Haiti and reporting on the deaths

Dateline: Tue 19 Jan 2010

I appreciated Will Higgins' front-page story in the Indianapolis Star this morning: "Local missionary died in the place she loved," which detailed the life and death by earthquake of missionary Jeannne Acheson-Munds in Port-au-Prince.

But the news is old -- in fairness, I think the Star broke it Sunday or Monday, and devoted its flag slot to it today. However, John Hay Jr., an amazing writer and friend to newspaper reporters, a Christian in the old Nazarene and Free Methodist tradition, told his friends about it on Facebook Saturday. He wrote:

"With sadness, Free Methodist World Missions this evening reports that missionary Jeanne Acheson-Munos and two volunteers--Merle West & Gene Dufour--missing, presumed not alive in Haiti as extensive search efforts at the site of the collapsed building they were in ends."

Her life was amazing -- the daughter of the former pastor of the Westside Church of the Nazarene (the Rev. R.B. Acheson, aged 93) -- she and her husband chose to work in the missions in Haiti when she was 56 years old. She was to die 6 years later, as the fourth-floor apartment building she shared with her husband collapsed around them. He survived, but two other missionaries, meeting with Jeanne, died along with her.

No matter that the Star was a tad late getting the story; Higgins did his usual excellent work this morning.

But what remains untold and largely uninvestigated is the work missionaries do in 3rd world countries.

I know, this is not a PC moment; we threw the baby out with the bathwater when we pronounced that colonialism was nothing but a ripoff (it was, largely). However, we -- the collective liberal we, in this case -- chose to ignore the good that Christians can and do accomplish in backwater places of the globe.

I grew up, partly, with a missionary tradition...raised in Fort Wayne, in a home formerly occupied by members of the Missionary Church, I heard stories about their sacrifices and piety and efforts to right wrongs in countries that are not as blessed as the USA.

Now, we are all humbled by the sacrifices they make, and will continue to make, as they -- to quote the Star again -- "head to Haiti to help out." This was regarding the three Salvation Army leaders from Indy who are headed to the beleagured little country.

These people deserve our respect and gratitude. They are there, while the rest of us idly watch news reports and wring our hands....

With thanks not only to Higgins for reporting on this, but on the good these missionaries attempt to do. Their assignment is overwhelming, yet they respond --- "Who will I send? Is it I, Lord?"

Yes, it is.



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

"Just as I Am...I come. I come"

My church had missionaries in Haiti last week, and they made it home Sunday evening after some nail-biting moments. I've been to Haiti as a high school student, on Methodist missionary work, and again a few years ago.

Just outside Port-au-Prince--OK, by "just outside" I mean 116th St. as opposed to 86th and Meridian--people live without benefit of sanitation, in refrigerator boxed fashioned into mud huts. 'Tis such for decades, whilst Haitian dictators rape the landscape and stow away billions in foreign banks.

But these people are amazingly happy, content with their lives if only they can get education, food, water and health care for their children.

Life expectancy is mid-40s for most men, and one Old World leftover is that too many are procreating until they die. And moms die, too, too often in childbirth, because of lack of basic prenatal or OB care. Hence the need for orphanages. They're everywhere.

Sad thing is, this island paradise was just starting to put the stagnant ways of yesteryear behind it. Its current government, now crippled, was more honest and helpful than any predecessor.

Too often, in emergencies like this, under-developed nations become havens for despot dictators and money-changers. Like vermin, they rush to fill the void left by a legitimate government.

Let's hope for a stable Haiti going forward--like its neighbor the Dominicans.

My prayer today is for stability as much as anything else. That will, in the long run, rebuild this beautiful nation with the kind of firm underpinning they so badly need.

Stability AND smart building codes.

Godspeed, Haiti. America weeps with you.

2010-01-20 05:10:31

hendy [Member] said:

Couldn't have said it better. Cheers to Higgins....

2010-01-20 09:43:55

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I couldn't agree more with the concern expressed here for Haiti.

But I have been somewhat irritated watching news reports with various commentators going on ad nauseum about how generous and magnanimous the United States of America is. This is not a time for patriotic hubris and back-slapping.

I also believe America needs to be weeping for America.

You don't need to travel very far - the eastside of Indianapolis for example - to find horrific living conditions right here in the good ol' US of A.

People boarded up in their own homes afraid that they (or a loved one) will be the next innnocent victim of gang warfare and crime. Kids and senior citizens going hungry and without clothing. Dangerous pit bulls running wild.

Yes, we have war zones in our own cities while we go off to create war zones on other continents.

Americans continue to die and go bankrupt because millions don't have health insurance - while the politicians in Washington debate about how they can appear to be doing something while trying not to offend the health insurance lobby.

And so it goes in the land of the free and home of the brave.

2010-01-20 13:04:47

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

"We" cannot "save" Haiti. Only the Haitians can make permanent changes in the way they live.

