Tuesday, July 20, 2010



Day 1: Monday July 19, 2010

The Journey
Today I flew into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the experience opened my eyes and heart to the warmth and resilience of the Haitian people. When the plane came down I could see tent cities all over the area surrounding the airport. They say over 2 million Haitians are living in tents. It is so sweltering hot here I can't imagine living in a tent for the past six months, but the Haitian people are courageously forging ahead in the aftermath of disaster.

When Haiti experienced the earthquake my heart was broken. I grieved and wanted to respond. Shortly after the earthquake, Daryl Bloodsaw, New York Theological Seminary’s Student Association President, organized a group of leaders from NYTS, Union Theological Seminary and Drew Theological School to discuss what we could do. Some of us wanted to go immediately, but the consensus was that it was too early and we would only get in the way. I said I would like to lead a small class over to Haiti during the summer. Now that dream is becoming a reality. On this advocacy trip with me is Chloe Breyer, Director of the Interfaith Center of New York and advisory board member of the Micah Institute, Carl F. Nazaire and Kenel Saint. Vil who are seminarians of NYTS.

The Connection
Talking to Carl and Kenel, my two Haitian students in the Deep South made me realize that offering a theology course in Haiti was doable. Carl and Kenel were on the “Going Home” class I teach each Spring with NYTS Dean Rev. Dr. Eleanor Moody-Shepard on prophetic religion and civil rights movement. During our sojourn in the South, I discovered Carl Nazaire was in Haiti during the earthquake. While he felt the shocks and saw people die, his life was spared. God saved his life so he could do something for his country.

NYTS President Dale Irvin expresses prophetic outreach to the earthquake victims as "working to build the realm of God.” Working to rebuild a living and just Haiti is vital to the mission of the global church. We come to Haiti with open eyes and hearts to discern the movement of Gods spirit in the healing and restoration of our neighboring nation.

The Rebuilding
Before I came to Haiti, all I knew was that it was a poor and struggling nation. It is also one of 180 countries that has a role to play in the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals—8 goals aimed at ending extreme global poverty by 2015. It is one of the goals of the Micah Institute in partnership with the Micah Challenge to seek to inspire and equip Christians to end extreme poverty. Now, I see a people who are resilient and have a tenacity to rebuild. Rebuilding Haiti will take time and tenacity.

After a long day of driving around Port-au-Prince through rubble and tent towns, at dusk we stopped at a fruit and vegetable stand in Petion-Dille. We were mobbed by six women who tried to sell us tomatoes, avocados, mangos and pineapples. I met a little boy named Henri. He was 14, not in school, and sleeping in a broken down red truck a block from the fruit stand. My heart was broken as I realized street kids like Henri would not be able to go to school, unless schools were created for them.

Our Haiti Partner
This is precisely what our host organization Haiti Partners seeks to do, to build and support schools in Haiti. Since the Micah Institute mission is to educate for justice, we are eager to discern if there are schools and seminaries in Haiti we can partner with. I am looking forward to meeting principals, teachers and students in schools to better understand the current challenges and the pressing needs that they have.

As I end my first day I am glad that we are here and that NYTS remains committed to encountering the full breath of world Christianity, especially in the places of great suffering. We are seeking to train students to be responsive to the needs of the world so in their calling their hearts will sing when they are able to use their gifts at the places of the worlds’ greatest needs.


Peter Heltzel

Director, Micah Institute

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

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