Friday, February 26, 2010

San Diego Diocesan Convention

I'm sorry I haven't really posted about the earthquake like I said I would. I'm still working on a reflection of my time in Haiti during and after the quake but until I finsih it I thought I would post a speech that I gave.

Since I've been back in the US I've been speaking at different places about my time in Haiti in the hopes of raising more money and so that people continue to think about Haiti long after the media has left. I recently went to San Diego to visit my mom and was invited to give a report about my time in Haiti to their Diocesan Convention.

Below is a copy of my speech that you can look at if you're interested and hopefully I will post more about my experiences sometime soon.

San Diego Diocesan Convention 2/13/2010

Good afternoon and thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit about my experiences in Haiti.

I began living in Port au Prince, Haiti last September after being assigned by the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps to work for the Diocese of Haiti. While in Haiti, I was responsible for teaching English to the 17 seminarians and doing various development projects for the seminary, which is called the Seminaire de Theologie Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti. Some of the projects I worked on included plans for a new building to house students and use as a guesthouse as well as an Advent Devotional prepared in English by the seminarians. I really enjoyed my work and my life in Haiti and was happy to be there during what seemed to be an exciting time of hope, potential and growth not only for the Episcopal Church of Haiti but for the entire country.

But on Tuesday January 12th life changed in Haiti. When the quake started I was sitting at my desk in my apartment in Port au Prince. I had been planning my English class for the next day. The shaking started and I had no clue what was going on. People have told me that the quake lasted for 30 seconds but at the time it felt like 10 minutes. Luckily my building somehow didn’t collapse and when the shaking stopped I went outside to find my friends, not fully understanding the enormity of what had happened. I immediately noticed the dust which filled the air and saw people who looked like ghosts covered in white dust from buildings which had fallen. I saw the Episcopal Primary and Secondary school which was next to my apartment, it had collapsed. My students, the seminarians, had been having a class there at the time but had managed to escape.

We began to gather at the soccer field, which was between my apartment and the school, a place that would become my home over the next couple days, and is now, still the home to about 3,000 people who are being cared for by the Episcopal Church of Haiti. While those first hours after the quake were filled with fear and anxiety, it was also a time of great calm and faith. I remember sitting with some girls only a few minutes after the quake as they prayed. Praying that their families would be ok, praying for understanding, but also that they knew that God was with them. As the night progressed news trickled in, a little about people’s families, but also the damage that had been done in the rest of the country. The National Palace was gone. The Cathedral was gone. The Hotel Montana was gone. All the things which had been symbols of power, strength or stability, were gone.

The rest of the night was filled with tending to wounded, and attempting to sleep on the cold earth, as the ground continued its shaking with various aftershocks throughout the night. All I could think about was that I wished morning would come.

I can’t go into here all the details of my experience over the next couple days but there are a couple of things I’d like to make sure you hear. One is the strength of the church in Haiti. The morning after the quake, Bishop Durcin, Haiti’s Bishop, was at the camp with his wife who had been severely injured. At a time when all of us could have crawled into a corner and only looked out for ourselves, the Bishop called some of us together and formed a committee. This group was to begin organizing the camp, where people would go to the bathroom, where they would get medical treatment etc…None of us knew when help would come, and at that time, the Bishop knew it was up to him and the church to care for the growing number of people at the soccer field. Bishop Durcin said that it was important to feed the people at least one meal that day with whatever food we could find, the people there were God’s people and we needed to do what we could to care for them. Bishop Durcin said “We are the church and that doesn’t stop with an Earthquake” To me I think that sentence best describes the Episcopal Church in Haiti.

So how do I think the earthquake affects the Diocese of San Diego? I believe that to be apart of the body of Christ means that we are all connected to each other through good times and bad. That others joy is our joy and their pain is our pain. I think we are all called to be there with Haiti, yes because there was a massive earthquake, but also because we are all connected in the body of Christ and sometimes we are connected in ways we never knew. I wanted to elaborate on this by sharing one last story.

When my mom received the position to come and work for the Diocese of San Diego, Bishop Mathes sent my brother and I each a San Diego Chargers hat as a sort of welcome present. The gift meant a lot to me and I took it with me to wear in Haiti. On the Thursday morning after the quake I was rushing to throw things into my back pack. One of my seminarians was with me and I stumbled on to the hat. Knowing that I didn’t have space to take it with me, I gave it to him. (He had this really old hat and I was always joking about how he needed to replace it, so it seemed fitting to give him the San Diego hat). When I was back in the states my mom told me about an evensong that your diocese had done for Haiti. She told me that Bishop Mathes had preached and used a prayer one of my seminarians had written in his sermon. I went online to read the sermon and was curious about which student’s prayer had been chosen. Turns out it was the same seminarian that I gave the San Diego hat to, which the Bishop had given to me. Little did anyone know at the time, that while Bishop Mathes was saying the student’s prayer, that student was wearing a hat that had been given by the Bishop. I wanted to share this story not only because I think its really cool, but because it shows how God works in all kinds of ways to show us how connected to each other we really are; whether it’s a Haitian seminarian and a Bishop or the diocese of Haiti and the Diocese of San Diego.

It is going to take years before Haiti recovers and rebuilds. People’s lives have been put on pause indefinitely and who knows when they will continue again; when they will be able to go back to school or back to work. All I ask is that through all this you pray for Haiti, continue to think of ways which you can contribute and remember that we are all connected through the body of Christ. Thank you.