This weekend St. Thaddeus has hosted some visitors from Cange, Haiti, which is a mission focus of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. When we think of Haiti, most thoughts turn to the 2010 earthquake and the long struggle to dig out of the rubble of that disaster. Beyond that, our thoughts are most likely to go to the endemic poverty, disease, and daily battle with life that is the lot of so many in that part of the world.
Such was not the focus of our visitors. The homily was delivered by a priest educated in the Bon Sauveur school set up in Cange in the 1980s. Another member of the delegation told us in precise French of how the Cange mission had given him opportunities he would never have had otherwise. We got a reminder that Haiti's slave uprising of 1791 provided the impetus that led France in due course to lead the way in abolishing slavery. In our focus on the gloomy, we forget such things.
Deforestation is a serious problem. Charcoal is the cooking fuel most Haitians use and it has caused the denuding of much of the Haitian landscape. Cange stands as a bright exception. The diocesan liaison said that, on his first trip, Cange sat on a dusty plateau. Nowadays the terrain has been restored to much of its former lushness.
It's a good thing to be reminded of the human-nature relationship. We Americans built our nation in a land of temperature climate and abundant fuel and water. Others have had to show more ingenuity in their adaptations. Sometimes this is damaging to the world in which we live. One solution now being tried is to use "biodigestion" to accelerate the process of generating methane from organic waste, in the hope that Haitians will be able to use gas instead of charcoal for cooking. One thinks of all the landfills in the U.S., each a cookpot for producing methane. On the American landscape, though, it's usually more economical to drill for gas. Haitians are not so fortunate. One can only admire their tenacity and ingenuity in facing up to their challenges.