God works in mysterious ways and puts people where they are supposed to be, even in trying circumstances.
That's what happened to the sisters of the Carmelite Community of the Word in Gallitzin who have been making annual mission trips to Haiti to help the Little Sisters of the Incarnation for 20 years.
Through the years, the sisters from the United States have helped with medical and dental visits and built a birthing center in Haiti.
(Courtesy photo) Sister Martha Burbulla watches as men load supplies in a sea container to send to the Little Sisters of the Incarnation in Haiti. Standing inside the sea container are Harvey Kneas of McConnellsburg and Frank Campion of Hollidaysburg.
"We focus on helping the sisters themselves so they can help the poor," said Sister Marilyn Welch with the Carmelite Community of the Word.
It just so happens their annual trips are always in January. And this year, on the 10th day of their trip, an earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Although the Little Sisters of the Incarnation live 90 miles away from the nation's capital, the ground shook fiercely.
The sisters' concrete dormitory cracked and was damaged.
"It was quite frightening," Welch said.
She felt terrible for the Little Sisters, whom she has come to know and love through the years.
Many of them lost loved ones in the earthquake, and during the days after the disaster, they could get little information because chaos and a lack of communication still prevailed in Port-au-Prince.
"They had no idea whether their families were dead or alive," Welch said.
Despite their desperation, the Haitians were very prayerful and didn't blame God, she said.
"God didn't do this. This is something that is a natural disaster. It happened," she said.
"The poor are living in conditions where buildings weren't built in a way that they could withstand an earthquake. But God didn't cause that. What caused that was poverty.
"Some of us that have more need to be able to share with those that have less. I think God weeps along with the Haitians," Welch said.
She and her team of 12 people wanted to stay and help, but they knew they would be a liability, so they returned to the United States through the Dominican Republic three days later.
"We were kind of distraught because we didn't know how bad it was. People at home knew more than we did," Welch said.
Frank and Liz Campion of Hollidaysburg were part of the January team. They have been visiting the Little Sisters for five years and felt a need to help even more after the earthquake.
"You want to head straight to Port-au-Prince to help the people," Frank Campion said. "At the same time, you realize the host country tried to do everything to protect you. When you are there, you actually become a liability."
Linda Runk of Altoona, another team member, said "I really did want to stay, but we would have been eating the food they needed," she said. "I wanted to go back [to Haiti] from the day I left."
In May, Welch and a few members of the community, including Frank Campion, traveled to Haiti to identify the needs of the Little Sisters.
"It was sad to see that so many people are still living in tents in such awful conditions with no sanitation," Welch said.
The sisters have been sleeping on the ground in tents. Welch other local people will return in January to build a new dorm.
In preparation for that trip, three sea containers full of building supplies will be sent to Haiti in October.
"It really feels that we have a focus," Welch said, explaining the community has been supportive with donating building materials, money and supplies.
Campion feels lucky to be able to continue to help the Little Sisters in Haiti. "Whenever you give, you always receive more. If you give, you will wind up receiving. It might not be the same, but you are going to receive more. I could give away everything and wind up with more. It's just amazing the way God works," Campion said.