|Florida Haitians praise God after quake|
Members and guests pray during the service. UMNS photos by Erik J. Alsgaard.
A UMNS Report
By Erik J. Alsgaard*
Feb. 02, 2010
Jean Francois was among the members and guests attending the service. Four of his children died in the quake.
Jean Francois carries himself with a quiet dignity. An older Haitian man, Francois is a member of Emmanuel Haitian United Methodist Mission in Orlando, Fla.
Early on Jan. 12, Francois talked by phone with his son in Haiti. His son needed money so his children could go to school. Francois said he would send the money. They never spoke again. Francois’ son and three other children died in the earthquake.
It is a story all too familiar among Florida’s Haitian population.
That shared tragedy brought members of Francois’ church, along with visitors and clergy from congregations throughout Orlando, together Jan. 20 to pray for one another and the Haitian people.
They also praised God.
“In Jesus, I’m fine. I’m fine,” the Rev. Eliantus Valmyr said to the nearly 100 gathered — even though several of his cousins in Haiti had yet to be located.
“I have some family members, some cousins, in Port-au-Prince, but I don’t hear nothing from them,” said Valmyr, who has served as pastor at Emmanuel Haitian Mission for 14 years. “I don’t know what happened to them. We call; no answer.”
While dealing with his own situation, Valmyr also tries to help members of his congregation and their family and friends cope in the aftermath of the quake. Along with Francois, several members have lost loved ones.
Valmyr says he relies on his strong faith in God and Jesus Christ to help him fulfill that call.
The Rev. Eliantus Valmyr preaches
while a translator behind him offers
the sermon in English.
“As pastor, I am showing my congregation that I am standing with them,” he said. “And the congregation is showing all the support we can to our people.”
Maggie Raymond, a member of the Haitian congregation, attended the service with her 2-year-old son, Jochanan. She said it was a chance to bring people together to praise the Lord.
“People are in tears, crying, because they’ve lost their relatives,” Raymond said. “It was great to see other people from other congregations come together.”
Connection offers strength, hope
Prayers were lifted as people went to the front of the sanctuary to expressd their witness and testimony. Dozens of people from outside the Haitian community also offered their support.
The Rev. Bob Bushong, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Winter Park,
represented the wider United Methodist community at the service. He also offered the benediction.
“Some of you may have seen the most recent issue of Time magazine, a special edition, and the title says, ‘Haiti’s Tragedy,’” Bushong said before offering the closing prayer. “They didn’t get it right. It’s humanity’s tragedy.”
Valmyr said support from United Methodists throughout the connection keeps him going.
“We give thanks to United Methodists because they show us that they care about us, about the Haitian people,” he said. “We love that. They are connecting with us.”
‘God’s hand at work’
Harold Nicoleau also attended the service. He said his heavy heart has been buoyed by his faith.
“My sister-in-law in Haiti lost her house, but they are alive,” said Nicoleau, a native of Haiti and lay supply pastor at Taft United Methodist Church. “A dear friend who I went to school with perished, along with her daughter and her granddaughter. Three generations of women died that Tuesday.”
Through it all, Nicoleau said, he has seen God’s hand at work.
“The Lord himself told us to cry with those who are crying and rejoice with those who are rejoicing,” he said. “Now is not the moment of rejoicing, but it is a moment of reflection and prayer. The outpouring of love and compassion … tells us that God has something to do with it, because only God can put an army of ‘ones’ out there to help and to rescue and to care for the victims of this earthquake.”
Nicoleau said he told his congregation the Sunday after the quake that there is a reason for everything in life. And even amid a terrible tragedy, he said, one still could see God at work.
“Last Sunday we sang, ‘Further along, we will see Jesus,’ ” he said. “We don’t have to wait for days or weeks or months anymore because right after the earthquake, I’ve seen the victims, the ones that are not dead; they come out of the rubble glorifying God, giving thanksgiving, worshipping God. This is one of the most beautiful answers to a calamity I’ve ever seen, and I wonder, ‘Isn’t that God working?’ God is good.”
*Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.
News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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