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Global Vision - Spring 2010

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Living a Psalm: Luther Seminary Students Experience Deep Faith of Haitian People

by Laura Kaslow, Communication Specialist


The Haiti group: Ben Mason, Kellie Kamm, Rusty Brace and Katie Emery

Don't miss an extended article told in the student's own words about their Haiti experience

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, four Luther Seminary students found themselves in the midst of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Along with nine others on a Cross-Cultural Experience, they had traveled to the small, impoverished island nation with the goal of understanding the Haitian culture and how the Haitian people experience God and the gospel.

Along with them were students from Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Wartburg Seminary, and a host from Abiding Hope Lutheran in Littleton, Colo., a congregation that has worked closely with Haiti and the seminaries' Cross-Cultural Education programs.

The group landed in Haiti only 30 hours before the magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit. When they arrived, they were greeted by people enthusiastic about their presence. And, in the aftermath of the tragedy, that love was extended even further.

"'Love first, ask questions later' is just the way that the Haitian people are," said Katie Emery, M.Div. middler, noting that people greeted them with hugs before even asking for their names. "That is the way they are—the earthquake didn't make that more so."

Or less so, noted Kellie Kamm, M.A. junior. Most people would expect to feel scared being in a foreign country on the night after an earthquake. "But it was like the safest place I know I've ever been in my life," Kamm said. "I felt safe and at peace. It's amazing."

In the midst of devastation, the four students saw the Haitians' deep love for God and neighbor. In the moments following the earthquake, the people of Haiti responded by giving praise to God. Quickly the streets went from a sense of mass devastation to being filled with people singing gospel and praise songs, which went on throughout the night and into the following days.

"The hope of (the Haitians) was immediate," Emery said.

"It was like living a Psalm," added Rusty Brace, M.Div. junior. "It went right from anguish and crying to praising God."

Living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the Haitians have few material things and little connection to material items because they are easily lost.

"The true tragedy isn't the earthquake. The true tragedy is what these people have been living through for decades," said Ben Mason, M.Div. junior.

Luther Seminary alum Andy Jolivette, '08, is deeply familiar with the tragedy of the immense poverty in Haiti.

Since 2006, Jolivette, associate director of admissions at Luther, has taken part in five mission trips through the Haiti Mission Project, a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for specific ministries in Haiti. "This was already a bad situation that just became worse," Jolivette said.

"The same resilient spirit that people are seeing now was there before," Jolivette said. "That strength has been tested now because of this. I've seen people who didn't have a lot, who now have next to nothing. And now they have the strength to rebuild and start over. It's because of their faith that they have the resilience to keep going."

While the time that the four Luther Seminary students spent in Haiti was short, they say it was deeply enhanced in the aftermath of tragedy. "We had a tour and a transformation," Brace said. "The earthquake just sort of facilitated it. It just brought what we were going to be immersed in into much sharper focus."

Having had time to reflect on the experience, they say there is much to learn from the Haitians' deep faith and great love for God.

"We need Haiti more than Haiti needs us in so many ways," Mason said. "They have what really matters."


Read a reflection told in the student's own words about their Haiti experience

Read more about the Haiti Mission Project

Read more about The Trinity House

Abiding Hope Lutheran partners with the Haitian Timoun Foundation. Read more about this Haitian relief group