The earthquake that rocked Haiti shook hearts & homes across Boston
On the first Wednesday in February, I caught up with Pastor Soliny Védrine, director of EGC’s Haitian Ministries International, to ask him how the Haitian church community in Boston was dealing with the crisis in Haiti. Boston has the third largest Haitian community outside Haiti, behind Miami and New York City.
“The church community responded first with tears, but then with a great deal of prayer,” Pastor Sol says. Referring to his own church, he continues, “Since the tragedy, every Sunday we have a block of time for special prayer for our grieving families, and to that is added private home prayers for families who have lost loved ones. To that is added a series of memorial services by most of the major churches, including my own church. The tragedy has brought us closer almost overnight.” Pastor Sol spoke at two of the larger memorial services in January, one in Brockton and an ecumenical service in Mattapan.
At the church he pastors, Boston Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury, Pastor Sol asked people who had lost loved ones to come to the front of the church during a service. Over 25 people came forward.
Sol’s church lost one parishioner in the earthquake. A lead deacon at the church had been in Haiti on a trip to help out some family members when the earthquake struck. This deacon had several grown children, including a son who is a doctor in Atlanta, another who is a pastor, and a third who is a choir director. The son from Atlanta traveled to Haiti to try to find his dad, who could not be reached by phone. He came back with no news. “After 22 days of waiting,” Sol says, “they cannot bear it anymore, so a week from this Saturday the family will have a memorial service. It is hard. It is so hard when your loved one was so involved in your own lives.”
When I asked Sol how other Christians can be praying for the Haitians in Boston, he replied, “We all need emotional healing. We also need spiritual healing to learn to put everything in God’s hands, knowing that God has a higher purpose. Then, we need a clear sense of direction of what we can do together as a church community.” Sol hopes to see a collaborative commitment for long-term involvement in the rebuilding of Haiti, especially from local churches.
Drew Winkler, who is married to a Haitian American and works with Pastor Sol part time as Haitian Ministries associate, says, “The community is hurting. People are trying to minister to each other and it is challenging, because everybody is affected.” Drew, who was visibly exhausted when I spoke with him, says that the needs for ministry in Boston alone are overwhelming. After he tells me about a Boston Haitian high school student who lost her father in the earthquake, he says, “As a pastor, I need to be there for her. However, I need to be everywhere else, and I am emotionally spent. This is me, an American that has come into the Haitian community. I am involved, but I am still new. And if I am feeling like this, what are all these other pastors feeling?”
Drew wonders if pastors from other New England churches could find a way to connect with local Haitian pastors and be a kind of pastoral support, caring for these pastors and ministers at a time when they need it most. “Even just calling to say, ‘How are you doing?’ could go far,” he suggests. But real compassion and sensitivity is needed here as well. Drew admits, “Even saying that, I don’t know what other people are feeling, but sometimes I find it difficult to talk, especially when the conversation begins to make me re-live everything.”
EGC is working with Pastor Sol and Drew to respond in love in specific, relational ways to many needs as we become aware of them. The focus of EGC’s response is local and relational.
Right now, getting food and water to loved ones is still on the top of that list, Sol admits.
by Steve Daman
[published in Inside EGC, January-February, 2010]