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Thinking of Romano

January 14, 2010

“My God does not cause evil. God is not a vengeful and retributive being, waiting to strike us down; instead, God is in the very midst of this tragedy, suffering with those who are suffering. When evil strikes, it’s easy to ask, where is God? The answer is simple: God is suffering with those who are suffering.” – Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Our group in 2002 after we flew back into the States. See if you can spot me in the front row.

I’ve never been to Haiti before.

However, I did spend a week in high school on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti. I have been thinking back to that trip and remembering a Haitian guy I met while I was there named Romano (his first name was pronounced “Say-rah-dio” but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to spell that). He was in his early 20s (an “older man” in my eyes) and I’ll openly admit I was utterly smitten with him in that 17 year old girl kind of way. He had beautiful, glowing dark skin and a huge white smile that got me all flustered every time he beamed (which was often). He was connected with the church we were working with and immediately, our little youth group took him in as our own. With his humor, graciousness and deep, deep humility, he was soon making jokes and eating rice right alongside all of us.

He was incredibly smart, spoke four languages (French, Creole, Spanish and English) and I remember being naively stunned how someone so young, from such a poor country, could be so highly educated. He had grown up in a characteristically poverty-stricken part of Haiti and somehow had gotten the chance to go to college. He was in college in Santiago (the city we were in) at the time, studying to be a pastor. His kindness was seen in all he did, in every word he spoke and every moment he took to get to know all of us. In maturity, in love and in grace, he was worlds above and beyond most people I had ever met back home. Even though he grew up in an environment of abject poverty, he was leveraging his education, his chance to “get out,” to become a pastor so he could go back and work with his people in the middle of all their pain.

He would let me practice my French with him and try not to laugh as I botched every other word up. I would ask for hammers or talk about my family in stilted, elementary French and he would smile and encourage me. He always called me “Caro-leeeeena” and would roll the word off his tongue like a beautiful pearl. I would usually just giggle and try not to get weak at the knees and drop whatever bucket I was holding on my foot.

I haven’t thought of him in years. All I have of him is a picture we took on our work site, where I look tiny and incredibly pale next to this glorious ebony statue of a man. Today, I wondered for the first time if he is still alive.

My heart aches for my brothers and sisters in Haiti; my prayers are with them as they suffer. In my own way, so many miles away, I weep and suffer with them — for where they are, there is God. To help, you might go here or here.

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