Diocese of Haiti hosts Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus in April

Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus were the guests of the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, Bishop of Haiti, during April of this year. They landed early on April 23, and hit the ground running with meetings at Haiti’s Diocesan Center, followed by several days of meetings and field excursions with both Haitian and U.S. partners engaged in rebuilding the Holy Trinity Music School (HTMS).

Among those giving generously of their time in conversation and logistics for the Andruses’ enjoyable and informative tour were the Rev. Stephen Davenport, who has partnered with HTMS for more than 40 years, the Rev. David Cesar, executive director, HTMS, Ms. Bernadette Williams, faculty and administrator, HTMS; Mr. Patrick Delatour and Peter Grina, architects for HTMS, and Mr. Owsley Brown, film producer, among others.

The trip was filled with opportunities for learning and doing. Bishop Marc and Sheila saw first hand the damage from the January 2010 earthquake that left 1 million people homeless, injured more than 300,000, and caused the death of more than another 300,000. They saw the destroyed Holy Trinity Cathedral, school complex including HTMS, and the makeshift plywood shelters where children hold classes. Cathedral services are currently held under a shed without walls. Moving through Port-au-Prince, one sees tent cities and rubble, and the ride is rough due to the difficulty of driving on cracked roads. Rubble is everywhere.

Visiting with Bishop Duracin, Bishop Marc and Sheila heard his conviction in describing how the earthquake destroyed much, and recovery is slow, but that the earthquake did not destroy Haiti’s hope, the church or their faith that God is with them and their partners as they create “the new.” He talked about the church being the people of God, and how he and the diocese of Haiti pray for God to help them rebuild, so that the children will learn in all the ways that can bring them health and happiness. He extended his appreciation for the many partners in California who have responded to the important need of rebuilding HTMS, through donations, hosting the children while on tour, and through prayer. 

Bishop Duracin described the comprehensive approach that the diocese of Haiti is taking in its programs, which has led to impressive results. That is, the diocese enters into the full life of community, seeking to address health, education, environmental, and cultural needs. More than 80,000 children are educated at 200+ Episcopal schools in Haiti. Of that number, 5,000 are educated at the Holy Trinity School in Port au Prince alone. All the children at HTMS receive a music education, and some receive advance training and later perform with the National Symphony. The diocese also established the National Museum of Art in Port au Prince, and seeks to support clinics and environmental stewardship efforts. 

Because the diocese is so fully integrated into the life of communities, Bishop Marc and Sheila learned about efforts that, similarly, spanned education to reforestation. For example, they visited St. Etienne, where the diocese and partners are rebuilding a school, reforesting for coffee production, and rebuilding a church. Here too, the diocese is introducing music education for youth. The Andruses also observed some of the final filming of footage that will complete a film about the Holy Trinity Music School, before and after the quake. The title of the film, And Their Hearts Are in Heaven, refers to the reaction of victims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince upon hearing the HTMS choir and symphony performing days after the disaster. Losing their homes, family, and friends – the young people still went forth to sing and perform. These were children and young adults who met the pain with beauty, and Haitian song. The public said that when they heard the children sing, they knew they would be okay. The film, produced by Owsley Brown, features HTMS before and after the quake. It will be premiered in 2013, with early viewings in October 2012. The trailer can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/34091806.

There were sights and sounds that the Andruses will long remember from their inspiring trip. They were delighted to hear drumming and an amazing band, RAM, practicing at the Hotel Oloffson, site of their first night’s lodging. While driving through city and towns, throngs of children were seen making their way to school in pristine uniforms. On every road, one heard the beeping of brightly decorated mini buses and the noise of crowded open-air markets. And the last day, when both bishops met again to be filmed on the grounds of the destroyed cathedral complex, they heard the singing of children — the choir of the Holy Trinity Music School. Practicing in a small room, in ages ranging from 6 to around 18 years of age, the music filled the late afternoon. Despite bare surroundings, their smiles and voices pointed to a richness of spirit that cannot be contained. These were inspiring, humbling moments — moments of grace, for which Bishop Marc and Sheila give thanks to the community that stretches beyond the bounds of Haiti and the U.S. — witnessing to the power of community and God’s spirit.


Photo captions in descending order:

Bishop Marc Andrus with film producer Owsley Brown and the Rev. Stephen Davenport
Bishops Marc Andrus and Jean Zaché Duracin on the cathedral grounds
Rubble at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-au-Prince
Schoolgirls in uniforms walking by debris from the 2010 earthquake