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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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.


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PB goes to Haiti

‘You have already had your Good Friday,’ Jefferts Schori tells Duracin

By Mary Frances Schjonberg, February 08, 2010


[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori paid a poignant visit to Port-au-Prince Feb. 8 to survey with Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin the devastation wrought by the Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

After climbing over the ruins of the diocese’s Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral), the presiding bishop turned to Duracin and said “You should skip Lent this year; you have already had your Good Friday.”

“Yes, we can all sing Alleluias together,” Duracin replied, according to the Rev. Lauren Stanley, who accompanied Jefferts Schori on her five-hour visit.

Pointing to some of the cathedral’s 13 bells that were visible among the ruins and that appeared to be salvageable, Jefferts Schori said “they will ring again” and that the cathedral “will rise again,” according to Stanley.

While at the cathedral, Jefferts Schori and Duracin said prayers at what the Haitian bishop is calling the diocese’s “open-air cathedral,” which consists of some plastic sheeting stretched over a frame of two-by-fours that shelters some pews rescued from the cathedral ruins.

The two bishops each prayed aloud with those who happened to be at the site. Some of the older women members of the cathedral were combing the ruins for pieces of the building’s world-famous murals depicting biblical stories in Haitian motifs. The gathered congregation also sang “How Great Thou Art” in French, Stanley said.

During the visit, Stanley said, Duracin asked her to “tell the world that physically the church is broken, but the church is still there in faith. Our faith is still strong.”

She said the bishop asked for the support of Episcopalians everywhere to help Haitians rebuild the structures of the church because that work “will have a positive impact on our faith. It will bring us courage, confidence and a good future.”

“We are approaching Lent,” Stanley quoted Duracin as saying. “I ask people to be with us in the desert so that on Easter, all of us in Haiti and all the Episcopal Church may sing together in joy: ‘Alleluia, Alleluia, the Lord is risen indeed.'”

The trip was also meant for Jefferts Schori and Duracin to talk about the immediate and future directions of the diocese. The presiding bishop assured Duracin that the entire Episcopal Church stood with his diocese in prayer and support, and would continue to do so, according to Stanley.

Stanley is one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to Haiti and the only one who was not in-country at the time of the Jan. 12 quake. Duracin has asked Stanley to help the diocese coordinate offers of relief and recovery made by others in the Episcopal Church, and to tell the diocese’s story.

Stanley said part of the discussion in Port-au-Prince centered on how she can continue to assist Duracin and the diocese by splitting her time between Haiti and the U.S. As part of that work, she will begin to help coordinate the work of Episcopalians elsewhere in the church who have interests in or connections with specific places and ministries in Haiti, she said.

Stanley said she was gratified to hear Duracin’s confidence in her ability to help the diocese connect more strongly with “our partners who are working together to help God’s beloved children in Haiti.”

Stanley, who spoke with ENS by phone from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, after the visit, said that Duracin wanted the presiding bishop to see the extent of the devastation the diocese suffered. While the full extent of damage is still being assessed, it is clear that most of the diocese’s churches and schools were destroyed or heavily damaged. The convent of the Sisters of St. Margaret, adjacent to the cathedral, was also destroyed.

The lost schools include the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools next to the demolished diocesan cathedral, the university and the seminary. A portion of the St. Vincent School for Handicapped Children, also in the Haitian capital, collapsed. Students and possibly staff were killed at some of the schools.

Stanley said that Duracin, Jefferts Schori and she visited the Holy Trinity school complex, the Episcopal University and the survivors’ camp on a rocky field at College Ste. Pierre, a diocesan school destroyed by the quake. (The diocese, known locally as L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti, is caring for about 25,000 Haitians in roughly 20 makeshift camps around the country. Since the quake, many people have left the capital for the countryside.)

The three also surveyed Duracin’s home which collapsed in the quake, trapping and severely injuring his wife, Marie-Edithe. Duracin has told ENS that he is been spending his night sleeping in a tent outside another home that he was having built for his family.

The Rev. Kesner Ajax, head of the diocese’s Bishop Tharp Institute of Business and Technology (BTI) in Les Cayes, drove the three around the city. Everywhere they where they saw evidence of destruction and death, Stanley said.

The Holy Trinity music school once housed the country’s only concert hall, but now “you can see where it came smashing straight down and there are still bodies of our students in there as well,” Stanley said.

Duracin told them that “this is why we cannot just use a bulldozer” to clear the wreckage.

