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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A test and a witness

Faith front & center in response to Haiti

Faith is both tested and witnessed in the midst of great suffering. In the devastation and chaos following the earthquake in Haiti, the people of that country — even while searching for and grieving loved ones — witnessed their faith as they sang God's praises and pleaded for God's mercy.

Their witness sustained Renee Splichal Larson as she spent agonizing hours separated from her husband, Ben.

When the quake struck, they had been on the third floor of the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince. While Renee escaped serious injury, Ben was buried in the rubble (see "Quake claims future pastor"). In the days that have followed, she has borne witness to her faith and the confident hope that Ben, buried with Jesus in baptism, has also been set free from the power of sin and death and raised to new life in Jesus.

Fittingly, the place where Ben died and for two weeks was buried in the ruins was referred to as the "Resurrection Dance and Theatre Floor."

You also have witnessed to your faith through your generosity of gifts and constant prayers (see "Lutherans respond generously"). I give thanks to God for this lively and vital faith community, such as Martin Luther described in his Preface to Romans:

"O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them."

This is our witness as the ELCA. In a time of economic recession, it would be easy to focus on our well-being and security. Instead, as Luther wrote in The Freedom of a Christian, God graciously frees you and me to "give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself."

At a time when there is a tendency to focus on our divisions, we have come together to accompany the people of Haiti, both in their suffering and in the rebuilding of lives and communities. We are not beginners in this witness of accompanying others. Accompaniment is the intentional design of what we are doing in mission throughout the world today and how we are maturing in our role in the global community of Christians.

We join with strong, capable partners with great expertise: Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Federation, Action by Churches Together Alliance, and Church World Service. At a time when it is tempting for organizations to draw attention to themselves, our focus is on the people of Haiti and the partnerships in relief and development that serve neighbors in need.

It is because your congregation supports the work of the ELCA by giving to synodical and churchwide mission and through your gifts to the Vision for Mission Fund Appeal, that we can be certain that 100 percent of your designated gifts for Lutheran Disaster Response go to the Haiti response.

Lutherans teach that we help our neighbors through our daily work — our vocations — not just at times of special need. In Haiti, some use their training as medical personnel in makeshift clinics. Others transport and distribute the basic necessities of life — food and water. Some contribute their expertise in providing immediate shelter and restoring basic services of communication and power. Others tell the story of the Haitian people when they teach children or bring news and information to the public. Thousands will accompany Haiti in rebuilding its infrastructure, buildings, economy and society.

The devastation in Haiti reminds us of the deep poverty in which so many in the world live. We are called once more to advocate for economic policies and practices that reduce poverty, sustain God's creation, and yet preserve the culture and gifts of the people of Haiti and elsewhere in this world that God loves. What if we responded to the poverty in Haiti by renewing our commitment to study our ELCA social statement on economic life, "Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All"?

Our lives and work give witness of what Paul wrote, "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26).


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