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Both prayer and thanks are offered at Norwich church vigil

Norwich - The first Haitian Baptist Church of Norwich gradually filled Wednesday night with more than 100 people, joining in prayer for the well-being of family and compatriots in their devastated homeland.

They prayed and sang and testified, mostly in French and Creole. But knowledge of the language wasn't necessary to understand the import of their pleas.

"When your most important buildings, your most famous buildings are destroyed, what can you do?" asked Caleb Roseme, a Haitian-born engineer at Electric Boat who attended the vigil. "It's been a decade of peril in Haiti. It gets to a point when you ask, 'How much can we take? What next?' So we come here to pray for what is lost and to give thanks for what we have."

Pastor Estime Jozile said the past two days have been filled with telephone calls among community members comforting each other. It is a challenge, he said, because the entire local community is consumed by the unknown.

"The greatest emotion is wondering," he said. "So many people have relatives and they don't know what's happening with them."

Jozile said people watch the news on television and get an idea of the devastation but they are unable to gain specifics. They can't reach anyone who can tell them about their community on Hispaniola.

Jozile and others who gave sermons reminded the congregation that God was with them even in the worst of times.

Once, in the beginning of the service and again near its end, pastors lead a vociferous and boisterous prayer, during which people indulged in their own praise. Many people spoke simultaneously, some taking to their knees, some standing and reaching to the heavens, while still others put their hands over their face or turned to the walls, seemingly in search of isolation, solitude.

The evening ended with church leaders giving thanks to the multitude of media outlets covering the event, saying it helps them to generate support for their plight.

"Thank you to America," Jozile said. "You have given us a place in your country to live. If we were not here we might be in Haiti. We might be dead. Thank you, America, for opening your doors to us to reside."

c.potter@theday.com

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