There is a common grave just outside of the Episcopal University and Stanley said they stopped to pray at that grave. One of the lower level classrooms that was destroyed usually had more than 100 students in it, she said, but only nine bodies have been found. People are going through the rubble by hand searching for the dead.

On the street outside the university, there is an outdoor holding cell for prisoners, Stanley said.

At the diocesan trade school, only the façade is still standing, Stanley said.

“There nothing left except bodies,” she said. “We could actually see one body at the ruins.”

Stanley said: “It was heart-wrenching to see the city that I love — to see the things that this church has done for so many years that makes me so proud to be an Episcopalian in Haiti — totally gone,” Stanley said. “It is beyond heart-breaking. I don’t have adequate words to describe the devastation.”

Jefferts Schori flew to Santo Domingo on Feb. 7 from Havana, Cuba, after being a co-consecrator at the Rev. Griselda Delgado Del Carpio’s consecration and ordination as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. She and Stanley, who met her in the Dominican Republic capital, flew into Port-au-Prince the next day for the visit.

They brought with them a number of gifts and supplies for Duracin and the diocese, including six episcopal clergy shirts for the bishop that were a gift from the Church Pension Group, three liturgical stoles and 3,000 communion wafers from the presiding bishop, and pants and socks for Duracin and a bottle of Taylor tawny port communion wine from Stanley.

She also gave the bishop an alb and cincture that was purchased by Rhonda Busch, an administrator at Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke, Virginia. The church, where Stanley was priested and which still supports her missionary work, offered a requiem mass Feb. 4 for the victims of the earthquake who were members of the Church of St. James the Just in Pétionville, Haiti. Stanley serves the English-speaking congregation there.

“In our culture it is very important that the leader look like a leader,” Stanley said. “In the church in Haiti, it’s very important that the bishop look like the bishop because when he is properly dressed and properly vested then we know that he can take care of us and we know that we have not been forgotten.”

Duracin told Stanley that the bread and wine will be used Feb. 12 during the Episcopal Church’s part of the nationwide prayer services planned to mark the one month anniversary of the earthquake.

Stanley also brought with her a nearly 150-year-old brass cross that had once been part of a processional cross used by missionaries. She was given the cross by the Woodson family of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, whose members attend St. Paul’s Episcopal Church there. While looking through the rubble at College Ste. Pierre, Stanley said, the presiding bishop found a staff that might have been a short processional cross or a verger’s wand and which the three discovered fit the cross perfectly.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

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Message from Haiti: Mesi anpil

Earlier today, I delivered this message from Bishop Duracin to the 215th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia, meeting in Richmond, Va.:

My brothers and sisters in Christ, on behalf of the Bishop of Haiti, the Rt. Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, on behalf of the people of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, and on behalf of the people of Haiti, I say to you this day: Mesi anpil. Thank you very much.

Thank you for your love. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your incredible generosity.

You know of the dark night that descended on Haiti more than two weeks ago. You know of our tremendous losses of life, of the ruins of our buildings, of the suffering of our people.

Bishop Duracin, with whom I spoke just this morning, has asked me to tell you this: The darkness that has covered the land of Haiti since Jan. 12 has not and will not overcome the Light of Christ, for the people of Haiti are people of faith, and they know that God has been with them, God is with them and God will be with them until the end of the ages.

In Haiti, we have a proverb: Bondye di ou: Fè pa ou, m’a fè pa ’m. “God says to you: You do your part, I’ll do mine.”

The people of Haiti have always done their part, and they believe, they know, that God has always done God’s. Now your Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ, related to you not by the blood of their birth but by the waters of their baptism, ask you to join them so that together, we can all do our part.

Bishop Duracin asks that first you pray, because Jesus said to pray.

Second, Bishop asks that you pay attention: Please do not let Haiti fall off the front pages of your lives.

Third, he asks that you share from the bounty and beauty of your hearts. He is urging all of us to give generously to and work with Episcopal Relief and Development and with Bishop Johnston’s Bishop’s Relief Fund, because they are working miracles in helping the people of God in Haiti right now. Bishop Duracin and Bishop Johnston are personal friends, and you are asked to support the Bishop’s Fund.

Bishop Duracin also says this: Please do not come to Haiti right now. Please wait until such time when we can use the skill of your hands, the strength of your backs and the sweat of your brows. Please … pray now, prepare now, and come only when we are ready for you so that together, we can build anew the Kingdom of God in Haiti.

This is how we can be faithful to God’s call to us to do our part, so that God can do God’s part.

This is the message that Bishop Duracin asked me to convey this day.

But most of all, Bishop Duracin and all the people of Haiti say to you again:

Mesi anpil.

Thank you very much.

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