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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.

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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 cardspastedGraphic_1.pdf 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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Lauren

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‘No more of this!’

Palm Sunday in Haiti:

Coming back to Haiti once again, I can already see some of the changes that are taking place. More rubble is being removed, more streets are open, more people are out on those streets trying to reconstruct their lives.

But I can also see what is NOT changing: Collapsed buildings still predominate, some with the bodies of our people entombed forever. The Tent Cities are still here, and with the rains now upon us, and still very little sanitation, the risk for disease is increasing constantly. Our children are not yet back in school, because it’s too dangerous. There is still not enough food, or clean water. Lord knows people are trying — the churches, aid organizations, the government — but it’s not enough. And after a while, “not enough” is simply hard to understand, hard to see, hard to live with.

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Our Palm Sunday services at St. James the Just were beautiful. We had many visitors at our English service this morning, from all over the world. Despite the lack of a bulletin — the printer isn’t working, alas — we still managed to do the service with holiness, especially when we sang together. Some of our first-timers have gorgeous voices, and the harmonies were marvelous. I preached, using a line from my friend Meredith’s sermon: “No more of this!” That’s what Jesus said when one of his disciples cut off a servant’s ear in a misguided effort to defend Jesus. I wasn’t slated to preach, and pastedGraphic_1.pdffound out only about two minutes before the service. But my friend’s sermon, especially that focus on “No more of this!” kept ringing in my head and heart. So I preached about what Bishop Duracin keeps saying: This is our new creation here in Haiti. No more of the old ways of doing things! No more going hungry because we don’t have enough food, or money to buy it. No more dirty water to drink, because the water system doesn’t work. No more premature deaths because of a lack of medicine! Jesus didn’t die to leave us in the same old life, I said. He died to give us new life — so no more of this! Since so many of our visitors are aid workers, who have moved far from their homes to come help Haiti, I told them that this was their new life, too: That that is the purpose of Holy Week and Good Friday and Easter itself. No more, I shouted!

And then some of the same old life crept right back in. This afternoon, at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church up the mountain, the Ste. Trinite Philharmonic Orchestra gave a Requiem Concert for the members of the Music School and Orchestra, and friends of both, who died in the earthquake. pastedGraphic_2.pdfOne of my colleagues, the Rev. Randall Chabot-Stahls, who helps lead the English service at Ste. Trinite, was sitting next to me when he discovered the name of one of his friends who had died on Jan. 12. Randall had been trying to reach his friend, but hadn’t gotten through. His tears lent a special poignancy to an already poignant service. I, too, discovered the name of one more person whom I had not seen, but for whom I held out hope.

Such is life in Haiti now. You keep hoping that people from whom you have not heard have simply lost their phones and don’t know your number. You keep hoping to hear good news. But then the same old kicks in, and you find out the bad news, and you have to figure out how to go forward, how to mourn, how to tell your story and then live with it. It is only the hope we have in the Resurrection that keeps people going here … there’s nothing else but that hope.

And that’s what the concert gave so many of us today, hope. Hundreds attended, and all of us drew strength from the beautiful music, from hearing the Orchestra perform and the Petits Chanteurs sing. We listened to Faure and Bach, to De Lalande and Mozart, to Dickens Princivil’s soaring “Transitions.” We listened and wept and smiled and applauded and in the end realized: No more of the old ways! We have new life, and that new life will sustain us, despite all the difficulties that we still face in Haiti.

As we move through Holy Week in this hard place, we are holding on to the hope that we have in Christ, the hope of the new life that we face, and that we have. As long as we keep that hope in front of us, we can say, with all the power of our lives, No more!

I ask your continued prayers for the people of this place, so that we can draw strength from your strength.

Blessings and peace,

Lauren

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Traveling with gifts

On Saturday, 27 March, I return to Haiti for a two-week stay. I know how blessed I am to have this opportunity – to spend Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter with my sisters and brothers in Christ there. There will be more joyful reunions, more tears spilled over the latest bits of news of deaths just being told me, more frustration with the slow pace of traffic and recovery, more wonderment at the joy one finds in Haitians, all of whom tell me they have been saved by God for a reason: To rebuild Haiti, to care for those in need.

Even though I am the one traveling afar, I am not going alone. So many people have reached out, so many have prayed, so many have blessed the people of Haiti and asked me to carry those prayers and blessings with me on their behalf, and I have promised to do just that: To tell the Haitians they have not been forgotten, they are loved, and by their incredible faith, they are strengthening us in our faith.

