Tuesday in Holy Week in Haiti:
Dear Beloved in Christ:
Tuesday in Holy Week in Haiti began with taking more Duduza Comfort Dolls to the children at the Little School at College St. Pierre in Port au Prince. Today was the last day of the school; the Tent City is being taken down, and the Internally Displaced Persons are being sent out into the countryside – or so the Haitian government hopes. All of the Tent Cities are hard places in which to live; there is little sanitation, not enough room, not enough water, and with the rains here, the situation is only getting worse. Where all the people will go, and whether the new camps will be ready for them, is a question none of us can answer.
So bringing the dolls – these came from St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, Pa. – and the soccer balls and basketballs and little bouncy rubber balls donated by my friend Rhonda Busch of Burke, Va. – to the children was yet another poignant act in this holy time. For three weeks, I’m told, the children have been asking: “When will Mere Lauren return? Will she bring us the dolls and balls she promised? When is she coming back?” When Jeanne Pocius, the musician who has been running the Petit L’ecole, and I arrived in the car this morning, the children swarmed around us, greeting me with gladness and shouts of joy, along with instant demands of “Puse! Puse!,” the thumb-wrestling game I taught them on my first visit. (To be honest and above-board, I instantly lost my first three matches. My friend, DeMarius, who is also named Ricardo, I discovered this morning, can beat me in two seconds flat – no lie.)
It took more than two hours to give each child a gift, and to get a picture of each one. Jeanne gave them cards with her contact information on them, so that if they need anything, they know how to reach her. We put their names on the backs of the cards, too – “just in case,” Jeanne said. “It might help if something else happens, and someone needs to know who to contact.”
What a hard way to live: To know that at any moment, another disaster could strike, and these little ones could be left alone, with no one knowing who they are, or to whom they belong. It is not simply fear of another earthquake or aftershock that drives this fear; we had a 4.2 aftershock early on Sunday morning. It’s knowing that with so many buildings still crumpled but not completely fallen, with so many canted to one side or the other, with balconies overhanging streets without any support, that it not take much to create another disaster. And never mind the disease that already is being seen in Haiti; more rain brings more illness, and despite all the aid flowing into the country, there is still not enough medicine, or medical care, and an almost total lack of decent housing.
Yet despite this fear that hangs over everything, the Haitians continue to show incredible strength. They work together, they help each other, they hold revivals, they pray, they sing songs of praise to God daily. For the past couple of nights, there has been a revival concert going on at the Tent City across from my church in Petion Ville. The shouts of “Allelulia!” ring late into the evening. Haitians are suffering, but they haven’t forsaken their faith in God. Or, as I keep telling them, they have confidence in God because they know that God has confidence in them.
I also went over to College St. Pierre itself, to see what no longer was. Most of the grounds have been cleared; construction already has begun on a new school. It is a shock every time to see empty land where once a beloved landmark stood, almost as shocking as seeing the destruction. But the Haitians never stop. Yes, there was an earthquake. Yes, it was and remains horrible. But to paraphrase the Bishop and all the Haitians I know, no earthquake is going to stop the Haitians.
This afternoon, the clergy of the Diocese gathered at the open-air Cathedral on the grounds of the Holy Trinity complex. To renew my ordination vows here in Haiti at this time was indeed holy. Behind the open-air Cathedral stand the remains of the magnificent, world-renown cathedral. And all around us are empty grounds now. Holy Trinity Primary School, Holy Trinity Music School, Holy Trinity Trade School … all are gone, razed to the ground. It’s very disconcerting to drive down the street and be unable to find any landmarks. Thankfully, Pere David Cesar was driving and knew where to go; I would have driven right on by.
Bishop Duracin preached about the need for us to re-examine our vows and live into them more deeply, more fully, to exercise patience and pastoral care, to be strong so that we can lead the Church and the nation in this time of renewal. What he said today is what he has been saying from the beginning: We have our people; we have our faith. This IS our new creation, and we must make the most of it.
At the end of the service, Bishop Duracin anointed each one of us – 250 or more – with holy oil, pressing the cross of Christ onto our foreheads to further strengthen us as we go right back out into the world to do the work God has given us to do.
Looking around, seeing all the clergy, along with 200 laity who came to worship as well, is to see the strength of the people of Haiti. Life is difficult here. But no one is giving up. We are clearing rubble, burying our dead, praising God and moving on with life. Haiti will be resurrected.
And in this holiest of weeks, that is the message I and so many others especially need to hear.
Blessings and peace,