Lake Oswego church aids Haitians impacted by recent earthquake
Members of local churches who typically went on missions to Haiti each year were halted due to the pandemic this year — a time when community members in a small village in Haiti could have used the extra help.
After a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Haitian town of Les Anglais Aug. 14 and killed more than 2,000 people, community members mostly associated with Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lake Oswego and Community of Faith Church in West Linn decided to help give back from afar.
The churches are seeking monetary donations to provide emergency supplies to those impacted by the disaster.
"We send money to Reciprocal Ministries International and to our agronomist to transport food packages out to the village," said Jim Shaw, a member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church and Haiti mission leader. "A lot of the farms were destroyed and various roads and so forth, so they can't get their crops out. There's just a lot of buildings gone, homes destroyed."
Members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church and Community of Faith Church — the two churches used to be one, but split roughly a decade ago — developed a relationship 30 years ago through the mission ministry Reciprocal Ministries International. Reciprocal is a nonprofit organization that connects American churches to churches in Haiti.
Shaw said he personally has been attending mission trips to Les Anglais since 2006, a town he says is "way out on the lower peninsula on the southern shore of Haiti. There's about 5,000 people who live in the little town." Shaw said there's one road that leads to those villages and that it's an "ordeal" to reach the community.
"(I) just absolutely fell in love with the people there and the community and the things we could easily — as falling off a log — do to help change their lives," Shaw said. "We really have a relationship with this community of people in Haiti."
Shaw said the local churches help fund the salary and expenses of an agronomist who visits and helps farms in southern Haiti. When disasters occur like the recent earthquake, the agronomist helps distribute food and transportation, providing relief efforts through a foundation called Haiti Ap Grandi, which provides financial and material support to charitable and educational organizations in Haiti.
In the past, Shaw said people who attended the missions to Haiti have helped drill wells, build churches and schools and provide medical help.
"What the community needs is what we focus on," he said.
When Hurricane Matthew — a category five storm with 150 mph winds that struck the area "like an atomic bomb" — hit Haiti in 2016, Shaw and others helped with the rebuilding efforts. They created 12 sanitary wells around the community.
"Just going there every year, you see the health of those people has gone up dramatically from having that clean water to drink," Shaw said.
After the recent earthquake, funds and donations are going toward things like food and well repairs.
Shaw said he recently spoke with the agronomist, who asked them to provide tarps and water tanks to distribute water to villages that have seen their systems fail and are not close enough to retrieve water from the Les Anglais well systems.
"First thing we have to get them is water, the second thing is food and the third thing is shelter," said Shaw, adding that it's currently the rainy season in Haiti. "When something like this happens, it's even harder to send out aid and relief to these people because they're so spread out and the roads are horrible there."
Shaw said one of the worst things he heard about during this disaster was the collapse of a steeple at a Catholic church in Les Anglais, which killed roughly 20 children and adults. He also said about one-third of homes were damaged beyond repair in the community.
"In Haiti, everybody builds homes out of concrete because it can withstand the hurricane winds which they get on a regular basis," Shaw said. "It was absolutely devastating to the whole community."
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