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The impact of a tragedy that hit Haiti last week has been felt around the globe, but one Washington County native was there to experience it first hand.
Marsha Garner, 60, grew up on Beechland Road in Springfield and graduated from Washington County High School, but when a 7.3-powered earthquake hit Port-Au-Prince, Haiti last week, she was only 40 miles away from the heart of the disaster.
“A friend of mine called, and she knew that Marsha was in Haiti. I was watching another station, and she said to turn on CNN, they’ve had a big earthquake in Haiti,” Garner’s mother, Dorothy Moran of Beechland Road, said. “My first reaction, well, I didn’t have any concept of how big Haiti was, but I’ve learned a lot about it since I’ve been watching all of the news. I was not terribly upset. I was actually just calm for a while, but now it’s starting to get to me.”
Despite getting good news rather quickly that her daughter is safe following the quake, Moran said she has been staying up late at night and watching newscasts until the early morning hours, sometimes staying up until as late as 2 a.m.
“I’ve been getting about four hours of sleep the last two nights. People tell me I need to get some sleep, but I can sit here and watch TV better than I can toss and turn in bed, so I just stay up late. I’m not in Haiti, but a part of me is there.”
Garner is in Grand Goave, Haiti, as part of a group through Lifeline Christian Mission. In the days following the earthquake, her mother has received e-mails from officials with Lifeline letting her know that all is well for the missionaries, and they are continuing to help the people during the aftermath. Garner and a group of 58 people from the United States gathered in Miami, Fla., and made the trip, which Garner has made a regular part of her life. Her mother said she spends 10 days each year there, and has for the past five years. She uses vacation and personal days from her job as a records clerk with the Miami Township Police Department in Milford, Ohio, to serve the mission. While in Haiti, she helps the people of the area, especially women and children, who are in need of nutritional assistance, as well as ministering through fellowship and Bible studies.
“We rarely talk that we don’t talk about the Haitian people,” her mother said. “I’m a worrier, but Marsha is the type of person who is a very calm and comforting person. Her neighbor told me she could just see Marsha going by people, putting her arm around them and telling them everything’s going to be OK. If she thought she was still needed there, even if she had the opportunity to fly out, she would probably stay.”
While in Haiti, Moran said the missionaries always go with a prepared message for the people from Biblical scripture. She said they held a service with worship, singing and praying into the early hours of the morning last Wednesday evening, and it was well attended. Other services are also conducted especially for the women of the area.
“The women come out for a ladies’ day service, and a lot of the people walk for miles to be there,” Moran said. “The mission group gives them a theme to work with, and this year’s theme was A Tempest in a Teapot.”
Garner’s interest in helping the Haitian people has rubbed off to her mother, who has also started to help by sponsoring a child there. Garner has been able to meet the children she and her mother sponsor, and even deliver gifts to them personally. Garner sponsors a young boy named Jon Berlyn, age 7, while her mother sponsors 12-year-old James Khris Mattheiu. Garner was able to present shoes, shirts and other gifts to the children on a recent visit, and even get photos of the children enjoying their gifts.
Traveling and serving the mission is an option, but Moran said there are other ways to assist the people of Haiti. She said anyone who wants to know more about helping can contact her at (859) 284-5228.