It was an amazing week in the season of Epiphany as God was made manifest (from the Greek epiphainein to manifest) here in Madison through the witness, love and work of the Episcopal Church!
Pere Wisnel Dejardin, our friend and partner in ministry from Jeannette Haiti arrived on Saturday night, January 7th. In the week that he was here in Wisconsin he Celebrated the Eucharist three times, preached on a Wednesday night, met with representatives, both clergy and lay, from all over the diocese, and spent time with Bishop Steven Miller and Canon David Pfaff, and the Steering Committee of the Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project.
In the short time that he was here, describing the hardships in Jeannette caused by the two month early onset of the dry season and the loss of a feeding program that was previously underwritten by another NGO, we raised almost $5,000. That $5,000 will feed the students of Saint Marc’s School for 6 weeks! Those six weeks will give us time to raise additional monies to continue the school lunch program and wire the finds to Haiti.
The Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project has emergency reserve funds and at a meeting with Pere Wisnel at Grace Episcopal Church on Friday evening we committed some of those funds to buy a tanker truck of water to be delivered to Jeannette. That water will fill their cisterns and provide safe, clean drinking water in a place where the land is parched and dry!
Pere Wisnel left for Haiti in the early morning hours of January 14th with a sense of joy and hope for the people of Jeannette, uplifted by the support and love poured out on him and his parish by the people of the Diocese of Milwaukee.
As this week was wrapping up we read in the news about a fire at the Porchlight Transitional Housing Apartments. On Friday night, a bitterly cold night when the fire trucks froze on the street, all 100 residents of the apartment building at the corner of Brooks and Johnson Streets had to be evacuated. On Saturday afternoon the fire department cleared the building so that all but 16 of those residents could return to their apartments.
As I was reading the article describing the plight of those 16 women I received a call from LZ Ventures, our partners in developing the Saint Francis House Episcopal Student Ministry site. LZ offered to delay the construction process at the Saint Francis House site so that the vacated building could be used as temporary Emergency Housing for our next door neighbors at Porchlight! Within the hour the Saint Francis House Board, the Bishop of the Diocese of Milwaukee and the staff at Porchlight were in conversation, making plans to move the sixteen displaced residents of Porchlight into Saint Francis House.
Madison Property Management, managers of the Grand Central Student Apartments, also neighbors “on the block” brought furniture to Saint Francis House, had their staff re key the doors so that the women who would be using the space would feel secure in their temporary lodgings, installed smoke detectors and repaired lighted exit signs bringing the space back up to code. All of this done so that 16 people would be safe and warm for a month!
In the days since the fire I have heard from parishioners whose work places are sponsoring bake sales to raise funds to help the residents of Porchlight replace the belongings that were lost in the fire. I have heard from parishioners who are donating clothing, toiletries, furniture, and cash. Mike Lisle, a member of our Vestry, contacted me and his company KleenMark has donated cleaning supplies so that the rooms at Porchlight, even the rooms that were deemed habitable after the fire, can be cleaned of the soot, ash and smell of smoke that permeated the entire building!
In the season of Epiphany we look for signs of God’s presence and activity in the world around us. We look for moments where God’s love and grace are made manifest, tangible, real. In this one week we have seen God at work in the world through the ministry and care of the Episcopal Church, through the work of the communities that we have gathered, and through the outpouring of support for people in need that so characterizes who we are. We are the Church, the Body of Christ, God’s hands and feet in the world. Thanks be to God!