Wednesday, November 28, 2012

fast falls the eventide

I like the traditional music to which Abide with Me is usually set, but ever since Sr. Carolyn introduced us to this one by Richard Webster, it's been my favorite. This choral version is less simple than the one we sing, but it's still lovely.

May your listening be a prayer tonight as God's grace and peace flow through the beauty of the music.

Abide with me 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

-- Henry F. Lyte, 1847

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving.  Of course, it's not a Haitian holiday, but we celebrated anyway. 

It's not a real celebration without rice and beans and sauce.

We began with the Eucharist at St Jacques le Juste with their English-speaking congregation.  Three musicians working with Holy Trinity Music School played piano, violin, and flute - Dona Nobis Pacem blew me away.  They played it over and over, moving us deeper into prayer, and after a while, very, very quietly, we began to hear voices pick it up - almost silently, but not quite - echoes of the peace for which we all pray.  As Pere M, said, if only this could be played all over the world, if only we could send all the leaders of the nations a recording of this prayer... That was something for which to be grateful.  Music and musicians in general, actually - and how much more so today, actually, since it's St. Cecilia's Day, too (patron saint of music).  Dona Nobis Pacem reminded me of our need to work for peace in our world and in ourselves, to create it by allowing ourselves to be channels of God's grace for others.  Imagine... I am grateful for the peace God does bring us, and I am grateful that God uses each of us in spite of our weaknesses - and even uses them, too. 

But perhaps I should begin earlier with the thankfulness that came during our preparations yesterday.  Thanks to Agape Flights donors, we had turkey and fixings for dinner for us and our Foyer Notre Dame family - residents, staff, and a few friends.  And while the preparations don't look exactly like the ones at home, it was still that recognizable pre-Thanksgiving communal cooking experience. 

preparing the turkey

One thing for which I am thankful is that the pumpkin pies I baked turned out better than the disastrous cookies I attempted this summer at the old convent - one last very humorous memory from that place.  (I would have settled for good cookies, too.)

I am most thankful, though, for all those people involved in our preparations.  I wish I could show you their pictures, along with those of so many others, but not having asked permission...

Here is the finished product of the turkey prep above:

spicy Thanksgiving turkey, Haitian style, sort of - delicious!

You'll have to imagine pictures of laughter, of elderly ladies and students eating together, of the dog, hopeful to the very end, of our punchiness at the end of how many hours of washing dishes...

I'm even grateful for the grey day.  We haven't had refrigeration this week (till late today), so not only was it more comfortable, it was also helpful for the food itself. 

low clouds covering the tops of the mountains bordering Port-au-Prince this afternoon

I was also thankful today for the smiles provoked by the new guard dog in training, whom I met on the way out, and who as of now stands almost as high as a step.  Such adorableness.  I don't know his name yet, but I'm looking forward to becoming better acquainted.

guard puppy doing his inspection

I'm thankful tonight also for the power returning.  Last Friday morning we had some, then a few hours Sunday, and about 45 minutes Tuesday night (after I was asleep - but I got back up!).  I am especially grateful that it came on this evening so I could call my parents and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Tonight I'll have a fan and cold water to drink, too.

I am thankful for the beauty that surrounds me - the big things like the double rainbow I saw last week and the spectacular sunsets that come along every once in a while, and the little things like the tiny zandolit (lizard) that scampers up the ironwork along our kitchen window. I'm thankful that the poinsettia tree is turning red and that there are so many interesting birdcalls early in the morning. 

double rainbow over Delmas

All these things are nothing compared to the big things: I have good food, good shelter, and potable water.  I have people to love, interesting work to do, and a purpose.  I have sisters and friends and family who are amazing people, lovable, flawed, inspiring, grace-filled examples of all God can do in and through us. I am thankful none of them is perfect, and I'm thankful that they put up with me in all my imperfection. I am especially grateful for those who make me laugh.  I think that must be a spiritual gift Paul forgot to mention.

And did I mention my sisters, my friends, and my family?

And then there is God...

Grace.  It's all about grace.

sunset, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

cell phones in church


This may be completely unlike church here in Haiti, but even here we have issues with ringing cell phones at just the wrong moment.  Yes, during church, too.  And then I remember hearing that once during a concert here, following a plea for cell phones to be turned off, one of the musician's cell phones rang during a piece.  'Nuff said. Some things are the same wherever you are.

"Remember, God wants your full attention."

"No shoes, no shirt, no service."

Friday, November 9, 2012

a rock badger for the archbishop

The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats, *
and the stony cliffs for the rock badgers.
                       -- Psalm 104:19

Bishop Welby and his rock badger crozier

OK, I love the new future Archbishop of Canterbury already.  He sounds as though he has both a sense of humor and humility as well as the practical experience and breadth I read about in an earlier article (a bio:

The Telegraph reports:
In January last year Bishop Welby, then Dean of Liverpool, was reading a passage from Leviticus chapter 11 detailing Jewish food laws, listing a number of little known animals which are considered unclean to eat.

In the traditional King James Version, verse five advises against eating the meat of the “coney” – usually referred to by zoologists now as the Rock Hyrax – “because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof”. But in several modern translations – including the one from which he was reading - the animal is referred to in less poetical terms as a “rock badger”.

As he read the incongruous-sounding verse the Bishop began to giggle. Within moments he had lost his composure, sending the congregation into gales of laughter.

He was subsequently teased mercilessly about his “rocky moment” and when he was made Bishop of Durham members of the congregation had the crozier specially made bearing the unmistakable image of a Rock Hyrax from a picture downloaded on the internet.

A group of lay clerks also paid for him to sponsor one of the creatures at Edinburgh zoo.

