A few days ago, I was having lunch with a fellow pastor in another town and we were discussing the terrible situation in Haiti. He was saying that his church was going to be receiving an offering and investigating what they could do to offer assistance.
I had been overloaded with images from that stricken land and I recognized the enormity of the tragedy. Strangely, I was somewhat detached. I think it is because I had never been to Haiti, knew no one in Haiti, and did not know anyone who knew someone in Haiti. I just couldn’t put a face to Haiti.
As the meal ended and we were preparing to leave, the server who had been attending our table came over and asked if she could ask a question. We were in clerical collars so she was aware that we were ministers.
“Do you think the terrible situation in Haiti is from God or the devil?” she asked.
The question caught me off guard and I mentally searched for something to say. Before we could respond, she shared that she was born in Haiti but had come to the United States when she was just 11. She had returned to visit friends and family many times and, now, she had been unable to reach any of them. She did not know if the members of her family were safe, injured, or dead.
Her face was a mixture of emotions. Her eyes welled up with tears as she spoke of her family and her voice trembled as she considered the possibilities, but her smile was brilliant as she spoke of her faith in God and her need to “hang on to the cross of Christ” during this ordeal.
I thought I had been overloaded with images yet before us was a young woman who was struggling under the crushing load of sorrow and uncertainty — and here she was still at work as a waitress, putting on a smile and a brave face, attending to her customers, and praying silently all the while. We talked for several minutes, giving what advice and comfort we could.
We then asked her if it would be permissible to pray and she consented. There in the busy and crowded restaurant three people stood and prayed for Haiti, for those who were laboring to rescue the victims, and especially for this dear lady’s family and friends.
I kept my eyes open as we prayed and I saw the face of Haiti. Her name was Elsie and her face was full of sorrow, sadness, hope, and faith. I could no longer feel detached. Elsie had touched my heart.
Now, when I see the newscasts, I wonder if Elsie’s family is safe, if her friends have been found. It’s more difficult now to change the channels and find something else because the scenes from that nation are too troubling. Every victim has someone waiting to hear of their fate, dreading the news that may come. Every rescue means that someone somewhere is overcome with joy and their hope has been rewarded.
When I pray for the people of this land I have never visited, I see Elsie’s face. For me, she is the face of Haiti.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctkcec.org.) 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may be contacted at email@example.com.]