Another way in which I am not going alone is through the many gifts that have been made or purchased to send to the people of Haiti. Granted, I can only take so much luggage, and not every Haitian will benefit, but the gifts I am bringing, shown below, are tangible signs of the outpouring of love from Americans to Haitians.

There are medical supplies from the ECW and their friends at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., long-time friends and supporters. There are more Duduza Comfort Dolls (for the pattern to make these, go here, from Jane King and her friends at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, Pa. There are other comfort dolls from Sue Clary and her friends at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sequim, Wash. And once again, my friend Rhonda Busch, administrator at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke, Va., has sent gifts, this time basketballs, soccer balls, hand pumps, and hard rubber balls. (Remember, in February, she purchased a new alb and cincture for Bishop Duracin.)

I never travel alone; I always go with many blessings and prayers for me and for the people we all serve. On this particular trip, in this holiest of times, the blessings have been multiplied through your love and support.

Thank you and many blessings to all of you in return.

– Lauren

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Aricept generic

From my visit to Haiti 28 Feb-5 March:

Scene One, Act One:

The Episcopal Church Women of St. Paul’s and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Churches in Winston-Salem, N.C., spent untold hours creating Duduza Comfort Dolls, small, knitted dolls, each individualized, some boys, some girls, some with long hair, some with short. The women’s goal: To provide comfort to the children of Haiti, so many of whom lost so much, if not everything, in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

By Jan. 25, they had 168 dolls ready for me.

Scene One, Act Two:

The dolls are taken to Sherwood Forest Elementary School in Winston-Salem, to the third-grade class of Ms. Kelly Ballard, where the children write a personal note on a heart-shaped piece of paper for each doll. With love, from a friend in America, they typically say. Some dolls get BIG hearts. Others get small ones. Either way, the message of love is clear. I tear up when I see them.

Scene One, Act Three:

I attend the meeting of the St. Anne’s Circle of the St. Paul’s ECW. There were more than 100 people present for this meeting, women and men, all of whom wanted to know more about Haiti and the aftermath of the quake, all of whom are deeply committed to helping those most in need around the world.

There, I am presented with all the dolls, from both parishes. Some of the dolls, it seems, have not yet been blessed. Would I do the honors? I say yes, but when the time comes, I am not able to complete the prayer. The love, the power of it, overwhelms me. I signal for another priest to come forward to finish the prayer for me. The emotions are still so raw, and this outpouring of love and care is more than I can handle at the moment.

Scene Two, Act One:

I arrive in Haiti with a duffel bag full of the dolls. My dear friend, Michelet, whom I have not seen or heard from directly since the earthquake, greets me at the door to the church compound. We go upstairs and I immediately begin to unpack so I can get something out just for Michelet.

He sees the dolls and asks about them; I take them out and explain, and from the expression on his face, I KNOW that he has to have one. So I find a boy doll, with a big paper heart expression, and present it to him, telling him that women in North Carolina made the doll, and children there made the note. I tell him these are messages of love.

His grin never leaves his face.

Scene Two, Act Two:

My friend Frantzy, the artist from whom I commission individual pieces, picks me up on his motorcycle one afternoon. It is a joyous and raucous reunion – we have not been in contact since the earthquake, despite repeated tries.

He and his wife and three children are living on the street, sleeping on the ground under a single tarp that does not keep off the rain. I tell him to come with me: Soon he has a new, small tent; a ground cloth; sheets; and a sleeping pad.

I show him the dolls, and give him three for his children. He is overjoyed at this final gift, because now his children will have something of their own. The messages of love cause his eyes to fill with tears. Mine do as well.

Scene Two, Act Three:

Finally, I am able to arrange to get down to Port au Prince from where I work in Petion Ville. It’s only 7 kilometers, but between the awful traffic and the heavy work-load in the office, it seemed I wasn’t going to make it there. pastedGraphic.pdf

Jeanne Pocius, a master musician and teacher

and inspiration, who survived the earthquake by

crawling and stumbling her way out of the Holy

Trinity Music School, has been running an informal

school for the children of the Tent City at College

St. Pierre. She’s been a God-send since long before

the quake: teaching music, beginning an

international nongovernmental organization for

music and teaching, living in Haiti and the U.S. for years and years, inspiring all with her faith and commitment. After the quake, she cared for more than 300 patients, despite being injured herself. Now, she’s working to care for those in need, and to help rebuild Haiti.

Jeanne organizes the children to come meet with me about 5 p.m. There will be about 100, she says. That’s what they average per day at the school.

