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PDA official offers a briefing on the circumstances in earthquake-stricken Haiti

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo outlines the need and points Presbyterians to the best place to speed aid to a neighbor of the US

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, who oversees Latin America and the Caribbean for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, scrapes paint from a handrail while on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with Louisville, Kentucky’s Springdale Presbyterian Church. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo said Monday he knows the Haitian people will overcome the most recent calamity to befall them, Saturday’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake that has killed at least 1,300 people to date, injured thousands and left many tens of thousands without adequate shelter, food, water and access to health care.

“We have seen reports of people lifting up big rocks and parts of buildings to rescue people trapped underneath” the rubble, said the associate for Disaster Response in Latin America and the Caribbean with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. González-Castillo was the guest on Between Two Pulpits, the webinar put on most Mondays by Bryce Wiebe, director of Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, and Lauren Rogers, Special Offerings’ project manager for digital fundraising. “PDA has been working with our partners in Haiti for many years. The stories we are listening to [since Saturday’s earthquake] are heartbreaking to hear. It’s a really difficult situation they are facing.”

Watch the special edition of Between Two Pulpits here. Learn more about the PDA response to the Haiti earthquake here.

González-Castillo said PDA has heard accounts of long lines of people waiting for the distribution of necessities including food, water and first aid kits. “That’s the biggest need right now,” González-Castillo said, adding that PDA expects to send a solidarity grant to partners in Haiti as soon as Tuesday. Those funds can be used to provide water, food, blankets and first aid kits, “all the needs we are hearing right now,” he said.

Fabienne Jean

Fabienne Jean of FONDAMA, a longtime PC(USA) partner in Haiti, said her family has been sleeping outdoors for fear their building will collapse. González-Castillo said others have taken to soccer fields and stadiums as they seek relative safety for a few hours of sleep.

González-Castillo said a family member of a partner in Haiti died as a result of the earthquake. “We are saddened by that news,” González-Castillo said. “We need the prayers and support of many people in this situation.”

He cited “the amazing relationship” that’s grown strong over the years between the PC(USA) and its partners in Haiti, praising the work of Presbyterian World Mission’s mission co-worker, Cindy Corell, who has done “an amazing job,” he said.

“It’s a relationship that’s been established for years. It has allowed us to see how resilient Haitians are,” González-Castillo said. “I know they will be able to overcome this too.”

Haitian partners “are coming to [PDA] and saying, ‘This is what we need right now.’ There is a lot of solidarity with the Haitian people,” González-Castillo said. “We will continue to see that for years to come.”

Wiebe said when he visited Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, he was amazed as Jean took him around to meet people. “You might think they are the least fortunate person in the world,” Wiebe recalled, “and then they take you to a neighbor who has less. I am grateful for ways we can learn from how they engage and respond to this work.”

“We in PDA,” González-Castillo said, “will be here for the many years that we are needed.”

Asked to pray to close out their 15 minutes together, González-Castillo offered up these words to the Almighty, both in Spanish and in English: God of grace and God of mercy, we come to you to pray for our siblings in Haiti facing so many difficulties, sadness and suffering. We are asking you, O God, that your powerful hand would be upon them, protecting them and providing to them, that your grace will be abundant in the need, that through the help of people physically there and from others outside, they may feel your love and your care. By your wisdom may we provide assistance in the best way we can. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.”

Click here to donate to One Great Hour of Sharing to speed Presbyterian Disaster Assistance help to earthquake-stricken Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

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