Johnnie was walking to school when the earth jolted under his feet. Books fell from the hands he used to catch his fall when his legs crumbled beneath him. The angry earth, suddenly awake from a long and deep sleep, rumbled violently. Johnnie was tossed from tree to rock while thunderous sounds of collapsing buildings pounded throughout his soul, deep into his very heart. Fear, fear of death, fear of pain, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of loneliness whacked every cubic inch of him. He lay on the ground for that season of calamity and stood up into a foreign world.
Johnnie ran to his old home to find nothing more than a mound of rubble where picture covered walls once contained his beautiful brown eyed mommie and jovial papa, where sun poured through windows to wake him every morning. He knew his parents and his sister Sally who was exactly half his age this year were deep in the lifeless mound because they were home when he left for school. He could not see them though; all he could see was rubble. Johnnie was gazing at that mound of sorrow and sobbing when Sister Josefina took his hand to whisk him away to her convent.
The nun said he was lucky to have lived. He wondered how that could be true. If his mommie and papa and especially little Sally were with God, and he was in this rubble, hurting and thirsty and dirty and hungry how could he be the lucky one? He asked Sister Josefina who replied, “Suddenly the Judge shall come and the deeds of each shall be revealed but with fear we cry out in the middle of the night, ‘Holy, holy, holy art Thou oh God, have mercy on us.’ Then Sister Josefina went on to explain, “Johnnie, we the living are the lucky ones my child because we who have beheld this disaster with our own eyes, have seen with our souls how suddenly each person meets his Maker. We are reminded to prepare. Glorify God, my child who rains on the good and the evil alike, the rain that gives birth to seedlings in the spring, and who allows evil to test and to strengthen men’s souls. Today our eyes have beheld a grand gift of mercy. Johnnie, let’s you and I gather the stars out of this rubble.”
Meanwhile papa was not seeing God. When the ceiling collapsed on him and his beloved wife and Sally he was indeed knocked out but regained consciousness only to find himself in an air pocket. He could see his wife’s lifeless hand, that hand he kissed tenderly so often to show her how grateful he was for her labors. He reached for her beloved fingers and wept. Then papa remembered Johnnie and knew that he couldn’t succumb to death to be with her. “Oh, Lord,” he began “send your angels to rescue me that I may see my son grow into a God-fearing man, then I can rest in peace. As for my beloved wife and girl-child, receive them into your loving arms. Have mercy on them in your judgment for no man lives and sins not, only You are without sin my Lord and King.” Papa prayed like that as he tried to tunnel his way through to fresh air. When he couldn’t think he just recited psalms or repeated the name Jesus.
Freda had flown in from Florida. She was trained for situations like this. Her instincts were more valuable to her work than her strength. She trained daily to keep her strength up and her spirit keen. Freda could sense the life-filled prayers of papa inside that calamitous mound when she walked by. “Come on, she called to whoever would listen, help me!” Then she started picking up pieces of wall and furniture. “Mighty God who hears the suffering of these people, rescue the quake victims and even the community of saviors, from true death which is drifting away from You, the creator and giver of Life. Reveal yourself in miracles to the doubting; reveal your love to the angry. Touch the bitter with the sweet wood of resurrection. Lord, use this darkness to make your light apparent.” Praying like that while she worked was Freda’s secret to success.
And when she stopped praying to lift a particularly heavy piece, or just because she wanted to listen, Freda could hear a choir of angels and watchful souls chanting together, “Holy, Holy, Holy is our God, and Halleluiah.” Freda was joy filled in her labor for she knew that the time for renewal had come to Haiti.