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My job affords me the opportunity to worship in unconventional churches. On one extreme, there are ornate cathedrals with soaring archways and marble statues.

One Sunday in December, I experienced the other extreme at the Eglise de Dieu Nouvelle Alliance de Corail church in the Corail camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a tent made from white tarps and ducttape, pitched in the midst of a sprawling camp for thousands of people still homeless nearly 11 months after the devastating earthquake.

The irony is that the truth I learned in this humble church in Haiti far exceeds anything I've learned in a stunning, historically significant cathedral.

In the front row sat six amputees ranging in age from 6 to 60. They were clapping and smiling as they sang song after song and lifted their prayers to God. The worship was full of hope, full of courage,and overflowing with thanksgiving to the Lord.

No one was singing louder or praying more fervently than Demosi Louphine, a 32-year-old unemployed single mother of two. During the earthquake, a collapsed building crushed her right arm and left leg.

Four days later—with no medical care—both limbs had to be amputated.

She was leading the choir, leading prayers, standing on her prosthesis and lifting her one hand high in praise to God. Demosi is a model of courage, strength, and dignity for her neighbors, who believe that if she can persevere, surely they can cope with their own losses, most of them less grave than hers.

Following the service, I met Demosi's two daughters, ages eight and ten. The three of them now live in a tent five feet tall and perhaps eight feet wide.

We talked at length, and I sought to understand her source of strength. Despite losing her job, her home, and two ...

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Suffering and Rejoicing in a Haitian Tent Camp
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January 2011

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