Given the form of governance they tolerate, that's not likely. The elite will continue to cream off the millions in foreign aid (sending it to offshore bank accounts, like Baby Doc obviously did). The masses will continue to "procreate until they die", and they will continue to die young.

The earthquake only points out the futility of "outsiders" trying to make a difference.

Until the Haitians want to make a difference, nothing will change.

2010-01-20 15:31:41

hendy [Member] said:

You talk like they had a choice in the matter.

The US ran Haiti in the 1930s, and things devolved from there. You think they have the right to change a parliamentary government? Not really.

They have no assets to speak of. Exports are close to zilch. Tourism was just getting started. It's been desperately poor there for many decades. No infrastructure, what few natural resources were available were harvested and sullied.

Tolerating the government? They tried with Aristride, but he turned out to be a horrible politician. Without the basics, like water treatment/sewage management, working electricity (no oil is there, no nuclear power plants, no hydro electric-- NOTHING), it's tough to get ahead. You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear-- there's just nothing there.

The US Government didn't help stop procreation, which is going to happen to humans everywhere. No birth control information can be exported, and abortion is a no-no. People are going to procreate their brains out, because that's what people do. Blaming it on them is horrible. No education, no help from hardly anyone, it's not a wonder that things like HIV went out of control there. Yeah, no condoms. US policy.

Outsiders are their only hope, because there are no assets, poor education, and little hope-- just as it exists in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Get a heart. Yours is stone.

2010-01-20 15:43:57

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

It has nothing to do with my heart, "hendy". I'm being rational here.

Nothing we've done has improved Haiti.

And, I argue, nothing we CAN do will improve Haiti.

Outside intervention does not cause change. Emigration is not a solution. Only Haitians can "save" Haiti.

2010-01-20 23:44:44

hendy [Member] said:

It has *everything* to do with heart. Blaming the victims is disingenuous. We didn't improve Haiti in the 1930's, we only prevented total anarchy. Much of the third world exists like Haiti: robbed of what few natural resources they have, incapable of evolving a people-serving political infrastructure, raped by big business (see 'banana republics'), they have so very little.

No one can 'save' Haiti in the way you're thinking. Helping to evolve ideals that serve Haitians, constructing the very basics of infrastructure, and education education education are the keys. Haitians are a proud people, like so many that have so little. Jamaica is another nearby example. It takes generations of nurturing and capital from within and from outside to make a success.

Take for another example, the incredible malaise in Argentina in the period of 1975-2002. Currency was as good as Zimbabwe's (then called Rhodesia for a while). The Argentine mentality slowly and thoroughly purged the military dictatorship government's vestiges and today the real capital of Argentina is well on the mend.

But Argentina has natural resources and assets. It's somewhat fragile, politically. Decades of wounds are now scar tissue that's still tender. It's working, however. Some of the help came from the US and others, and a lot of it was work on the part of the Argentine people.

Who says they're is emigration from Haiti coming? Only in the minds of xenophobic talk show hosts. The desperately poor come to the US for the same reasons that your ancestors and mine came: hope. Fulfilling that hope is what we can attempt, both the immigrants and those still left in the wreckage of Port au Prince.

2010-01-21 04:12:32

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Give up Hendy. She's alarmingly ignorant of history and logic.

Just curious, Cynical--where do you get your information about Haiti's history and our involvement? You might want to broaden your horizons. We've enabled dictators there fro the 30s through now. It's not so much what we've done "for" Haiti as what we've done "to" it.

I'll hand it to you---you've got a future in a neocon White House. Big time. Think FEMA. Or HHS.

2010-01-21 04:44:17

hendy [Member] said:

I made a mistake when I talked about 'your ancestors and mine'. I forgot about the slave ships, and the native peoples here. I apologize.

2010-01-21 06:39:39

whosear [Member] said:

The truth through the ages is that outsiders have not been able to change Haiti. It acheived independence too early, has no viable institutions necessary for a stable populace, has a cruel 5% ruling mulatto minority, severe environmental degradation from the 60's (charcoal for energy) deforestation (currently 2%); a corrupt police force, gangs that perversely rule neighborhoods,and continuing chaos.

2010-01-21 23:57:42

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Nope. Sorry. I am a historian. And not alone in my assessment.

Ref: today's New York Times Op-Ed:
"Putting money in people’s hands will not make Haiti’s predatory state disappear."

"From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady."

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22danner.html?ref=opinion

2010-01-22 10:44:05

Just Another Commentator [unverified] said:

"When we first landed there, I thought, 'No person could possibly live here,'" Oliver said. "Not only did the arid landscape look incapable of sustaining any sort of agriculture, but there was absolutely no infrastructure either. Had we known about this desperate, desperate place sooner, perhaps we could have shared some of our technological advancements with them."

Oh, wait. That's from the Onion:

2010-01-26 12:14:18

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