Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 21: A Celebratory Farewell

We danced again tonight at a celebratory dinner honoring our final night in the Dominican Republic.

Ashton Brooks, Annie Pierpoint

The Very Rev. Ashton Brooks, the dean of the seminary who has been away on sick leave for two months, returned yesterday and celebrated the Eucharist this morning. He was there at the party to meet all of us and to thank us for being here.

I wrote this post on Facebook today:

This morning I met a man at church. Most of his family was killed in the Haitian earthquake three years ago. Nine months ago he came to the Dominican Republic looking for work so he can send money to his wife and son back home. He has not yet found a job.

Next I met a man who came to the D.R. from Haiti fifteen years ago. He has been looking all that time for a job and a place to live. He has found neither.

Both men spoke with palpable anger, frustration, and sadness. Both men insisted that they are discriminated against because they are Haitian. I don't doubt it. I imagine that many Dominicans would say, "We don't even have the resources to take care of our own people, let alone those who cross the border. Go home." All people need the same basic things. What happens when there are not enough of those things to go around?

It is truly a tragic situation, and I can't think of a single thing I can do about it. But today, I allowed two men to tell me their stories. I did my best to honor their stories, to withhold any naive advice that might come to mind, and to thank them for telling me about their lives. I can pray for them, and I don't know exactly what that will accomplish, but I will do it anyway because I can't imagine not doing so.

The needs are great, the solutions elusive.
Tonight at dinner a couple folks who had read my post pointed out to me that the church has been doing everything it can to help these two men. I do want to make sure that my telling of their stories doesn’t reflect badly on Epifanía: the church is not just standing by while people suffer.

In one big way, the situation here is exactly the same as the situation in the United States. Helping people is not as easy as giving someone a fish, or even teaching someone how to fish. Teaching someone to fish is not easy. It requires patience, forbearance, and even, sometimes, the ability to say, “I’ve done all I can do and this person still isn’t learning.” In these situations, we must continue to pray, and we must continue to look for opportunities to be of help to a person’s growth in creative ways. I believe that Christians are called to never, ever give up on anyone. This is some of the hardest work people can do.

The other reality, of course, is that of limited resources. Epifanía feeds fifty people a week. That’s not even a drop in the bucket. When there are no government agencies to provide public assistance, the churches’ work is even more important. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, you can help in the Dominican Republic, too. And, of course, there are many places in the world that need our help. We have more to give than we think we do. We can stretch farther than we believe we can.

Thank you so much for following our blog. In the morning we will pack and head to the airport. I probably won’t blog tomorrow because we’ll be en route. But who knows? There may be more blog posts still to come, chronicling our journey and its aftermath. All four of us are required to write a post-trip paper, and those of us who received funding from a certain source are required to write an additional paper that describes how we believe Virginia Theological Seminary will be changed as a result of our pilgrimage. We shall see. And I, for one, am excited to find out!

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