As one might expect, we suppose, senior missionaries from other areas sometimes share their experiences. We hear often from relatives serving in Thailand, for example.
Well, we recently heard from a couple serving in Haiti. They shared with the rest of us, some of the details surrounding the recent earthquakes there. We thought it was worth sharing.
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Much of Haiti lies in rubble. Collapsed roofs lie at angles, smashed against the floor below them. Cinder blocks slant in heaps along the roads. Some streets in Port-au-Prince look like old pictures of bombed-out Berlin after World War II. It’s a horror, an apocalypse.
Yet, amidst the shambles of this neighborhood, stands a jewel - the Croix-des-Mission and the LDS church. And sounding through the air is a hymn, "How Firm a Foundation."
It is a particularly well-chosen song in a land whose physical foundations could not stand the earth’s tremors, but whose Latter-day Saints have proven to be remarkably resilient. They know that though all but a handful have lost their homes, their foundation is in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is firm.
Attending the 3-hour church block on Sunday felt remarkably normal to us. There were the Saints well dressed, many in crisp, white shirts that looked newly ironed. The deacons wore their white shirts and ties as they reverently passed the sacrament.
How can this be?
Without any homes left, they have been living on the street in hastily-assembled, makeshift shelters raised wherever they can find a level spot. The walls may be sheets hung over ropes or pieces of cardboard. Their beds are concrete or hard earth. Everything they owned — and that already wasn’t much — has been stripped from them by an initial quake that lasted about 45 seconds and then after shocks that continued for days.
Haiti, right now and for the foreseeable future, is a land 'sleeping out'. People fill the church’s courtyards at night, but instead of woe, they laugh and talk. And remember, their homes are shanties on the median strip between two lanes of riotous traffic.
We asked member after member, how can you be so beautifully groomed on Sunday, given what you have been through? Their answer? Yes, most everyone is now living in the street, and, yes, they are indeed dirty during the week, plagued by all the ills that befall a newly-made street person. But, they added, though they had no water clean enough to drink, they did have water clean enough to wash their clothes.
So, there they were singing about what really is their 'firm foundation' and looking like any other LDS congregation across the world — except that these saints are homeless.
Maybe someone forgot to tell them how miserable they are supposed to be.
More next time.