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Episcopal Minister Anxious to Get Back to Haiti

Gale Curcio
By Gale Curcio
Posted on Jan 28,2010
Filed Under News , Community,
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Photo by FLICKR/andrewphelps/4286351994/<br />Haitians sing hymns and pray at a church in Port Au Prince last week. <br />
Photo by FLICKR/andrewphelps/4286351994/
Haitians sing hymns and pray at a church in Port Au Prince last week.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - If Rev. Lauren R. Stanley could take a plane to Haiti tomorrow, she would jump at the chance. An Episcopal minister to Haiti, she left Haiti on December 15 to come visit her family and do some theology studies at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA.

As such, she was not there with ‘her people’ when the earthquake hit Haiti.

“I cried [when I heard about it], and was surrounded by people [at the Seminary] who loved me,” said Stanley, who already thinks of the Haitians as her people after serving in Haiti just a few short months.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />Mallory Holding, at the soccer field Wednesday morning, trying to get through to her mother in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.<br />
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
Mallory Holding, at the soccer field Wednesday
morning, trying to get through to her mother
in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

“I do not know what has happened to the majority of my friends,” said Stanley. “I don’t know what has happened to my street artist friends – or the woman who makes me peanut butter sandwiches - or the mamma with three children that I give food to.”
She is also aching to know where the young man is who gives her rides on his motorcycle when she needs to get somewhere – or the street vendor that she gets juice from, the same one who recently told her that she was no longer a ‘blan’, the Haitian word for foreigner – another indication that she had quickly acclimated.

Because she has a connection between Haiti and the states, Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin has asked Stanley to stay in Virginia for a few weeks to coordinate relief efforts.

In an excerpt to a letter from Duracin to Robert W. Radtke, President, Episcopal Relief and Development, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017, he writes:

“Dear Mr. Radtke:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to you from the tent city we have set up behind the rubble of College Ste. Pierre, our marvelous senior secondary school that is no more. As you know, we have gathered approximately 3,000 people here alone. Across the land, the Diocese of Haiti has set up at least 21 refugee camps, caring for more than 23,000 people.

“In this letter, I wish to make clear to the Diocese of Haiti, to Episcopal Relief and Development and to all of our partners that Episcopal Relief and Development is the official agency of the Diocese of Haiti and that we are partners working hand-in-hand in Haiti’s relief and recovery efforts.

“I also am announcing in this letter that I am appointing The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, Appointed Missionary of The Episcopal Church, to work directly with ERD on my behalf. I am asking all partners in The Episcopal Church to communicate directly with Rev. Stanley, so as to keep communications with the Diocese of Haiti open. Rev. Stanley is to communicate and work with ERD on my behalf.

“In addition, I am asking that all of our partners in the Presbyterian Church USA work directly with ERD, with Rev. Stanley as the central communication person. PCUSA has worked with us for many years, and we are deeply grateful for their compassion and their commitment to the people of Haiti.

“We in the Diocese of Haiti have a vision and a plan for this relief and recovery effort. We know the situation on the ground, we are directing emergency relief to those who need it most, and we already are making plans and moving forward to help our people. Since the earthquake struck, we have been and will continue to work closely with your two representatives here. I have complete confidence in you and your agency.

Faithfully,

Mgr. Jean Zaché Duracin, Evêque d'Haïti, EGLISE ESPISCOPALE D'HAITI, Communion Anglicane”

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />The Episcopal Ministry set up camp at a soccer field. It continues to grow and well over  3,000 are camping there.<br />
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
The Episcopal Ministry set up camp at a
soccer field. It continues to grow and well
over 3,000 are camping there.

“I feel frustrated and guilty,” she said, “Yet God has put me on the earth to tell the story.”

And so, not only is she telling the story about Haiti, but she is also coordinating fundraising and relief efforts. Just as important, she serves as a conduit between people in the states trying to find loved ones in Haiti.

They learned early on that two of the three Haitian students studying at the Seminary had lost siblings – one of the men losing two of his three siblings.

“I receive emails, texts and phone calls every day,” said Stanley. “It is heartbreaking. My job is to be here and be strong. I have been able to talk to some people – yahoo chats, some phone calls, text messages.”

While many people think of Haiti as a Catholic country, there is also a very strong Episcopal influence. Stanley said that the first Episcopal Church was founded in Haiti in 1861. Prior to the earthquake, they had 254 churches in Haiti, all of which had schools.

Stanley said that at least a hundred of those churches and schools are gone.

“Gone is the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Gone is the Holy Trinity Music School. Gone is the Holy Trinity Primary School. Gone is the College Ste. Pierre,” said Stanley.

It is exactly because so many of those familiar structures are gone that one of Stanley’s jobs is actually giving directions to the Haitian people FROM here. With the buildings and other structures turned to rubble, there are no landmarks for people to go by. Using satellite maps from Google, she works with local villagers to direct them to the camps that the Episcopal Ministry has established.

One of their missionaries from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, recently returned home safely after helping in one of those camps.

