Today is 12th February. One months since the earthquake happened at 4.53pm and so many lives were changed forever. It is a national day of fasting and mourning. The church compound is open from 6am to 6pm for prayer. As I sat in the office at about 6.45am I could hear a woman’s voice raised half in song, half wailing.
Travelling to the UN logs base today for meetings we passed a number of churches. Each one was packed, with people flowing out onto the streets and crowding round. We passed a school which had totally collapsed and there were many people gathered around the ruin singing and in attitudes of prayer. The majority of the people were dressed all in white and others in white shirts. Many of the roads were almost deserted, an eerie stillness on the city first thing in the morning. Many meetings have been postponed and the shelter meeting that I attended began with a minutes silence.
The church in the compound held a memorial service, strangely it wasn’t packed to overflowing as I’d expected. Maybe because so many other places were meeting, maybe because people preferred to spend time alone. Certainly there were many that I knew who were praying and fasting that day who weren’t there.
People were encouraged to go to the front to give the name, the relationship to them and the age of people they knew who had died. Inevitably some people had to say more. There were a number who I had seen regularly in church. One woman who, through her tears, told how her brother in law, sister in law, and her son died. Another young man explained how he had been at the university at the time of the quake. It is estimated that 1,500 had died there and he had literally seen people dying to his left and right. He made it out but his home had collapsed and he lost his father, brother in law, sister and her baby.
What struck me most was the stillness of the day, despite the tears there was also a sense of quiet and calm.
The service finished with the old hymn:
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
A strange mix sung in English and Creole and then everyone moved around the church, greeting everyone and thanking God that they were alive