But more than 100 children show up. In fact, more than 164 – the total number of dolls I have left – show up. It is nearly a riot, the children are so excited! They each want a doll; they swap them back and forth, to make sure each has the right boy or girl doll. The girls especially like the ones with the braided hair. The boys like the ones with the hats. ALL love the messages; I have to explain that some dolls have large heart messages and some have small ones, but ALL have the same message: We love you and are praying for you.

The children demand more dolls … those who didn’t get any want one. Can I come back? Can I bring more? I promise them: In three weeks, I will return, and I WILL bring more.

Please, I pray to myself, let there be more folks out there who can knit! Fast!

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Scene Two, Act Four:

Just because we ran out of dolls doesn’t mean we didn’t keep playing. In Sudan, I taught kids everywhere to play “Thumbs,” the thumb warfare game. There, we called it “Suba,” the Sudanese Arabic term for “thumb.” It brought great joy.

At College St. Pierre, I introduced the same game with its French name: “Pouce.” All of the kids wanted to play. One in particular, Demarius, was excellent. In fact, he beat me all but one time. I think his “pouce” is double-jointed.

I promised to return and play this game as well.

Scene Two, Act Five:

I return to College St. Pierre the next day with the Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba; the Bishop of Haiti, The Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin; and the Bishop Suffragan of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon. We want the visiting bishops to see the devastation, to visit the Tent City, to learn first-hand what has happened and is happening in Haiti.

Jeanne calls; the children have gifts for ME! In class that morning, she had the kids make thank-you notes with drawings. She teaches them art therapy part of the day, to help them emotionally through the trauma. The drawings are simple but powerful and cause me to cry again.

I will send the drawings to the women and children in North Carolina, who did all the work and sent all the love.

I am merely the messenger of that love.

Some days, it is good to be a messenger.

X X X

For those of you who might be interested in creating Duduza Comfort Dolls to send to the children in Haiti, see the following web site:

http://www.creativestitchonline.com/pattern.html.

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Visitors learning the story

From my time in Haiti 28 Feb-5 March:

Last week, the Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Rev. Thabo Cecil Makgoba, and the Bishop Suffragan of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, arrived in Port au Prince for a four-day visit. The Archbishop was accompanied by the Provincial Executive Officer, the Rev. Canon Robert Butterworth. The South African trip was arranged by Dr. Imitiaz Sooliman, chair and founder of Gift of the Givers, the largest disaster relief organization of African origin on the African continent.

They had come to see for themselves, to offer help, and to report back to the world. They had come to offer support for Bishop Duracin and the people of Haiti. They had

pastedGraphic.pdfcome so that they could return to their respective homes to tell the story, to rally support for the people of Haiti, to make sure that Haiti does not slip off the front pages of people’s hearts and minds.

I only spent Thursday with the Archbishop, bishops, and Canon Robert; I had to fly back to the States on Friday. But those brief hours together were powerful. For the first time, these bishops were seeing – and smelling – life and death in Haiti. They arrived seven weeks and two days after the earthquake. They found our people still digging through the rubble for the victims. They walked in the muck that now is ever-present in Haiti, since the rains have begun and there is little to no sanitation in the Tent Cities. They stood next to the ruins of College St. Pierre and saw how three stories had collapsed into one.

The visitors received a personal tour of the College St. Pierre Tent City, where the inhabitants have organized themselves, setting up small committees to oversee life there daily. They met children who attend the impromptu school. They saw tarps that do not keep out the rain. They stepped in mud between the tents. They dodged the ropes that hold up shelters. They averted their eyes when people stepped outside to bathe in public.

Over and over again, they heard the story of the faithful people who have lost everything and yet share everything, who are working to take care of each other, so that together, the Kingdom can be rebuilt in Haiti.

The visitors stayed in Haiti for four days, seeing all that they could in that short tpastedGraphic_2.pdfime, participating in the blessing of Hôpital St. Croix in Leogane, seeing the almost total devastation in that area. They stayed in Montrouis, with the children of St. Vincent’s who have been moved there.

On Sunday, Bishop Pierre preached at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port au Prince, at the outdoor cathedral that has replaced the ruined historic landmark. He will be releasing his sermon in English soon.

Our visitors will be telling their own stories soon, and we look forward to hearing from them. It is critical that the story of the Haitian people be told, not just now but in the future as well. Our jobs, as we continue to live and move and have our being in Haiti and with the Haitians, is to never stop telling the story of the faith of the people, of the work of God among God’s beloved children.

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It’s simply hard, very hard

From my visit 28 Feb-1 March:

Driving around Port au Prince and the surrounding environs, even weeks after the earthquake, you are confronted with scenes of devastation everywhere. Buildings titlpastedGraphic.pdfed awry; other buildings nothing but rubble. Mounds of rubble neatly swept into the street and marked off so that no one inadvertently runs into them.