“He has a habit, when reading the Bible of doing it in a Sir Humphrey Appleby voice, he dramatizes Bible readings and sometimes it is his undoing,” explained one member of the congregation. “It was like the ‘leg-over moment’, he was giggling and couldn’t stop, he said I’ll start that again but there were tears coming down his face, it was just so funny.”

A recent scientific study found that the Rock Hyrax, known for its unusual call, is one of the most sophisticated communicators in the animal kingdom.

If indeed this scientific study is accurate, I can't imagine a more appropriate animal for the future archbishop.  He's going to need all the communication skill he can muster, and then some.  May the Holy Spirit guide and inspire him in the years to come.

James Theodore Holly and the first Episcopal parish in Leogane

Yesterday was one of the two possible days the Episcopal Church remembers James Theodore Holly, the first bishop of the Diocese of Haiti and the first African-American bishop in the Episcopal Church.  He gets little attention, but he was a remarkable man with an inspiring life.  In Haiti we see his name on the sign for the seminary, but even here there are few who know his story. 

Bishop James Theodore Holly,  1900

About Bishop Holly:

Both before and after his ordination to the diaconate in Detroit in 1855 (a challenge in those years, needless to say), James Theodore Holly asked to be sent to Haiti to establish the Episcopal Church there. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1856 and came down here to scout out the situation and to make contacts. After returning and continuing to lobby for Haiti to become a mission priority, he finally managed to get a minimal sponsorship for this new mission field.

In 1861 he returned with his family and a group of African-American emigrants, many of whom died that first year; life here was difficult then, too. Holly stuck it out despite the loss of his wife and four of his six children, making a living in secular work making shoes alongside his mission work, founded Holy Trinity Church (now Cathedral), and was eventually ordained as bishop in 1874.

He spent the rest of his life here establishing this church and eventually also serving as bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, delegate to Lambeth, and even consul for Liberia in Port-au-Prince. Along the way he earned a doctorate from Howard University and was awarded an honorarylaw degree by Liberia College in Monrovia.

He died in 1911, and his grave is now on the grounds of St. Vincent’s School for the Disabled with a statue nearby. I really must visit it.

In 1897, Bishop Holly's ABOUT THE CHURCH'S MISSION IN HAITI: A CONCISE STATEMENT was published in New York. It's a short document and an interesting read.  I found the part about the first parish outside Port-au-Prince particularly interesting, in part, of course, because of my time in Darbonne.  I would love to know which of the current set of parishes and missions are among those early ones.     

WHILE our mission work, like that of the first apostles, must have a foothold in the towns and cities, as the base of its operations, it is nevertheless true that the great work that needs to be accomplished in Haiti is in the rural districts, among the country people, who are, as a general thing, but one remove above African paganism.

It is, therefore, a matter of satisfaction to me to record the fact that the banner parish of the church in Haiti is situated in the mountains of Léogane. This station was created by Bishop Burgess in 1866, when he ordained a deacon for its ministerial oversight. Thirty-five memorialists had asked the Bishop to establish that mission station. When that missionary closed his earthly labors in 1880, three chapels had sprung up in [17/18] those mountains. In this present year (1896) there are two more chapels there, making five in all; and the city of Léogane has been invaded by those mountaineers, and a missionary station established there since March last, with an ordained missionary at its head.

There are two lay Readers, with permission to exhort in each of the five rural chapels. They also make missionary visits from house to house, and like St. Andrew, they return, bringing their brethren to the Lord Jesus.

These lay-helpers cultivate the soil to gain their livelihood, and they further take time to do this spiritual work without the hope of fee or other earthly reward.

The rural parishioners in general are not behind them in the work of self-sacrifice. By their own contributions, the land whereon to build those chapels was obtained, as well as the materials for the edifices; and with their own hands they have built those chapels without any pay being given them for their labor. The chapels are scattered over a district about twenty miles in length. Nearly 200 communicants are registered, and about 500 adherents in all are thereto attached.

Facts about the Church's Mission in Haiti
by Bishop James Theodore Holly 1897
 a few links for more information:  
He is in Holy Women, Holy Men, of course, but there is also a biography, rather dated,  I would love to see someone write a new one, but this is worth a read if you can find a copy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sandy flooding tent cities

It's not easy to deal with disaster in the US.  I have friends who are without heat and hot water.   Others have lost homes and businesses. Now imagine that everything you have is in a tent, and it's flooded.

Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post article:
Almost three years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, 370,000 people are still living in the tent camps that became their homes.
Now, some have lost even that. Haitian officials say that 18,000 families living in tent camps have been rendered homeless by Hurricane Sandy, which has killed 52 there since making landfall last week.
The number of casualties may continue rising, as aid workers have found 86 new cases of cholera just in the earthquake survivor camps of capital city Port-au-Prince. A cholera outbreak that began after the quake has killed an estimated 7,400 since October 2010.

To read more:

More anon.

watching from afar

Haitian television is covering the election in the US, and we got our power just a bit ago.  So here I sit - and they've stopped commenting and have started streaming CNN in English.  And I found a website (while looking up malaria in Haiti, actually) with live updates.  It's slightly surreal to be here and have all this.  At the mother house, we don't stay up and watch, so I wonder if I'm even better connected at the moment than I would be at home. Strange.  But everyone here is interested, despite the fact that we have a disaster on our hands with the aftermath of Sandy. Wow.

Barack Obama taptap - Port-au-Prince, Haiti
That's what I call an interest in foreign politics.

 Now it is 50-50 at 9:30PM  in FLorida.  Yikes.  Flashbacks, anyone? 

9:21 PM in Florida...  close race, do you think? Just so there are no hanging chads this time.