In the spring of 1999 I traveled to India for a couple of weeks to get some things set up for a couple of research teams we were sending out that summer. It was a significant trip, but much as I was "into" what we were doing, I kept thinking about what was going on back home.
Eagerly I sought out copies of the English-language newspapers. Sometimes they had articles from my city, but I knew there were probably things unfolding of which I knew nothing.
The reason I was so preoccupied was that the day before I left Colorado a nearby high school had experienced what was, for us, an unprecedented tragedy and trauma: the Columbine High School shootings.
The events of that day shook our city and were to change it dramatically. When I returned I found the whole community in mourning over what had happened. The friend who picked me up from the airport filled me in on how people we knew were involved in what had happened and how they were responding, as well as what God was doing through all of this.
Many had turned to Christ during this time. Pastors and counselors were giving themselves in ministry to those most affected, and churches and youth groups were filling up. I realize some of you might find this offensive, but I can't think of anything more wonderful than for people, through good times and tough ones, to come into friendship with Jesus.
And of course, that kind of thing wasn't really making the coverage I found in the Hindustani Times.
Similarly, it sounds like many in Haiti are turning toward God during this time of (much greater) upheaval, and in the midst of all the stories about raising money and distributing resources, those stories are not being heard.
Here's how Jeff Fountain, a ministry leader with YWAM, reports it in his "Weekly Word." (This one hasn't been posted yet but they are archived here.)
"Following the massive earthquake that devastated the country, killing 210,000, injuring 300,000 and displacing 1.2 million, the United Nations reported a month ago that Haitians entered a ‘symbolic three days of reflection: on the destruction of their homes, their towns and their capital city’.See also: 40,000 Haitians Profess Faith in Christ Since Jan. 12 Quake (Baptist Press).
"Less politically-correct versions of the same event described Haiti’s President Préval as calling the nation to three days of prayer and fasting, in place of the traditional Mardi Gras celebration of revelry and feasting.
"Only five days before the Mardi Gras was scheduled to begin, the president invited the people to join him in humbling themselves in prayer for forgiveness and healing, in front of the damaged presidential palace. No one could predict how many would respond to this call on an island steeped in the tradition of voodoo.
"What transpired, however, resembled an Old Testament scenario.
"Rev. Calvin Lyerla, from Florida, describes the scenes he saw in the capital, Port-au-Prince in a UTube video.
'On February 12, as the day began to break, more people than the eye could see were gathered in that downtown area. Standing with arms extended to heaven, desperate Haitians cried out to God to forgive and heal their land. There must have been one million or more people filling that downtown square. Some had climbed trees, some were sitting on rooftops or on automobiles.
"'From 6am to 6pm, each day for those three days they came. Scriptures were read, prayers were prayed, songs of worship were offered up, declarations of repentance were made. The prime minister arrived early the first morning and stood weeping for over an hour. Later the president led the people in prayer, calling upon God to heal his country. Here was a nation brought to its knees, and God was pleased.
"'Some 3000 conversions were recorded that day, including over a hundred voodoo priests.'"
"Voodoo is one of Haiti’s two official religions. African slaves brought this animistic faith with them, and generations later many Haitians still believe their fate is controlled by spirits needing appeasement through voodoo rites.
"Despite receiving billions of dollars in aid, Haiti remains the least developed nation in the western hemisphere. Development experts blame voodoo as a major obstacle to progress in Haiti as well in as parts of Africa. Without ethical content, voodoo remains deeply influential even among educated Haitians.
"The Wall Street Journal quoted one missionary who had lived for 20 years in Haiti as saying: 'A Haitian child is made to understand that everything that happens is due to the spirits. He is raised to externalize evil and to understand he is in continuous danger. Haitians are afraid of each other. You will find a high degree of paranoia in Haiti.'
"Others report a spiritual transformation across the nation since the earthquake. People from many spiritual backgrounds, including voodoo, are becoming Christians. Stories continue to surface about miraculous survivals.
"The widely-reported news of the 28-year-old rice vendor who was found alive after 27 days under the rubble generally failed to report his story that a man ‘in a white coat’ had brought him water. A five-year-old boy, trapped for three days, told his mother that an old man had given him food, water and crackers every day."