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January 23, 2010

How do the Amish help Haiti?

Haiti amish auction florida
Amish and Mennonites have been putting on annual auctions for the benefit of Haiti for many years now.  They take place in various locations across the nation, including communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida, and Illinois. 

Furniture, quilts and other items are auctioned off at these large events.  The Florida auction, held in Sarasota, is in fact taking place this weekend.  The photos you see here are from yesterday (credit to flahba; click for more on Amish in Florida).

The Ohio auction happens in Holmes County, at the auction house at Mount Hope, with a number of auctioneers working in different venues on the expansive grounds.  Lots of food too of course.  While at the Ohio auction a few years back I tried a Haitian recipe cooked by a Mennonite group that had done relief work in the country.  Rice, slightly spicy, I think there might have been bananas or plantains in there, I can't quite recall.

Amish auctioneers haiti

Amish often work closely with Mennonite Central Committee, an organization which provides aid to poverty-stricken areas around the world, as well as with the Mennonite Disaster Service.  Since Amish tend not to have formal outreach programs of their own, those Amish who wish to aid the needy further afield often channel their energies through these organizations, formally operated by their spiritual cousins.  

Donald Kraybill writes on Amish involvement with the Mennonite Central Committee in The Riddle of Amish Culture:

One year some 1,200 Amish, in a four-day period, participated in a meat canning project for refugees in Bosnia.  A mobile canner moves from area to area, utilizing local labor and donated beef.  Sometimes the Amish purchase the beef and then provide the labor for canning it.  "We could just buy the meat and send it there," said one bishop, "but there's much more satisfaction in helping to do something directly."

Haiti amish auction

Amish also frequently donate time and labor to help out in disaster-stricken areas, for example in helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, as well as following earlier hurricanes Hugo and Camille.

Kraybill notes:

In all of these ways, the Amish extend a hand of friendship and care beyond their ethnic borders, and in the process, they are replenishing their own pool of social capital.  For whether it is preparing for auctions, quilting for relief, packing clothes for the needy, or building homes for the homeless, they are doing it together--chattering away, telling stories, building community.  This pattern of civic service and philanthropy is much different from the lone volunteer who extends a hand on a civic project or the philanthropist who writes a check in isolation.  As they serve the needy, the Amish also build community.  

Haiti amish auction tent

I imagine this year's auctions will have a strengthened sense of purpose in the aftermath of the earthquake.  With aftershocks occurring and expected to continue, the situation in the poorest Western Hemisphere nation remains bleak. 

If you would like to make a donation to one of the organizations mentioned here, try these links to the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Mennonite Disaster Service.  Though they partner together, MDS works primarily in the US and Canada, with MCC being the lead organization for international relief.  Therefore, donations intended for Haiti would be best sent to MCC.


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So the Amish use their aid drives as a way of building their communities. That's great. But have they ever thought of the long term effects their aid is having on the communities they are supposedly helping? Obviously the earthquake is a special scenario, and much immediate aid and assistance is needed. But the death toll in Haiti would not have been so horrific if the country had had a manageable population - not only because the overall population would have been smaller, but because there would have been far, far better housing, medical services, and government infrastructure. (By comparison, I think the last earthquake to hit California that was 7.0 or higher killed, like, a couple of dozen people). One main reason the country does not have a manageable population is because people in Haiti are free to have as many children as they want (as opposed to having as many as they can afford) knowing that aid from the developing world will provide for their basic needs, which it does, wholesale. Even before the earthquake, the country was completely dependent on foreign aid.

I'm reminded of stories of Christian missionaries seeking out isolated tribes in the New World and Africa in order to spread the word about Christianity, only to end up infecting them with killer diseases against which the tribesmen had no immunity. The urge to help is all well and good, but sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to leave him alone.

I don't think I'm going to be provoked by Mark's comment - it seems a bit off-base here.

Most people think of the Amish as insular, but the amount and type of outreach they do is a good example for other Christians.

I love these auction pictures, since as a Plain Christian in a non-Plain community, I don't often get to see large groups of people who look like me!

I agree with Magdalena. The political atmosphere of Haiti isn't what this blog is about. People helping people is always inspirational to me and if it furthers their community strength, then that inspires me as well. I'm sure I'd be clostrophobic in there so I love seeing the pictures from someone else's standpoint!! ha ha

Christian Aid Ministries is another Ana-Baptist organization that has done great good in many places.
I appreciate the willingness of these people to do the work that they do.

Thank God for the Amish and Mennonites, they roll up their sleeves and BE THE CHANGE.If only more people would follow their example,stop complaining and start doing,just imagine the world we COULD live in.They walk their talk and are the some of the only TRUE example of GODLY people I have actually ever met.I think more Christians ought to learn by their example and stop listening to any church leaders who spout politics,and their opinions..and pass judgement about what they do not understand and in blind ignorance lead the masses straight off the cliff!.example (Pat Robertson).If we are not here to help one another and love and care for others,than I think many are missing the whole point of why we are on this earth!

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