We've been experiencing the most consistent "issues" with internet access in the past 15 hours or so. Messages pop up regarding "suspected satellite link outages" and we power down, or try rebooting again and again. That means we have more time to let the thoughts and images simmer...
Thursday was a day on the move again: St Joseph's Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince and Wings of Hope in Fermathe. Visiting St Joseph's was particularly poignant as it is the site of Ben Larson's death. Ben was a Lutheran seminarian working with the fledgling Lutheran Church in Haiti when the earthquake struck. His wife and cousin share remembrances of their last day with Ben in this Minnesota Public Radio story. While there, we saw the amazing work of rebuilding that has gone on -- and heard both stories of personal experience of being in the quake and the hope that stirs through the work and mission of St Joseph's Family.
That story was deepened, then, when in Fermathe we met a young man who told us his story of being orphaned and, after some months on the street, being brought into St Joseph's Home for Boys where he was given things he'd never had: hugs, food, a mattress... I deeply regret that I did not record his conversation with us. It was deeply moving. Particularly so when he shared that his response to the disabled children at Wings of Hope is born of his own experience of being loved and having had his worth recognized and celebrated.
While at Wings of Hope, we learned that the organization receives no support from the Haitian government and that, because many Haitians believe that evil spirits are the cause of or are present in the disabled, people do not want to have them around at all. Some children have been brought to the gates of a local mission and abandoned; one was found on the streets by an American family; one was discovered in a trash can. Despite minimalist conditions, there was a spirit of care among those working with the children and the echo, for me, of the director's words about his own experience of being valued and loved. When invited to feed the children plates of rice & beans with dried fish, we were given opportunity to engage.
Cavernous was the distance between our university-world and this one where moans sound much the same whether en Kreyol or in English. The little guy I spent time with is named Sam. We managed to have some good communications in laughs and smiles while he ate and then drank some Tampico.
After time with the children, we went back to the Baptist Haiti Mission where we enjoyed some baked goods and did a little shopping with local craft vendors. Next, we traced our journey back down the mountain and up another - back to our "home" in Mariaman with Merline and John Engle. Over food and drink we delighted to share stories, hearing from our group member Rachel about her day spent with John and the Architecture for Humanity who are working together to design a new Haiti Partners Children's Academy. Today, most of the group is hiking there to see the beautiful land and learn about the project. This afternoon we will be together again with the children from the Haiti Partners choir - learning and teaching side-by-side, an exchange of song and laughter, hope and presence. A fantastic way to end our last full day in Haiti!
As the group was leaving for their hike this morning, news of Aristide's return was corroborated by a binocular-aided sighting of his plane at the airport below. We don't know what it means, but steady prayers rise that it not interfere with the presidential election on Sunday. To say the least, more rides on this election than any of us really can comprehend... God, have mercy.
Finally, I will share this amazing ending to Serene Jones's book, Trauma + Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World. Oh, how richly resonant are her words in these days:
At the edge of every thought, there resides the promise of both ever-deepening loss and insistently imposed newness. Mourning and wonder. There, at the edge of every eyeblink, every muscle bend, and every lip-formed moment of speech--there is a space that both carries traumatic loss and yet remains open and new. Poised here, we always wait to be dragged from despair into light. The cross trains us in these dispositions of body and imagination. It narrates for us, again and again, two paradoxical stories about who we are: God's inevitably broken children, and God's constantly renewed beloved; these two stories run down parallel tracks of flesh and soul. They are not, however, driven toward evolving resolution. We are not becoming better or worse: we just are these two things, in the juxtaposed tension of our everyday life.
This is a profoundly presentist vision of life, landing us hard in the here and now: to be saved is not to be taken elsewhere. It is to be awakened--to mourn and to wonder. And to stand courageously on the promise that grace is sturdy enough to hold it all--you, and me, and every broken, trauma-ridden soul that wanders through our history. To us all, love comes.
May it indeed be so -- that love comes, to us all. Surely here in this little corner of a ruptured world, we are witnessing how that can make all the difference.