Daily Reading for March 13 • James Theodore Holly, Bishop of Haiti, and of the Dominican Republic, 1911
We were all naturally much elated at the very encouraging reception we had met with in such high places. But in order that we might not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, an overruling Providence, higher than the princes of this world, saw fit to “visit us with trouble and to bring distress upon us.” A destructive fever broke out among the colonists, and in the short period of six months death had claimed forty-three of the company as its prey. As many as four persons in one day had been committed to their last resting-place. During the contagion five members of my own household had been laid away in the silent tomb. Of a family of eight persons, of which, when we sailed from New Haven, Ct., on the 1st of May, 1861, I was the head, by the 1st of February, 1862, nine months after our arrival in Haiti, only three remained alive, myself and my two little sons, aged respectively three and five years.
But amidst this terrible chastisement, God remembered me in mercy, by sanctifying His fatherly correction to me, in enduing my soul with patience under my affliction, and with resignation to His blessed will. He comforted me with a sense of His goodness; lifted up the light of His countenance upon me; and gave me peace by bringing to my spiritual apprehension that, as the last surviving apostle of Jesus was “in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” on the forlorn isle of Patmos, so, by His Divine Providence, He had brought this tribulation upon me for a similar end in this isle in the Caribbean Sea. St. John had a mission to fulfil, by command of the Lord, in writing to churches that had fallen away from their pristine Gospel integrity. I had come to Haiti to bear a pure Gospel testimony to a nominally Christian people whose knowledge of Christianity had been received from a church which had also fallen away from its original purity.
When the work of death had suspended its terrible ravages, those who had recovered their health were for the most part discouraged and a majority of them resolved to return to the United States. About twenty decided to remain with me and consecrate the lives God had spared to His service, in bearing testimony to the Gospel among the people to whom, “In His Name,” they had come. The farm where we had settled, however, was no longer an inviting location for us. The situation was very unhealthy. At this juncture an American resident in the city offered a large hall free of charge for the services of the church, if we would establish our mission work there. This offer was thankfully accepted, and our services began in town on the 4th of January, 1863, although most of us still continued to reside on the farm three miles from town, for want of means to pay rent in the city.
Meanwhile, I visited the United States at the time of the General Convention of 1862, leaving my two motherless boys behind me, in the care of a member of the colony, as a guarantee of my return to Haiti, and to assure them that I would not desert them. The object of my visit to the United States was to obtain a missionary stipend to enable me to hire a house in the city where I might remove from the country to carry on more effectively the work of the church there where it was now able to be transferred, thanks to the kindness of the American gentleman above referred to.
I received a small stipend from the American Church Missionary Society, which enabled me to hire a house in the city and remove thereto in February, 1863. From that moment the work went on encouragingly, so that Holy Trinity Church, Port-au-Prince, was organized under the provisions of the canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, on the 25th of May, 1863; and it was taken into union with its General Convention, by an act to that effect emanating from Bishop Brownell, then presiding Bishop of that church.
From Facts About the Church’s Mission in Haiti: A Concise Statement by Bishop Holly (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1897); found at http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/jtholly/facts1897.html