In Haiti: Joy, Grief, Love

I’m writing this in the School of the Incarnation, in Le Pretre, Haiti, built by a partnership of churches that I have served. As I’m sitting here, the kids from the school have gathered around me just to see me type on my iPad. The entire town is all around us – each of them wants to be a part.

This January, 17 of us are back in Haiti, from each of the three churches I have led. Within our group are two physicians, two nurses, a dentist, a dental hygienist and two students feeling the call to go to medical school.

Le Pretre is a rough, two-hour drive from Les Cayes, where we spend each night. We’ve somehow ended up building a school in about the most remote place imaginable – this was by design. The people of Le Pretre are often forgotten and otherwise have no access to health care or education. The school serves 250 students and there is a waiting list. The salaries for the teachers and staff are paid by the donations of people in our parishes.

Right now, the children are all around me and want to type on my iPad as well. That wouldn’t be very helpful, of course.

It’s impressive and inspiring to watch our medical professionals in action. One can only imagine the relief, after months of pain, of finally being able to get an abscessed tooth dealt with, or receive medicine for a festering rash. 

Everyone is working hard, enthusiastic, joy-filled and fun, and we love our work though it is hard.

At times, it is heartbreaking. This afternoon, John Priddy and I had to tell a man and his daughters that he will die in the next few days. And then I did last rites.

Today, we mark anniversaries. It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when we celebrate a American Christian giant. We are also just three days past the eighth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, which killed at least tens of thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.

It is also the 18th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Being able to bring people to Haiti and help my friends here, in partnership with the Episcopal Church, has been among the most important aspects of my priesthood. This school and these kids let me know that my life has mattered. That is perhaps the best feeling there is.

When we leave, Haiti will still be Haiti. Yet the people of Haiti will know they are loved, remembered, and have friends who want to help them bend the trajectory of their future in a more positive direction.

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Roanoke, Va.

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