Life continues in Haiti, that is for certain. But you can’t escape the devastation. And those scenes remind you that while the world may have moved on to the next big thing, the people of Haiti cannot and will not move on. Not until they have recovered all the bodies. Not until they have cleared the rubble. Not until they have homes in which to live, places in which to rest, offices in which to work.

One friend, seeing the devastation for the first time, tried to describe it to me over the phone. Our conversation:

“Oh, my. It’s …”

“Yes, I know. It’s hard.

“Yes, that’s the word: hard.

“There’s nothing else to say, no other word to use, my friend. It’s simply hard, very hard.

And yet the Haitians continue with their lives, as best they can.

They rescue whatever they can from buildings – blocks, stones, rebar, wood, nails – so those items can be used again. They stand atop collapsed buildings, trying to determine how to remove the next piece.

Two weeks ago at the Holy Trinity Trade School, another layer of debris was removed. Under it, the workers found 200 of our students who never got out.

The students were buried in situ – there was nothing else that could be done.

It had been six weeks by the time they were found. Six weeks.

Yes, this is hard. Very hard.

There are no other words.

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Telling tales, sharing strength

From Port au Prince:

Today, seven weeks after the earthquake, the clergy of the Diocese came together to tell stories and draw strength from each other. There was laughter, there was drama, there were prayers and stories and singing. It is amazing to listen to and watch these dedicated clergy work so hard, even as so many, including Bishop Duracin, still live in tents, still struggle with their own difficulties.

Ever since I began serving in Haiti, I have been filled with awe at the miracles the Church does in God’s name here, where truly the Scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing. Post-quake, the miracles only grow larger, for through sheer determination, the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given water, the sick are cured. Daily, against all odds, people in real need are helped, because the people of the Church REFUSE to give up. They say, over and over again, that God has saved them for a purpose, and that purpose is to delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways to the glory of God’s name.

Already, plans are being made for how to go forward from this point. Engineers are surveying our sites to determine the safety of each. Community development workers are assessing each community to determine the needs. Priests and lay leaders are making plans to continue educating and caring for our children. I know to some outside Haiti, it seems that relief and recovery efforts are going slowly, but in reality, there is a determination: First, we feed and care for the people. Then we build again, in the best, and safest manner.

Bishop Duracin keeps saying: We have been baptized into new life, and in this new life, we will make things better. After listening to our clergy today, it is clear that the Church is leading the way to this new creation.

It is still frustrating, trying to get things done. It is still hard to get the supplies, to move those supplies to the right people in the right places at the right times. Some days, the traffic alone is enough to drive you crazy. But then something wonderful will happen and the frustrations fall away, forgotten if only for the moment, and that moment gives you the strength to move on.

For me, that happened when I was reunited with yet another friend. Frantzy, my artist friend, called this morning. Could he come see me? Alas, I was already at the office. But later, I told him. I had already had a joyful reunion with his brother, Tony. But I hadn’t seen Feantzy yet vi called him back in the afternoon: Could he come pick me up at the office on his motorcycle? When he pulled up an hour later, he jumped off the bike and we twirled around in the street, hugging and laughing and crying. A tap-tap driver who was parking nearby leaned out his window: Hey! What’s going on? (Apparently, it is not the norm for a white woman in clericals to hug and kiss a young black Haitian on the street. Who knew? Or cared?) We told h: We haven’t seen each other since the quake. Ah, the tap-tap driver said knowingly. Now it made sense.

Frantzy took me to a local sandwich shop, where I bought us sandwiches and drinks. As we drove (OK, as we wove through traffic rapidly), he brought me up-to-date on his family. He, his wife and their three children – ages 10, 3 and 8 months – were living on the street. No, they didn’t have a tent, just some plastic sheeting. Their home was too damaged to live in. When we parted half an hour later, Frntzy took with him sheets, a new sleeping pad and a new, small tent. I had brought the supplies for myself but found I didn’t need them, for my apartment is safe. Now a family in need, friends of mine, have a shelter. It’s small, but it will be home for a while.

The tent and pad and sheets ate not really from me. They are from those who have given me money to help in ministry here. So many have given so much, with instructions to help those in need. Today, those who gave helped that family in need. I simply was blessed to be the instrument of the giving.

Frantzy, from whom I commissioned eight pieces of art in December, also took with him three Duduza dolls, knitted dolls made by women at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., with notes made by third-graders at Sherwood Forest Elementary School there, in Mrs. Kelly Ballard’s class. The women made the dolls and gave them for the children in Haiti. The children made a heart-shaped message of love for each doll, all 180+ of them. Frantzy’s children, who have lost so much, will, I hope, find some comfort in the beautiful expressions of love.

