Sunday, January 17, 2010


I realize that any news story has to go through some editing before it gets on the air and that means significant details are left out, important background might be missing that could help fill in and flesh out a narrative. That said, this piece I heard this morning on NPR has stuck with me all day, like a poorly swallowed pill that feels like it's still lodged in your throat.

My understanding of the situation in Haiti is limited to basically knowing the earthquake turned a struggling country into one of more desperate despair. Whenever something devastating happens - anywhere: New Orleans, Malaysia, one of my students' homes - I want to drop everything and be available to those who can use me. I want to, but I have not yet done anything particularly meaningful. I've started to think I should join an organization that is called into action when a disaster occurs; I'm much better at moving when ordered to rather than relying on my own pathetic intentions.

So I was struck this morning by the story about a group of missionaries in Haiti, apparently called by an entity one might consider quite compelling, who spent Saturday waiting to be airlifted back to Iowa. Again, my understanding is limited and maybe in order to better help the people there, others have to get out; maybe these women have been on the island for a very long time already and are no longer needed. Fine. But here is where things rankled my brain: the radio report emphasized the plight of these missionaries sweltering for 6 hours in the Haitian sun, who were finally relieved to get "ice-cold sodas" and a seat in a military cargo plane. Who were looking forward to taking a shower when finally home.

It strikes me as insensitive at best to focus on these supposed hardships - heat, waiting, no shower - when an inconceivable number of people are dead from this disaster. Thousands more are injured, homeless, grieving lost family members. The women NPR quoted praise God and the military? For a Coke and a trip home to bathe? Not that God and the military are not worthy of praise, but I am hoping somewhere on the tape are remarks about praying for the Haitians left behind in their pain, suffering, and grief. And maybe an explanation of why the missionaries are leaving now, when people might be more inclined to want some information about grace. Or better yet, an example of it.