Mallory Holding had been living and working in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since September as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps; she brought home pictures and her story.

"It was about 5 p.m. and I was in my apartment working at my desk, and I thought a car had run into the building or a bomb had gone off outside my apartment," said Holding.

Holding got under her desk until the shaking stopped and wasn't sure whether to stay or get out. Once she got out and saw the damage, she knew that something serious happened.

Holding grabbed water, food, towels and some medical supplies and brought them to the soccer field where people were gathering. She spent the next couple of days helping to treat some of the survivors who were camping in about 40 tents on the soccer field. Rev. Duracin and his wife, whose home was destroyed, were at the same camp.

She kept trying to get in touch with home but it wasn’t until late Wednesday that she finally reached her mother.
On Thursday, Holding and a friend met an English-speaking man who drove them back to the camp to get their belongings and then brought them to the U.S. Embassy.

Finally at 2 a.m. on Friday, Holding boarded an Air Force cargo plane headed for a New Jersey base. From there, she was taken to Newark Liberty International Airport and flew home to Chicago where she was greeted by friends and family.

Stanley is heartened by all of the relief that has been pouring in, but worries that people will forget about Haiti all too soon.
“We are trying to get America to understand the size of this,” she said. “It will take years [to rebuild] – it is an incredibly poor country. The United States has to change their policy towards Haiti.”

She knows that other people are as anxious as she is to go to Haiti, but explains in a letter why this is not the time for people to go.

“I know that many of you want to go to Haiti to help. Many of you already have planned mission trips and have long-standing relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ in Haiti. Please, Bishop Duracin has been very clear about this: Unless you are a certified first-responder, now is not the time to come. Please let the professionals do their job first as they help the Haitians through the immediate dangers and relief efforts.

“Episcopal Relief & Development is working very hard, day and night, to get help where it needs to go. The agency is working closely with Bishop Duracin as well, who is directing efforts, along with the Executive Council of the Diocese of Haiti, and deciding where the most urgent needs are and how to meet them.

“I believe the best course of action right now is to pray, to be generous in your financial assistance, and to begin praying about how you can respond in the future. If you are considering -- or had already scheduled -- a mission trip, please pray about who should go to help with the first stages of rebuilding: Those who are healthy, who have specific skills such as carpentry, construction, plumbing, electrical work.
Consider learning more Haitian Creole -- 10 lessons are available for free at www.byki.com, and more lessons can be purchased.

“The Diocese of Haiti will need your help for many years. This crisis is a marathon, not a short sprint, so we must be prepared to be in this for the long haul.

“One immediate way that you can help: Please send all information to me at my email address. I am compiling it for Episcopal Relief & Development. I especially need to know about parishes in the immediately affected areas, their locations, their GPS coordinates and the latest updates you may have received. We have a lot of information floating around out there, but I don't get all of it, and there could be vital information that I miss.

“In addition, please to keep an eye on my web site, www.gointotheworld.net. Help me to ensure the information I have is correct, and help me get more information to post.

“Please know that Bishop Duracin is counting on everyone here to work together, to help the people and to be faithful. Together, we WILL help God's beloved children in Haiti.”

This is buttressed by a letter from Rev. Duracin:

Dear Friends in Christ:

“On behalf of the Bishop of Haiti, the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, first let me say Mesi anpil, thank you very much, for your love, your prayers, your support, your generosity and your kindness.

“Finally, I wish to make it plain: I know that many of our partners wish to come to Haiti right now to help. Please tell them that unless they are certified professionals in relief and recovery, they must wait.

“We will need them in the months and years to come, but at this point, it is too dangerous and too much of a burden for our people to have mission teams here.

“Please tell our partners, the people of The Episcopal Church, the people of the United States and indeed the people of the world that we in Haiti are immensely grateful for their prayers, their support and their generosity. This is a desperate time in Haiti; we have lost so much. But we still have the most important asset, the people of God, and we are working continuously to take care of them.

“I hope that this letter will help all of us work together to help God’s beloved people in Haiti. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. If others have questions or concerns, please ask them to contact you or to work directly with Rev. Stanley.”

Stanley is hoping the little man she knew only as Ernest is still alive. He sold carvings and had the most gentle [sic] face. Stanley not only purchased his carvings, but paid for his arthritis medicine as well. She also hopes that 6-year-old Stephanie – the little girl that she paid for to go to school and bought her books and backpack – is still there. Stephanie couldn’t go to school because her family couldn’t afford it. Only 15% of the children in Haiti attended school before the earthquake – who knows what that number will be in the future.

For now, however, Stanley will have to be satisfied knowing that she is a critical component here in the states. She summed it up by saying, “My part right now is to: stay here, tell the story, find information and get relief.”

If you would like to support the broader relief and recovery work in Haiti, without earmarking your funds for a specific entity, Episcopal Relief & Development would be happy to accept them. Just go on their website (www.er-d.org)and designate your donation for Haiti or send them a check with Haiti in the memo line.  All checks should be sent to: Episcopal Relief & Development, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA  22116-7058.



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