My first trip to Haiti was a most life-changing experience. To visit such a holy place that spiritually and physically has been close to my heart was an invaluable gift particularly as I traveled and served with a fine team of servants from the diocese of West Tennessee, North Carolina and Louisiana. Initially, I wondered what I as a priest would do on a medical mission, despite having been traveled on other international journeys. Within hours of landing at the airport in Port-au-Prince, it was obvious that my primary role was simply to be and live deeply into the ministry of presence. At every turn, I was met and served by non-material rich and beautiful people of God who loved unconditionally and without pretense. A whole host of handicapped children, youth and adults shared the transforming love of Christ with me through their hospitality and unending gratitude for life and
Daily, I observed and learned that each member of our medical mission team possessed important gifts, which benefited the whole team and purpose of the trip: to share in the ministry of healing and wholeness to those who suffer in mind, body and spirit. Although my main role during clinic hours was to receive and assist patients (using my mediocre French) before their physician consultation, I often found myself engaging patients and families to learn more about their overall circumstance. Our interactions led to follow-up exchanges including my passing along pastoral information to the priests of the community of St. Vincent’s that they might follow-up and extend appropriate pastoral care beyond clinic services. One of the most memorable experiences I shared with the Rev. Leon Sedoni was to co-officiate the sacrament of baptism to Miss Marguerite St. Vincent on the Second Sunday of Advent. Amidst a most loving crowd of mission team members and staff from St. Vincent’s, she was marked as Christ’s own forever. Marguerite was gifted (through abandonment) to St. Vincent’s on the prior Thursday morning just before we opened the clinic. With incredible love and nurturing she was received into a powerful community that will continue to provide for her. The way by which she arrived there confirmed the current and ongoing need for financial and hands-on faithfulness from
dioceses such as West Tennessee. Having made the journey, I now see why those who have gone before me were so persistent that I might experience the same gift as they. The heart of God rules most people of Haiti and reminds us that we all are created in the image of God and reflect the love of God. While my pictures, journaling and conversations will attempt to recapture my first trip to Haiti, I pray that others also will have the privilege to journey and be changed forever.