From prayers to laughter to hymns to raucous reunions and small knitted dolls, we draw the strength we need to go on each day in these days that truly try a person’s soul. Overall, it seems that life is impossible here. But ask any Haitian and she or he will tell you: Nothing is impossible with God.

From my porch perch in Petion Ville, sitting in the dark and typing on my iPhone, I bid you God’s peace and my peace, God’s love and my love, and ask your continued prayers for God’s beloved children here and around the world.

Lauren

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Urgent times, with more blessings

Dear Beloved in Christ:

My first full day in Haiti started with my first phone call at 6:30 a.m., from Bishop Duracin. Since so many of us lack electricity, our days end a bit earlier and start MUCH earlier, with the sun’s rising. There is so much to do we simply cannot wait for regular business hours. It is now well past dark, and the day is not yet done. Through the kindness of my friends at the hotel across the street, I was able to charge my iPhone, so it is possible to get more news out.

The good news: We were able to get some things done today, through a series of meetings. I met some structural engineers on the plane on Sunday (was that only yesterday?). Today they called and said they wanted to work with the Episcopal Church. Once I told them, on the plane, of the work we do in Haiti, of our 254 schools, of our clinics and hospitals, of our trade schools and community college, of St Vincent’s, of our churches that are also community centers, of our working of miracles here, they decided to partner with us. Thanks be to God that by the grace of God, a bunch of strangers met at 37,000 feet and talked together. How this new partnership will develop only God knows, but that is good enough for me.

We had no luck getting Bishop Duracin’s visa or his daughter’s, but we continue to work on that. Many are striving to make that happen, and we pray it will happen soon, so that Bishop can come to the U.S. to see his wife and to attend the House of Bishops meeting later this month. Your prayers are asked for this.

At the airport today, waiting to pick up The Rev. John Talbird of East Tennessee, who is the head of the Board for Hopital St. Croix in Leogane, I met a Turkish policeman who is with MINUSTAH, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti. He has been here since October, and brought his wife and now 8-month-old son with him. They all survived the quake, but he was able to send his wife and son home. Their home was damaged and he is now living in a tent near the U.S. Embassy. His devotion to his work here, his obvious care for the people of Haiti, his willingness to sacrifice a year of his life to live in a foreign land to help others in need, even his willingness to think about how to REALLY help the Haitians – “they need factories, they need jobs, then they can help themselves” – struck a deep chord in me. We truly are all related to each other, and when we work to help each other, at a cost to ourselves, we are building up the Kingdom of God.

I also met my porter from yesterday, who stood watch with me while I waited for my ride. “007” – that is his license number – got me inside the gate so that I could more closely watch for my friend, John. He remebered me from yesterday, and wanted to make sure I was cared for today.

At the same time, I met a woman who lost several of her children in the quake, now has nothing, and wants help with her remaining children, to feed, clothe them, give them shelter and send them to school. These are the times I repeat my cry to the Lord: I need more money! I dearly wish to help all I meet, and I try to do so, but the need here is so great. We all will have to sacrifice to help those in need.

But mixed in with the anguish is more joy, one person at a time. Today I found yet another friend on the street, the woman who sells me my fruit drinks every day. I don’t always need or even want them, but this is how she makes her living. She calls me “friend,” and I call her “friend,” and now we have found each other again, and I can only rejoice at this discovery. As yesterday, we laughed and hugged and stunned others on the street who do not know me and are amazed to see such joy between us. But always, even when they don’t know me, they rejoice as well, because they understand what it means to be reunited.

I cannot believe how blessed I am to find so many I feared lost to be found. I shall continue to look and rejoice, even as I know that I will not find everyone.

And we will continue to do our work, hoping that we can, each day, do a little more to help the people of Haiti, to rebuild this place bit by bit, to recover our dead and bury them with prayers and dignity, to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, cure the sick, make the lame (oh, Lord, we have ao many more of those now!) leap for joy, to give sight to the blind and speech to the mute and hearing to the deaf. These are still urgent times and the workload is enormous and there are so many decisions to make (are we making the right decisions at the right time?). But the people are people of faith, and they know that God is with them. They are doing their part, as God does God’s.

In addition to asking your prayers for the people of Haiti, I ask them as well for the people of Chile and of all those affected by the earthquake there on Saturday. More urgency, more need. My prayer is tha we can and will respond to all who need our help.

Blessings and peace,

Lauren

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