Tuesday, May 05, 2009

On board with Christ

The following are two emails from Eric Belin, a SAA parishioner who is aboard the US Navy’s hospital ship, the Comfort, for another heroic humanitarian mission. Eric gave me permission to post these emails. Please pray for him and his shipmates.

Good Morning from Miami,

We got underway from Norfolk Wed, 31 Mar and arrived in Miami thismorning (4.4.09).

Because we have no priest on board, I have been designated as one of two Catholic lay leaders for the ship. As such, I am helping the chaplain plan activities for Catholics, such as praying the rosary, reciting the Stations of the Cross, etc. Last evening, we held Stations and had 6 people show up - better than I was anticipating actually - but ironically enough, there was an added Fifteenth Station: Jesus departs in a rowboat - apparently in an attempt to escape the flooding that is occurring in the officer's staterooms.

For the last two nights, we have been taking on water in our berthing areas. To date, the source of the leak has not been identified; however, what is encouraging is that I can hear a lot of water sloshing behind the walls - at least I have that going for me. The problem was simply made worse this morning as we limped into the port of Miami and the ship was forced to level out -until this morning we were cruising with a planned 5 degree port list in order to avoid flooding the starboard hatch. For a little perspective, go set your treadmill on a 5 degree elevation and go through your day.

Overall, life is good, just a little wet. I hope all is well with you.

Have a fine Navy day!

Eric Belin
USN Dermatologist/Flight Surgeon/Berthing Dehydration Specialist
USNS Comfort

Happy Easter from Haiti,

I have been on the ground in Haiti for two days. Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola, where Columbus first landed, and shares the island with the Dominican Republic (DomRep). Given its location, geographically Haiti should be a lush, tropical island, as DomRep currently is;however, Haiti has been completely deforested and is now very barren.

Haiti is essentially a failed state, administered by the UN, with an 80% unemployment rate. The average Haitian earns less than $500 per year. There is no sewage system, no trash collection - and nearly two million people live in the capital city of Port au Prince where we are. 1 in 5 Haitian children die before the age of 5. Yesterday we saw a 6 pound one year old - 6 pounds is small for a newborn in the US. Towards the end of our clinic yesterday, after the gates were closed and we were not seeing any more patients, the crowd threw an old woman over the fence,which was at least 8 feet high, to essentially force us to see/accept her.

We have had people approach the ship, which is anchored about 1-2 miles offshore, on rafts and small boats and then jump into the waterand feign drowning, forcing our security boat personnel to deal with them. Once rescued, the people request asylum. They are then simply returned to the Haitian Coast Guard.

The point of all this is to simply say, on this Easter Sunday, give thanks not only for the sacrifice that Christ made for our salvation, but also for the sacrifice made by our forefathers to allow us to live in what remains the most blessed nation on Earth. There is a bumper sticker which reads "If you can read this,thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier." I would submit "If you can go to the bathroom, thank God. If you can flush it and wash your hands with potable water when you're done, thank a soldier."

On this Easter Sunday, I wish you and your family the peace and joy of the risen Lord.


Eric Belin
USNDermatologist/Flight Surgeon
USNS Comfort

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