we had people in Haiti before the earthquake,” she said.

Gary Payton, a Presbyterian Church USA mission coworker who lives in Sandpoint, said disaster response for Presbyterians will flow through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and be used through established relationships with ecumenical partners in Haiti to provide spiritual care, food, water, shelter and medical supplies.

“The relationships, which enable us to respond in times of crisis, are nurtured by the presence of long-term missionaries who serve with partners in Haiti and around the world,” he said, adding that more than 200 Presbyterian mission workers serve in 52 countries.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance initially sent $100,000 for immediate emergency relief to the affected people, and Presbyterian World Mission gathered information on mission personnel and ecumenical partners in the area.

Through Presbyterian World Mission, Gary said congregations that want to develop a personal relationship with a missionary in Haiti or elsewhere can arrange a long-term relationship.

For information, call 924-4148 or 208-255-7545

Methodists gather items for hygiene kits

Manito United Methodist Church offered its building from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekdays, as a drop-off site for the health kits churches put together for Haiti.

The Rev. George Abrams, coordinator for disaster relief for the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Conference, will arrange transportation to the Salt Lake City Depot.

David Valera, director of connectional ministries with the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, asked churches to provide a dollar for every kit to cover shipping costs.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) not only provided emergency grants to the Methodist Church in Haiti and GlobalMedic to address needs of those affected by the earthquake, but also mourned the death of its national executive, the Rev. Sam Dixon, and the head of Volunteers in Mission, the Rev. Clint Rabb, who were in Haiti discussing efforts to improve medical services there when the quake demolished their hotel.

UMCOR is partnering with GlobalMedic to provide clean drinking water, treatment for severe diarrhea and medical care, as well as helping deploy paramedics, water technicians, a doctor, clean drinking water, water purifiers, water purification tablets and oral rehydration sachets.
UMCOR, which is working in partnership with local non-government organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations’ network of relief organizations, set up an emergency web page with information on its relief efforts in Haiti at  It includes a church bulletin, a digital slide show, a poster and envelopes churches can use for special offerings. 

For information, call 838-3085 or 212-870-3816 or email

Partners International will focus on ways to help rebuild lives

At Partners International national headquarters in Spokane, Bob Savage, director of the global learning exchange program, said the organization is working through its partnerships with local churches, organizations and schools outside of Port-au-Prince.

“Our focus is on long-term help rebuilding lives with counseling and walking beside people,” Bob said.  “We will stick with the people there over the years, comforting those who have lost family with counseling and spiritual care.  There will not be a quick fix.”

Bob, who has worked 23 years with Partners International, arranges short-term mission teams to visit in countries around the world.

For information, call 343-4037 or visit

World Relief staff in Haiti lost family but help others

Linda Unseth, director of World Relief in Spokane—part of the national disaster relief arm of the Association of Evangelicals—said a World Relief doctor in Haiti had called by cell phone to say that although the World Relief office had collapsed, 40 staff members survived and doctors were doing surgeries.  He requested donations for water, food and medical aid.

“Even though many staff lost family members and homes, they are helping others deal with the disaster while they deal with their own heartaches,” she said.

“Now is the first part of dealing with the disaster.  After the emergency relief will come ongoing efforts,” she added.  “Our role is to answer the cry of the hungry, the poor and the oppressed.”

Aware that people may want to join in efforts to help rebuild, she said there will be opportunities to apply.  Linda added that World Relief is working through, a blog that is sharing information and making referrals, so everyone involved in the relief effort will know what others are doing. 

World Relief is meeting with other NGOs in Haiti.

Linda added that Haitian immigrants have been granted a temporary protective status in the United States.

For information, call 232-2814 or visit

Tri-Cities orthopedic surgeon helps in Dominican Republic

Tri-Cities surgeon John Staeheli, a 1976 graduate of Gonzaga University with an orthopedic practice in Richland, arrived in the Dominican Republic near the frontline of Haiti’s earthquake, and put his skills as an orthopedic surgeon to work helping victims.

He and wife Marilyn left their home only one hour after the temblor struck.  They were going to Santiago in the Dominican Republic as part of a 42-member team that travels annually to the ILAC Mission Surgery Center, a Jesuit organization that provides free medical care in rural communities.

The team includes several orthopedic specialists who are helping meet the need for trauma specialists.

John stayed in Santiago and treated some evacuated Haitian patients there.

National church/faith websites tell of relief efforts, record giving, ongoing presence and commitment
National websites of various denominations offered insights on responses in Haiti.

With online giving, plus media coverage stirring broad interest reinforced by churches’ and faith groups’ presence in Haiti before the earthquake in January, some denominations and relief groups have reported record generosity in response to a disaster.

Along with the donation process for any disaster comes advice to know and trust the organizations that will receive the funds.

News reports and faith groups’ websites have been sources to help people know what needs are.

Lutheran World Relief had an appeal online at for $10 donations and information on sending material aid, such as quilts and health kits.

LWR is working with partners in Haiti to ensure people had immediate access to water, food and shelter, as well as assurance of commitment to long-term recovery.

It is working in partnership with CRS, local organizations and international relief agencies, as well as through Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global aid alliance.

Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ
reported that giving to the UCC’s Haiti earthquake response “shattered previous online giving rates” six days after the quake.  The total given was more than $250,000, in contrast with $112,000 given in 23 days after the 2005 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Susan Sander, the UCC’s minister for global sharing of resources, said the “unprecedented” giving was a sign that people felt comfortable giving online and being able to respond immediately.

The totals did not include gifts sent by mail or from offerings.

Funds from many churches will go to the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH) and the House of Hope orphanage.

Kim Bentrott, who oversees the CONASPEH clinic in her work through the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ Global Ministries, reported that the CONASPEH building was flattened and many of her nursing students were killed.

Members of a Disciples of Christ
group from Tennessee who were visiting CONASPEH, their Haitian mission partner, were safe.

Church World Service
’s Don Tatlock reported that three trauma counselors and psycho-social care specialists had arrived to provide services for victims and aid workers, who were also suffering in the wake of death, injuries and loss.

She added that “our local partners know their neighborhoods,” so they have connections that make effective distribution possible.  CWS is also assisting Haitians who try to enter the Dominican Republic and is part of the ACT Alliance working to build temporary water systems, provide water purification materials, tents and food packages.

ACT also sent five medical teams of eight to 10 doctors and nurses to outlying communities.