Dear Beloved in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I know it has been a more than a month since I last wrote to everyone, and for that I apologize. It has been a very busy time since the earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January, and since then, my life has been consumed by relief and recovery efforts.
I have been working diligently with Bishop Duracin of Haiti, with Episcopal Relief and Development, with partners old and new around the world. In the last five weeks, I have met amazing new friends all over the world, and have been cared for and supported by even more amazing old friends. Various parishes have stepped up to help me, to support my efforts to work for the people of Haiti, even to bring meals to the house when necessary. Numerous bishops have called, have prayed with me, have held my hand through the difficult times.
On my travels, I have been treated beautifully and with great care; everyone wants to hear about Haiti, everyone wants to help, all know that this is personal for me.
ERD authorized me to hire some assistants, and the staff I’ve built (some long-term, some short-term) surprised me daily. Matthew Lukens is the best chief of staff ever, for not only is he organized, he is, as he says, “a child of the ’90s,” meaning that he can do things on the computer I didn’t even know were possible. Cecily Hutton and Kendall Metz also came on board for a few weeks, and are mining emails and the internet to build the largest, most comprehensive database for Haiti that has ever existed. Will Hodges spent two weeks with us, building up the spreadsheets that Michele Braithwaite created (she came over to help for an hour one day early on, and didn’t go home for three straight days!). Michele continues to help us with the database, and in addition made sure that we had food to eat. The Rev. Kenny Miller of St. Paul’s, Smithfield, N.C., learned to do the satellite image mapping overnight, with the help of a Haiti partner, Dave Peironnet in Kansas City, and now we can find more places in Haiti than almost anyone. The Rev. Larry Packard, rector of Good Shepherd, Burke, rallied the congregation not just into supporting ERD, but also in supporting me and my ever-changing, ever-expanding team, so that we were swamped with all the food we could ever want! I also have been blessed to have the support of many whom I call when I am on the verge of losing it, when all the devastation and work seems to overwhelm me. To those of you who have received those demanding calls from me at odd hours from odd places, thank you.
In short, while it has been very busy, we have all been blessed by the outpouring of support and love and concern. I am beyond grateful for all this, and will continue to sing the praises of all those who have helped and who continue to help our beloved sisters and brothers in Christ in Haiti.
In addition to working for Bishop Duracin and with all the partners (some of whom I met in airports, others on airplanes, still others in meetings), I have been traveling. On 8 Feb, I was able to travel back to my beloved home in Haiti for a far-too-short visit, accompanying Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. We were only with Bishop Duracin for five hours; we wanted the trip to be short, and did not want to burden Bishop Duracin or the people of Haiti with our presence. Being there for such a short time meant that I was not able to go see my own parish, my home, or any of my friends. I still do not have word on approximately 125 of my friends; another 25 I have either reestablished contact or heard from reliable sources that they are OK.
Returning to Haiti was both very good and very difficult. To see all that I love in Haiti in ruins … to stand atop the rubble of the Cathedral … to watch men carefully combing the ruins of the university looking for victims … to smell the death of so many people … it is all heart-wrenching and beyond description. I truly believe there is no one word in any language that adequately captures the devastation, the horror and the grief of Haiti right now.
I also have traveled throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and Minnesota, and have many more trips already in the works. (All this travel means, of course, that I managed to miss the snowstorms; I came home to a 6-foot-tall igloo in the backyard, and had to help shovel out a parking place for the car.)
Many of you have kept up with what I’m doing by reading my website, www.gointotheworld.net. I’m posting updates and information there as fast as I can find them; occasionally, I write, too, about what I am doing and how I am feeling. Some of you know that 14 of my parishioners at St. James the Just in Petion Ville died in the quake; I still do not know their names, and doing a requiem for them at Good Shepherd, Burke, was probably the hardest, most cathartic Eucharist I’ve done in my 12-plus years of ordained life.
Please to know that while I may not seem to be paying attention to the rest of life, while I am not staying in contact with many of you directly, I still hold you in my prayers daily.
My plans for now: Bishop Duracin has asked me to serve both in the United States and in Haiti for the foreseeable future. My work with partners and with helping to coordinate relief needs to be done in the U.S.; my work for Bishop needs to be done in Haiti. So, I will travel back and forth as I continue to coordinate relief and recovery efforts for the Diocese of Haiti.
I ask your prayers for the people of Haiti, that they may be strengthened by God’s love and cared for by God’s people. And I thank you for all the prayers you have already sent heavenward.
Blessings and peace,