MADISON (WKOW) -- The following is a statement from the family of Ben Larson, the La Crosse native who died in the Haiti earthquake:
Thursday evening at 8:30 PM, ELCA Executive Director of Global Mission, the Rev. Rafael Malpica-Padilla, informed the family of Ben Larson that Ben's remains had been removed from St Joseph's Home for Boys near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
As his beloved wife of two years, Renee Splichal Larson said, "What would we do without the church! What would we do without the church!" Renee and Jonathan saw the top two floors of the six floor building collapse on Ben and knew exactly where he was. Several Senators and congressional offices applied pressure for Ben's speedy recovery. Due to the overwhelming task at hand, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, the U.S. State Department and U.S. military informed Ben's wife, Renee, that they could not even begin to consider removing Ben for at least a month. So the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's International Development and Disaster Response Director, Louis Dorvilier, hired the dear 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, January 26, and was completed Thursday evening, January 28. Louis received this request for action from the Rev. Rafael Malpica, Executive Director of ELCA Global Mission, at the direction of the ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson.
What the U.S. government and military were as yet not able to do, the ELCA and the loving people of Haiti did. After the church had begun this work, the family received concerned phone calls from Terry Krinvic of President Clinton's office. She offered U.N. personnel to assist the church and the people of Haiti who were digging for Ben. Terry and President Clinton's office have been compassionate in assisting to expedite government procedures required for the return of Ben's body to his family in the U.S. This morning Rev. Rafael Malpica personally thanked Congressman Jim Oberstar for his communication, support, advocacy and direct contact with the U.S. Secretary of State, as Oberstar was personally visiting in the Larson home. The next step is to bring Ben to the local mortuary in Pention-ville. From there he will be brought to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Eventually he will be flown on a military plane to a city where he will be officially identified, then returned to the Midwest where he will be buried. Rev. Rafael Malpica said to the family last night, "Now we can put Ben to rest."
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.
"Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." Romans 14:8
P. S. We just received this word from Haiti, 10:50 am:
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."
Renee Dietrich, St Joseph's Family