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Jim Cwengros (Jan 2010 team member)

Well, we’ve made it back home. It was a privilege to be a part of a team that served so many in Haiti. It’s amazing how a group of 25 strangers can come together to function as one when we all have the same goal. It was rewarding to meet and make new friends with so many great people – I look forward to future opportunities to work together. Thanks to all of those that worked so hard to pull this trip together. I’m also thankful for the support and prayers of my family, friends, fellow parishioners of Holy Spirit, and many others. Finally, I’m thankful for our wonderful host Donette Lataillade who ran the Methodist Guest House.

I leave Haiti with many memories – some terrible, but most good and uplifting. Haiti has always been a country of contrasts to me, but never so much as now.

One particular day will be remembered for its extreme highs and lows. We were fortunate to serve those most innocent at the Sisters of Charity (Mother Theresa’s) orphanage. I’ll never forget seeing a baby that was born that morning – an image of hope for the future. Later that day we experienced the devastation of the disaster as we visited the seminary where many were killed and saw the personal possessions of those scattered along the ground. Yet, only a few blocks away, the children were playing with kites they fashioned from plastic bags and string they found in the garbage. Others were dancing and singing as they were taking showers along the side of the road.

It was devastating to see the Notre Dame Cathedral in ruins, just having been there in April. Yet, I was uplifted to see the statue of Jesus Christ in front of the church completely untouched. It’s now a shrine – many Haitians leaving flowers at the base.

I heard stories of how large organizations were challenged to coordinate their resources to help those in need, yet our relatively small medical team provided care for 6,000 – 7,000 people. It was a reminder to me of what a small group of devoted and unified people can accomplish.

I’ll remember random acts of kindness. One person on our team, reaching into his backpack to give his work gloves to a man whose hands were becoming raw from trying to salvage bricks from a fallen wall. A physician from our team asking one of our interpreters how to say “God Bless You” in Creole so he could provide spiritual care in addition to medical care. Reminders of how one person can make a difference.

I’ll remember how tired I was at the end of each day, but also of finding renewed strength the next day after listening to “morning” prayer services and singing of “alleluia” by those living in the tent city next to the house in which we stayed. It’s amazing to see the strength of the Haitian people’s faith after all that’s happened to them.

Someone asked me the other day, how we could communicate the scale of this disaster to those in the US. I tell them – imagine Washington DC completely leveled, the symbols of our government, the White House and Capital laying in ruin. Government buildings and records destroyed. Little or no resources available to help people – ambulances, hospitals, hospital workers, electricity, food, clean water – that’s Port-au-Prince.  Imagine 9 million US citizens dead, and 60 million homeless – that’s Haiti.

Our responsibility is not over with arriving back home. We all have been witness to a disaster of great proportions. Haiti is now lost in the press, yet thousands are still buried under the rubble, countless others need medical help, and the rebuilding will take years. Please continue to remind our family, friends, and colleagues over the next years of what we witnessed and that Haiti still needs our help.

May God bless the Haitian people.

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