A few days after the earthquake devastated Haiti, we at the Diocese of Haiti received a heart-rending message: Could we help find Dr. Frank Vaughters of Kansas City, Mo., who had been in Haiti on that day, volunteering as he had for so many years helping the women and children of Haiti? Dr. Vaughters had been at the Hotel Montana, and indeed had placed a call from there shortly before the quake struck.
I called one of Dr. Vaughters’ family members and offered our promises of help. Messages were sent to Haiti: Had any one seen Dr. Vaughters? Did anyone know his whereabouts? Could anyone help? Alas, every response was the same: We don’t know where he is. We are praying. We will keep looking.
Dr. Frank Vaughters, left, with some of his staff.
Since that time, thousands around the world have been praying for Dr. Vaughters and for all those caught at the Hotel Montana, a high-class hotel perched on the edge of the mountain with the best view of Port au Prince. Rescue and recovery teams have been working since shortly after the quake, but as the hours passed, as the days passed, all hope was gone. For the past few weeks, the prayer now has been to bring home all the loved ones.
On Facebook, a Haiti Earthquake Hotel Montana page was created, where news and tears and prayers were shared daily.
Today, the news was released by Lisa Welker, Emma Vaughters’ mother: “Dear Friends, Yesterday the remains of Dr. Frank Vaughters were identified. Frank died participating in one of his passions-lessening the pain and suffering of Haitian women and children. In this we can take comfort. The kind words and support given to Emma, Katie, Andy, Libby, and our family during this long wait have been enormous-Thank You! The burden of waiting has been shared and we are grateful for this. As we begin closure, please continue to keep each Haitian person displaced by this disaster in your thoughts and hearts. A memorial service for Frank will be held April 10th, 1:00 pm at Saint Michael’s and All Angles Episcopal Church (67th and Nall) with Haitian friend and priest, Father Frantz Cole, delivering the Homily. Contributions will benefit children of Haiti. Fondly, Lisa Welker ( Emma Vaughters mom).”
I cannot be at that service. I never met Dr. Vaughters. All I know is what I have been told: That his passion was to care for those most in need. He worked with one of our priests, Pere Frantz Cole, and initially it had been hoped that Dr. Vaughters was in Leogane with Pere Fanfan. Alas, that was not so.
Like so many others, I mourn the passing of Dr. Vaughters, and of all those who died in the earthquake. So many other people are still missing, and we may never know their fate: Did they died instantly? Were they buried for days, hope fading? Are some of them, some of the Haitians, simply out in the provinces, unable to get word to everyone that they are alive?
There are still five others on the Facebook page for whom prayers are offered as the search continues: Roger Gosselin; Boucif Belhachami; Alexadre Bitton; Siegfried Francisco; and David Apperson. I do not know any of these people personally, but I hold them in my heart as well.
Tomorrow, I return to Haiti for a week to work for Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, the Bishop of Haiti. I will be based in Petion Ville, which is where I live. My prayer is that I will be able to walk the streets and find so many of those I still hold in my heart. I pray I will find out the names of those of my parishioners who died. This will be the first of many trips back to Haiti, for that will be my life for a while: Time in Haiti, time in the United States, always with the focus of working for the people of Haiti.
And through it all, I will take with the special memory of a man I never met, Dr. Frank Vaughters, who signifies to me the love that so many have for Haiti, who gave his life helping those most in need.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being, receive into your loving arms your servant Frank, who cared so deeply for your beloved children in Haiti, along with all those others who lost their lives in Haiti’s devastation. Comfort those who mourn, and surround them with your love. Help them to know that life continues, even in the midst of grief, and that you are with them, every moment of their lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.