Reverend David Crofford, local pastor of the Montana Avenue Church of the Nazarene was a missionary to Haiti and knows first hand the people and culture of that country. The past week has been heart wrenching as he watches places he walked and searches for people he knows on the news. After the shocking words of Pat Robertson last week, I asked Pastor Crofford if he would share from his heart his own thoughts regarding the events in Haiti. Here are his own words.
As I write this evening, it was exactly a week ago today that an earthquake of near-epic proportions struck the island nation of Haiti. The scenes of devastation and death have filled the airwaves ever since, and have stirred the hearts of people worldwide to respond. Not since the disasters of the tsunami that hit the South Pacific in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have we been so challenged. And the challenge we confront with the Haiti earthquake can probably we best summed up with two words. They are “what,” and “why.” Let me state it another way. In the face of such an overwhelming tragedy, what can we do that even comes close to being a proper response? One that would somehow lessen the pain and speed the recovery process that so desperately needs to happen? Of course, the second question—one which is sometimes unspoken but no less important—is the question “why.” Why did this happen? What did Haiti do [or didn’t do] to deserve this?
The “what” question is a bit easier to answer. Having lived in Haiti with my family for four years, we grew to love these gentle and resilient people. Like most Americans, the vast majority of Haitians are proud, hard-working people. In normal times, they aren’t looking for a handout. The Haitians I knew and loved simply wanted to provide for their families. They wanted the simple dignity of work—even hard work—and the sense of self-worth that honest work provides. But this past week is different. Because of the earthquake, gone is the little bit of infrastructure that was there. Businesses and homes are destroyed, perhaps forever. They are needing a massive infusion of outside help simply to survive. The answer to “what” is exactly what you and I are seeing. Rescue teams from around the world; troops to not only keep order but to assist in the vital manpower needed; most of all, dollars pouring in from pockets like yours and mine. Perhaps best of all, as a Christian pastor I truly believe that it is our prayers at times like this which serve to sustain our Haitian brothers and sisters. To sum it up, “what” means both the compassion of our prayers and our pocketbook.
And now the thornier question—“why.” Isn’t it just like human nature? We seek answers, even if they are hasty, because our mind and spirit want to understand, to wrap themselves around such a tragedy. Not long after the earthquake, a well-known Christian personality advanced the notion that Haiti’s earthquake was the consequence of a prior “pact with the devil.” I don’t know what motivated his comments, but they served as salt in the wound to a people who were already struggling mightily. The fact of the matter is, we don’t always know why. When it comes to the quake in Haiti, we may never know. Yes, it’s true that the seismologists talk of shifting subterranean plates, whose rubbing against one another resulted in a release of energy the equivalent of many nuclear bombs. We hear that technical explanation, but frankly it just doesn’t satisfy. The “why” we seek is the why of mothers dying in piles of rubble, leaving babies behind. It’s the “why” of American college students in Haiti on a mission of mercy, yet with some still unaccounted for. It’s the “why” of a country which experienced four other acts of nature called hurricanes, one hard on the heels of the other, not even two years ago. It’s the “why” of unfairness that troubles our heart.
This “why” we may never know. If you’re a person of faith as I am, our God simply invites us to trust Him for the ultimate answer to those questions. Maybe this answer will become clear one day. Maybe it won’t. But I suspect that our involvement in answering the “what”—what can I do, now—will go a long way toward helping us let the question of “why” be left in the hands of a loving God who is far better equipped than we are to respond. In His time. In His way.
Thank you, Pastor Dave for your timely insightful thoughts.