Campbell Divinity Student returns from Haitian Homeland
The Reverend Edisson Etienne is back in Buies Creek, N.C., but his heart is in Haiti. Etienne is a Campbell University Divinity School student who went home to Haiti for his Christmas break to see his family and to propose to his girlfriend. Little did he know that his country would suffer a disaster during this time.
Leaving his family and friends in chaos was very difficult for him but, after wrestling with the decision for some time, decided it was better for him to come back to school since he will graduate in May. He knows the recovery will take years and he will be better able to help when he returns to live on the island. His fiance, Nelcie Voltaire, is a pediatrician at a hospital in Milot town of Cap Haitien to which many of the victims are being airlifted. "The hospitals there are in overload," explains Etienne.
Although the Divinity School student lived about six hours by car from Port-au-Prince, he has many friends and relatives who have not been accounted for. The horror of seeing the photos and videos of places he knows well keeps him awake at night and haunts him during the day. "My heart dropped when I heard about the aftershock that hit," he explains.
He says that the rainy season has come to Haiti, bringing rain and mosquitoes to the makeshift tents where it gets down to 55 degrees at night, which is cold for these people who are used to much warmer temperatures.
He is uneasy about the mental welfare of the Haitians as much as the physical well-being. "One man lost 11 family members," he explains. He is concerned that many might give up and take their own lives. He knows of many pastors who perished in the devastation. He said that his country needs volunteer counselors who will help church leaders and school teachers deal with the grief of their church members and school children.
"I pray that God will continue to send the Holy Spirit to the Haitian people so that the healing can begin," he explains.
Etienne is also troubled about the international community. He says that this is an "international earthquake" because people from all over the world were killed in this disaster. He said that hundreds of foreigners lost their lives in the United Nations building and the Montana Hotel whose clientele is primarily expatriates.
It was providential that Etienne was not in Port-au-Prince on the day of the earthquake. If he had not been asked to lead a pastors training event, he would have been there to catch his flight back to the United States. "But my dad always told me to do my best for God and I had decided to give up a week of my break to help with this leadership training."
"In some ways," he says, "it's like Independence Day. The survivors in Port-au-Prince will be starting over." He says that estimates are that 2.5 million people of about 10 million in Haiti are homeless.
Etienne asks for prayer for the international community who is sending help. He said the leaders, both political and religious, need wisdom for the clean-up and recovery efforts. The member of Grace Haven Baptist Church in Youngsville who "normally brightens up every room he enters" was very somber as he talked about the mass graves and cremations. "We will never know what happened to so many people." Etienne still awaits word on many of his friends and cousins. Another student, Sharlene Provilus, has family in Haiti where her father grew up and is awaiting word on their welfare.
Campbell Divinity School is collecting money and making plans to assist Etienne when he returns to his homeland following graduation. Donations may be made to Campbell University Divinity School Disaster Relief:
Campbell University Divinity School
P.O. Box 4050
Buies Creek, NC 27506