One Member's Reflection on Haiti
Editor’s Note: The following reflection is from United Methodist Women member Judith Pierre-Okerson. Judith is originally from Haiti and has many friends and family members who experienced the earthquake. Judith currently serves United Methodist Women as a Director within the Women’s Division.
Where were you? What were you doing? Who was with you? Some events in life marked us so deeply that we will always be able to answer these questions with certainty when we evoke them for they seem to be inscribed very deep in our memories. The news of the Earthquake cataclysm that has shaken the foundation of Haiti is one of such events for me. Tuesday, January 12, 2010 is engraved in my memory forever.
The day started like an ordinary Tuesday. At the end of the workday, I got into my car, made sure that my car radio was off and initiated a conference call with my annual conference Justice for Our Neighbors regional board. Upon concluding the call at home, I made myself comfortable and started to review my notes from the call.
Then the phone rang! It was a conference UMW officer on the line inquiring how I was doing, I replied with my usual “I am doing great, thank you.” But I could sense a concern in her voice, I continued to ask her “what is wrong?” Thinking I could help her with something or offering her some words of wisdom. She responded, “I have heard about the earthquake and immediately thought of you.”
What earthquake? I called my mom immediately, she informed me about the magnitude of the earthquake in Haiti. I stayed glued to the TV. The telephone became my best friend and at the same time a great nuisance for it refuses to put me in communication with my loved ones. I worried about family members living or in visit in Haiti. My thoughts were with my dear friends and I was concerned about the Methodist Church of Haiti, the place where I grew up and the church that nurtured me.
And the days came and went. Some news came and I rejoiced, others arrived and crushed my heart. Nevertheless, “through it all I have learned to depend upon God’s love.”
I have found great comfort within my church family. I have, once again, experienced the love of my United Methodist Women supportive community. I have felt the presence of the United Methodist connection and I give thanks to God for allowing them to minister to me.
Now, over a month since that tragedy, I still cannot wrap my mind around the devastation and the number of victims, lives that are lost, homes destroyed, and children who are made orphans. Each time I start to think that my life could return to a certain normalcy, I receive the news of the death of a good friend or someone close to him or her, and the wound reopens, and I feel the pain stronger and stronger. Then I realize it has never gone away, the wound has not healed yet! Perhaps, the wounds will never be fully healed.
In the midst of this tragedy, I have learned a valuable lesson about myself. I have learned that my cultural background and my childhood religious upbringing are deeply imprinted within me and that they have fashioned who I am today and I could never escape them. For example, intellectually I know it is okay to ask the “why” question and to even argue with God about my deep pain just like His servant Job did. But instead, I find myself referring over and over to Job’s own life tragedy and leaning on the same verse “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
This is what my mother taught me when I lost my brother years ago. Some will argue this is a theology of “resignation” but, for me, this is an expression of my faith in God, for I know although He has not caused the tragedy, my God was in the midst of it to rescue and carry some back to life; to receive and shelter in his bosom those who left this life. I know He is in the midst of the devastation to mourn and grieve with those left behind, and I know, in due time He will soothe my pain.