The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


January 29, 2010

A 'dignified and respectful' recovery

On Thursday evening, Rafael Malpica-Padilla, exectuve director of Global Mission, informed Benjamin Larson’s family that Ben’s remains had been removed from St. Joseph’s Home for Boys near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

A statement from the family appears on the Web site of First Lutheran Church , Duluth, Minn., where Ben’s mother, April Ulring Larson serves as pastor.

The response of Ben’s wife, Renee Splichal Larson was, “What would we do without the church! What would we do without the church!”

Renee, Ben and Ben’s cousin, Jonathan Larson, were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Renee and Jonathan escaped after seeing the top two floors of the six floor building collapse on Ben. All three were in Haiti for J-term as seniors at Wartburg Seminmary, Dubuque, Iowa.

Since government efforts to remove Ben’s body would take at least a month, the ELCA’s International Development and Disaster Response Director, Louis Dorvilier, hired people of Haiti to remove rubble and the concrete beam which had fallen on Ben, in order to return his remains home. 

The recovery effort began on Tuesday and was completed Thursday evening. Ben’s body will be flown on a military plane to a city where he will be officially identified and returned to the Midwest for burial.

Said his family in the statement, “Ben so dearly loved the people of Haiti, and it was these loving resourceful people, together with his beloved church, the ELCA, who joined hands to bring Ben home. His family is deeply grateful.”

The statement ends with a postscript dated this morning (Friday) from Renee Dietrich, St. Joseph’s home, to Ben’s widow, Renee: “I know you know this already, but they removed Ben's body from St. Joseph's last evening. Michael said it was very dignified and respectful. The person leading them down was holding candles. Know you are loved and supported and constantly in our thoughts and prayers.”

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