Whenever I think of Haiti these days, I hear the words “Feed My Sheep.” That’s partly because the memorial service that our group of pilgrims attended on the third anniversary of the earthquake was on Good Shepherd Sunday, and more specifically because I was profoundly moved by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s sermon in which she urged both survivors and the throngs of volunteers who have come to help to be the Good Shepherd to each other. I had a very “this is our church” experience during that service and later in the week during the dedication of a new church several hours inland from Port-auPrince. In the beauty of our rich shared liturgical tradition and the joy with which Creole song and music and ethos has been infused, I felt so vividly that we are “brothers and sisters in Christ.” At the same time I felt the sharp divide between the haves and have-nots that Jesus always sought to bridge and reconcile. My daily prayers became permeated with contemplation of the enormous gift of being born where and when and to whom I was, and the unavoidable obligations imposed by that accident of fate.
Every clinic, hospital, school, and social service we visited gave a new dimension to the mandate to “Feed My Sheep” and a new reflection to the kaleidoscopic lens through which I was taking in the pilgrimage experience. I was perhaps most moved when we visited a school and residential care facility for handicapped children. These children, who could so easily have been abandoned and forgotten, were receiving loving care and nurture in a country that struggles to feed, house, and care for so much of its population. This was such a clear statement that none of us is dispensable, and that we and they are part of that “us.”
I was grateful for our spiritual reflections at the end of each day led by my bishop, Marc Handley Andrus, which helped us to look and listen deeply and to feel the prompting of the Spirit. I also appreciated the gentle prodding of Elizabeth Lowell, Episcopal Church Development Director, to consider how we as a church might/could respond to the need around us. I appreciated being asked: What approaches or programs might be most effective and, given the input we were receiving from the Haitians, what would make them viable? How should they be prioritized? How could we and our networks contribute? Whose additional input should we be seeking?
The pilgrimage experience is still settling into my consciousness, but it is also percolating into my spiritual core. Haiti remains the lens through which I now view my life and the decisions I make about how I will use my time and energy. It is becoming that place where, to paraphrase Frederick Buechner - my deepest longing meets one of the world’s greatest needs – the realm in which the Spirit midwifes vocation.
– The Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite, Deacon of Transfiguration Episcopal Church, San Mateo, Calif. and Associate Director of Strategic Procurement, Novartis Vaccine and Diagnostics Corporation