Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reflections from Haiti – Fr. Tony Wroblewski Part 3

November 19, 2008

Last night, we had a joy-filled time, with the visit of Brother Pete, who is a Missionhurst brother who has been working here for 45 years – as long as I have been alive. He actually was a delightful man. He mainly has worked repairing all kinds of engines, and showing Haitians how to do so since his arrival. As a hobby, he does wood-working. I don’t think I could call him an optimist. He certainly wouldn’t be considered a conservative by any standards, politically or theologically. He doesn’t feel much has improved here – and after 45 years has no clue how things can turn around here.

This country, where Columbus first came so many years ago, was a tropical paradise, filled with exotic hardwood trees and fruit trees. But in a short time, the land was cleared of almost all natural resources. Its people are actually descendants of African slaves brought here by the French. Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population in poverty, and over 50% in abject poverty. And due to its almost total deforestation, is terribly prone to natural disasters and erosion. Farming it is difficult. And there is no industry to speak of.

Today, we visited Br. Pete at his shop. What a kind, interesting man. His place is near the airstrip. UN troops were guarding the strip today. Apparently they were expecting some arrival that needed extra security.

So tomorrow we return back home. The mix of emotions I have experienced is still churning inside me. I imagine that it will be that way for some time. Those who work here are so very dedicated to being the hands and feet and voices of Christ. I am so very edified by Fr. Glenn. I can’t imagine being able to do what he does. And yet I am somehow drawn to this place. I certainly felt before coming here that once would be enough! Now I am not so sure. Despite what I would see as overwhelming challenges here, there is joy to be found. Somehow, many here live with hope. They carry on – they accept the inherent difficulties of life here. I am left to believe that it is because somehow they sense the presence of Christ close to them. I wonder if, left with few possessions and little else to give them security, they know that the only hope we all really have is in God.

When we were at the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Theola, the superior there, said that Mother Teresa always told them that no matter what they did, they did with joy, because the people they would encounter every day would have little joy in their lives. Brother Pete said of them that “they have chosen a very difficult path to heaven.” I’m not sure about that. Certainly anyone here, whether native to this land or not, has a difficult life. It is hard work to make your way even a little bit. Yet it seems that if it’s done with love, and in joy, then it’s all worth the effort. Tonight we have our final meal together here for this mission trip.

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