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The Amish & Haiti Benefit Auctions

Haiti amish auction florida

Amish and Mennonites have been putting on annual auctions for the benefit of people in 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; more on Amish in Florida).

Here’s a mission statement from the PA Haiti auction website:

This is a cooperative effort of many churches and individuals to bring relief to the hungry, sick, naked, and homeless of Haiti. Our ultimate goal is to bring them to Christ through providing for their physical and spiritual needs. Relief is given throughout the country of Haiti without regard to race, religion, or creed.

Amish auctioneers haiti

Benefit auctions like the Haiti events are one way some Amish participate in outreach beyond the local community.  The Florida auction is traditionally the first of the year. A reader who was present shares:

 Two auctioneers had fun at the tail end of the auction by taking turns selling items.  You notice the difference in high-pitched voices and low-pitched voices that way.  I think they went faster, too, almost on the gallop.  One time [one of them] started selling an item and told [the other] to finish selling it.  Sometimes one started selling before the other had quite finished up, maybe both talking at once.  It drove the clerks crazy, but it woke up the audience.  The clerks had a hard time keeping up.

And:

The new amount of proceeds for the HBA is now more than last year’s…The highest quilt sold for $1,700, which was the same as a unique child’s rocking horse that moved forward as the child rocked.  When I asked the doughnut makers from Greenville, TN, how many doughnuts they expected to make (beforehand), she said, “Oh, a couple thousand.”

The event also included barbecued chicken and 700 pounds of catfish to keep all bellies present full.

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.

Haiti amish auction

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.”

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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    13 Comments

    1. Mark

      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.

    2. Beth

      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

    3. 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.

    4. Dawn

      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!

    5. Magdalena

      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!

    6. ann

      I’ll respond to the first comment- Actually, what is seen in the poorest populations on the earth is high birth rates and high infant mortality rates.

    7. caroline newman

      What a great web site. It is a wonderful way to reach the seeker such as myself. THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS!! I live outside Atlantic city and I need this site.

    8. Linda Funk

      I understand the Amish are helping building homes and furnishing them for the disaster in Haiti. This is one group that I believe would use every donated dime for the reason it was sent. But I can find no place to make a donation!

    9. Amish preferred charities

      Hi Linda, you know, with these types of things I believe the Amish tend to operate primarily through the charities I mentioned in this article, MCC and MDS. I haven’t heard specifics of what Amish are doing outside of the Haiti auctions, but sounds like there are other efforts being made as you mention. I would be surprised if Amish traveled to Haiti themselves, but I suppose it is possible. Thanks for your comment!

    10. Does charity always reach the people that need it?

      Hi Caroline, thanks for your kind comments!

      As far as the aid to poor countries discussion, just to make a very general comment I think there are some points to be made about whether aid actually ends up in the right hands. In disaster situations I think aid to help deal with immediate catastrophe is without a doubt the proper response and the generosity of people from around the world has certainly done something to relieve immediate suffering, which is the main point in the aftermath of these types of disasters.

      Over the long term, I tend to think efforts might best be directed in helping local communities develop their economies with the long-term goal of becoming self-sufficient. In a lot of recipient countries, unfortunately the population aid is intended to help sees little or none of it. I think the imperative though is helping develop self-sufficiency and growing the economy, however that is best achieved. There are a number of issues tied up in this one so I’ll probably leave it at that for now.

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    12. Carl

      The great thing about the Haiti Benefit Auction is that the money is not handed over to the Haitian government or large mismanaged organizations. The funds go directly to the charities doing the work in Haiti. Most of them having very small overhead, and teaching the people of Haiti the skills needed to fulfill the mission of the charity (Drilling Wells, Educating Children, Building Homes, etc.)

      So, in a way, the money is not only helping to feed, cloth, shelter and educate, but it is helping to provide jobs and skills that help to make the Haitian people more self-sustaining and contributors to their own society.

      Unfortunately Mark’s comment above is very misguided. The people of Haiti are amazing, resilient people and the procreation of offspring is certainly not done because they know other counties are going to provide for them.

      Health care, education and outside assistance is precisely what they need. Most the women who enter our medical clinic for the first time, are not aware that their ministration has anything to do with reproduction.

      Helping those who can not help themselves and building our community is not only our spiritual role, but the role of our species. May society continue to give and grow as the Amish are doing with the Haiti Benefit Auction.

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