Next week's world mission offering of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, collected on Christmas day, will help fund the restoration of churches and schools in Haiti, the Caribbean island nation still recovering from a devastating earthquake earlier this year.
Known as the 13th Sabbath offering, the collection is one of four special offerings each year collected specifically to fund mission projects in the global denomination.
Haiti is still in a state of devastation since a powerful earthquake leveled most of the capital city of Port-au-Prince in January. More recently, an outbreak of cholera has claimed more than 2,000 lives and infected over 30,000.
"We want to affirm our commitment as Seventh-day Adventists to stand by [Haitians] through these trying times," said Israel Leito, president of the church's Inter-American Division, which oversees the church in Haiti. "There is still so much suffering, there are still so many people who are half destitute."
For months following the January earthquake, church members across the globe reached deep into their pockets to help restore the church and communities in Haiti. Church leaders in Inter-America hope that the 13th Sabbath Offering will demonstrate that same generosity and compassion in order to help reconstruct the more than 100 churches and dozens of schools either destroyed or damaged during the earthquake.
The offering will also go toward rebuilding the student dormitories at the Adventist University in Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, and will provide scholarships for 1,000 impoverished children, said Theart Saint Pierre, president of the Adventist Church in Haiti.
"This is going to be a very special offering for us, because it represents the entire world church giving ... for this still devastated situation in Haiti," Saint Pierre said.
It's that solidarity among church members worldwide that has sustained the church in Haiti this year, church leaders said. The 13th Sabbath offering this Christmas was originally assigned to help fund mission in West-Central Africa. But recognizing the urgency of Haiti's need, the church there offered to trade slots with Inter-America. Next year's 3rd quarter 13th Sabbath offering will go toward West-Central Africa.
The switch gives Haiti what is expected to be one of the biggest offerings collected during the year, Leito said. "We are thankful to the West-Central Africa Division, which sacrificed their scheduled ... offering this December," he said.
Organized for more than 100 years, the Adventist Church in Haiti is among the largest church territory in Inter-America, with about 350,000 members worshiping in 480 congregations. In addition, the church operates a hospital, a university and several radio stations.