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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Matthew Harrison's 2nd LWR Post

I’ve never been so proud and humbled to be a member of the LCMS. When the LCMS assessment team arrived in Jimani on the southern Dominican/Haiti border, it was late. It was early morning before we got into bed for a very short night of sleep. Rev. Ted Krey, Rev. Walter, and Danelle Putnam greeted us with joy, laboring under the fatigue masked by adrenalin--just enough to sustain for days on end with little or no sleep. The LCMS WM team in the Dominican is incredible in any case, but in the past week they’ve shone with a compassion and determination under the most severe trials. We are at a hospital, which has performed some 500 major surgeries in the past four days, victims helicoptered in from Haiti. Ted Krey and his team have been a force for mercy and the Gospel, with real compassion.

Ted immediately figured out the logistics and delivery necessities of food and water for all patients and their families--1500 of them at distribution time. (That’s finding a need and filling it!). The Civil Defense Corps (a Dominican, mostly voluntary, organization) quickly assembled cooking facilities in the nearby town. Daily, Pastor Krey personally oversees and himself distributes water to everyone at every meal, and personally assists in the distribution of meals to all. Ready, young Haitians bunch behind the truck to disperse the Styrofoam containers of rice, beans, spaghetti, etc. in stacks of five or six. Between meals, Krey and his staff are tending to a hundred issues, questions, pastoral care concerns. In down time, they are speaking with people about Christ and bearing witness graciously through it all, consoling consciences wounded and sorrowful and hurting over mistakes and tensions and failings and weaknesses so prevalent in time of catastrophe. Make no mistake, food and water to victims of this tragedy are a critical, life-and-death issue. The initial mortality rate was high and fell dramatically when the LCMS medical team hit the ground with Pastor Krey at their side, though pastoral tasks have also included the purchase of caskets and transport of the deceased to the morgue and cemetery.

Ted moves through the crowds, completely understated, black collar with tab. He kneels, converses in fluent Spanish, and consoles, answers questions, finds aid, and solves problems. Last night, when a tremor threw everything into chaos, Ted was on the spot as 1500 patients and their families emptied the buildings. It’s vital for clergy to wear clericals in such times. The cross dangling from my neck has been the source of consolation, grasped in hands by those who do not understand my prayers to Jesus for them, yet understood fully. A protestant pastor in street clothes pulled me aside as I worked through the crowd alongside Ted and Walter. “Hey! I’m a ____ pastor! If you need some help, come and get me.” A well meaning and pious Christian to be sure, and God bless him for coming . . . but he was quickly lost in the crowd, and to me.

This is an amazing example of fidelity in word and deed in the midst of a chaotic, often crazy situation with the broadest representation of faiths--Christians and non-Christians (including the emergency workers). It is once again the strongest affirmation that there is no substitute for Lutheran accompaniment. Be present, act, love, serve. That’s the Jesus route in time of disaster.

Give generously. There is a whole lot of accompaniment coming.,

Matt Harrison
Executive Director, LCMS World Relief and Human Care
LWR Board Member

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