When one of my colleagues recently arrived in Haiti for a tour of duty with the US State Department, he wrote me a message that he had arrived safely. We had both served in Ethiopia, so we shared a perspective of working in the developing world. He wrote that, as bad as conditions had been in Ethiopia, they paled in comparison to those in Haiti.
My heart sank with his words. But since the devastating earthquake earlier this year, many of us had held to faith and prayers that our nearby neighbor would begin to show signs of hope and rebirth. But with my friend’s words, and hearing of the suffering and deaths from cholera, it would seem that hope was once again under siege.
The most recent reports indicate that the epidemic in Haiti is receiving immediate aid. However, images of disease and death sent me at once to prayer, and a quiet mental state where hope resides like a shining light. I turned to a hymn which promises that the Christ, Truth, can bring us comfort and hope. It says:
Christ the way of our salvation,
Rends the veil of separation,
Shews our life in Spirit, free –
Shews the glory of creation,
God and man in true relation:
Now beloved sons of God are we!”
(Violet Hay, “Christian Science Hymnal Supplement,” No. 437)
A feeling of hope returned to me, and I began to consider this idea of all of us as beloved sons and daughters, beyond the “veil of separation” – never outside God’s loving care – not cast out beyond hope.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, described “veil” from a biblical perspective as representing a “cover; concealment; hiding; hypocrisy” (see “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 596).
Fear is often hidden, and it conceals the true light or clear picture of what we are as God’s children, just as a veil would hide the true likeness of what’s behind it. As the hymn tells us, the veil of separation can be “rent” – torn – showing God and His sons and daughters forever at one, blessed. As fear is rent, like the veil, our images of disease and hopelessness are chased away.
Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Zambia, we saw an outbreak of cholera stopped as fear within the city was replaced with a great calm.
Media reports described an outbreak of cholera that was already claiming lives. Suddenly neighbors and our many staff workers began to complain about feeling ill. Fear swept over the neighborhoods, and the government declared a state of emergency, closing down schools, churches, and any public gatherings to prevent what appeared to be a budding epidemic.
Since our church could not gather in prayer for the city, individual members turned diligently to quiet prayer, chasing away the elements of fear and apathy. We didn’t sit back to let this sweep over us. Instead, we were busy rending that veil of separation, by affirming in prayer that God’s goodness for us and all humanity was right there in the densest neighborhoods of the capital city.
Within a very short time the media began to report a reversal of the outbreak and that there were far fewer victims than had been anticipated. The epidemic was declared to be over, and everyone returned to their schools, work, and other activities. Perhaps the elements of cleanliness, safe water, and hygienic food preparations were being attended to more diligently. But in addition, I believe that prayer played an important role by stopping the fear. As the Bible promises in the book of Isaiah, “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings” (3:10).
This is also the blessing for Haiti – that God’s omnipotence extends into all communities, and touches the lives of the people in Haiti and throughout the world, wherever the veil of fear has kept humanity from seeing clearly. The fear can be chased away, whether it’s felt in Haiti, the continent of Africa, in the Middle East, or among your closest neighbors. Hope is a quality of goodness, and God’s goodness envelops us.