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We Can Best Support the People of Haiti by Listening to Their Needs

A Letter from Cindy Corell, serving in Haiti

Summer 2021

Write to Cindy Corell

Individuals: Give online to E200482 for Cindy Corell’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507566 for Cindy Corell’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)


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Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. ”What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20: 30-34

It’s called the “Ask.”

It must be concise and clearly stated, backed up with facts, and presented in a manner that will lead those in power to join in your advocacy efforts. It can be anything from, “please raise my allowance” to “please promote me to please listen to the people of Haiti when making U.S. policy in that country.”

The people of Haiti are exhausted from struggling to stay alive, especially the people living in the South and Grand Anse departments, where an earthquake devastated entire communities and a tropical storm followed the destruction.

The July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse shocked the world and sent ripples of heightened uncertainty through the country. Corruption in Haiti is so commonplace that news of it does not surprise, much less keep government leaders in check. Kidnappings, homicides, robberies are on the minds of every person in Haiti when they step out of their homes. Will their children or parents return home safely?

And is home safe enough? Are there strong enough gates, tall enough walls, and unbreakable locks to keep danger at bay?

Far too often, the answer is no.

The earthquake in the south on August 14 only intensified the pain, anxiety, and deep fear of every person in Haiti. Even if they live in a region unaffected by the quake or storm, just about everyone knew someone who was.

As a mission co-worker, I have kept my promise to accompany the people of this small and extraordinary country. Even as I remain in Virginia, I feel some of my dear friends’ fear and anxiety. The assassination, earthquake, tropical storm, rising rates of brutal crimes, embattled economy, skyrocketing inflation and the bottoming-out local currency. All these events touch my friends in one way or another.

And each of these factors — and the way they each steal the hope of my dear friends — only sharpen my “Ask.”

An immediate aid response and a longer-term recovery plan for those hurting from the twin disasters of earthquake and storm are underway. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance was in touch with our Haitian partners the day of the earthquake.

Fabienne Jean, the coordinator of FONDAMA (Hands Together Foundation of Haiti), fielded phone calls and texts from the far-off regions, hearing of the dire need for medical help, food, clean water, and tarps. PDA, Presbyterian Hunger Program and World Mission leaders have worked with Fabienne and me to gather information, coordinate response and tell the stories.

Even at the breakneck speed of disaster response, Fabienne and I continue our primary work with FONDAMA — advocacy, the efforts of which peaked after both the president’s assassination and again after August’s disasters.

The “Ask” from our Haitian partners has been clear from the start:
Listen to the Haitian people.
Listen to them when responding from the outside.
Listen to them when planning aid.
Listen to them when they say repeatedly that their leaders are corrupt.
Listen to them when they ask, “listen to us.”

I’ve served alongside the people of Haiti for more than eight years. The poverty is astounding. In Haitian Creole, they call it lamizè – Misery. And it’s unchanged over so many generations that it is possible to be born poor and die without much.

But what continues to shock me is how outside forces have, from the beginning, assured that poverty would be the current reality. When those who were enslaved in 1791 imagined freeing themselves in what would become the Haitian Revolution, their French overlords were confident that they would suppress the uprising.

When the revolution turned to war, Spanish and English forces came to the aid of the French army.

When the enslaved men and women broke their own shackles and declared their nation the first free Black republic, American and European slave-owning nations refused to recognize Haitian sovereignty for fear of sparking slave revolts in their own countries.

In the end, France demanding reparations by threatening to re-invade if Haiti did not pay the reparations. It took the people of Haiti 100 years to pay what would be $21 billion in today’s dollars. They scrimped personally and as a young tender nation to repay its immoral debt.

As few as 11 years ago, we saw how the international community harmed Haitians. After the 2010 catastrophic earthquake, “aid” came to Haiti in the form of unpaid pledges, contracted projects dreamed up by outsiders without Haitian input and paid to foreign companies.

Imagine the words of Matthew 25 when we think of the people of Haiti. Imagine that they are the Jesus in the story. Have we fed the hungry? Have we clothed the naked? Have we visited them in their misery?

But more – have we asked them for the best ways to lift them from their poverty aided and abetted by outside neglect and abuse?

And now imagine that it is the people of Haiti sitting by the road, unable to see for their fear, anxiety, and stress. They call to Jesus. But Jesus does not immediately get together with an international response and come to fix the problem.

Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”

That simple pause makes all the difference.

The “Ask” of the people of Haiti isn’t complicated. It is that we include the people – civil society, pastors, priests, school leaders, industrial workers (not their wealthy industrialists) — in supporting them through these crises.

In our work with FONDAMA, I’ve attended so many conferences, meetings, and press conferences, listening to network and platform members seeking the wisdom of the people.

In 2017, during a training session by a PDA/FONDAMA garden project during the recovery phase after Hurricane Matthew, a young agronomist led a roomful of farmers through lessons on agro-economy. He had listed off ways to avoid the effects of climate change by adjusting growing seasons. He had talked about how growing smaller gardens at different times can boost the harvest.

Then he stopped and turned to the people. They were almost sitting on top of each other. Those who hadn’t found a seat were leaning in from the porch, listening through the windows.

“I’ve only been doing this a short time,” he told them. “You all have been farmers for many years. You know more than I do. What do you think? What can you teach me?”

The mood in the room shifted to joy. Older women and men stood to share their stories. The people listened closely to one another.

This training had gone from top-down to collaboration.

This is what we can learn from the people of Haiti.

Acknowledge we do not know how to help. Listen. And then work together.

It reminds me of the Great “Ask” we read about in Old Testament. The Prophet Micah is clear, concise, and direct when he shares with us.

What does the Lord ask of you?

Love kindness, act justly, and walk humbly with your God.

Haiti again is in a catastrophic crisis. More crises will be coming.

Let us listen to the people of Haiti. Let us work with them in determining the what and the how of solutions.

Let us be a part of projects that will see them through and then, with God, reduce the number of crises ahead.

As always, I am so grateful for the many ways you have prayerfully and financially supported our ministries in Haiti. I am eager to return home to Port-au-Prince, but I also am excited to be able to share with you, your congregation, your mission committee, and other groups via technology all that our siblings in Haiti are doing to work toward a better reality for them all.

If you are able, I also ask you to appeal to your congregation the PDA response to the disasters in Haiti. It will be through recovery projects that our Haitian friends can lift those most in need.

Mèsi anpil devans!

Thank you so much in advance!


Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:

Dear partners in God’s mission,

I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.

God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.

How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.

We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
ActVisit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe:
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.

Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year.

We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.

In the light of hope,



Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

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