Larsons share Haiti experiences with churchRed Wing seminary student Jonathan Larson returned to Minnesota from Haiti on Friday, three days after the earthquake that apparently killed his cousin, Ben Larson.
Red Wing seminary student Jonathan Larson returned to Minnesota from Haiti on Friday, three days after the earthquake that apparently killed his cousin, Ben Larson.
Jonathan and Ben Larson and Ben's wife, Renee, were in a guest cottage at the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake hit Jan. 12. Jonathan and Renee Splichal Larson escaped, but Ben did not.
The three senior students at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, had gone to Haiti to teach Lutheran theology to members of the new Haiti Lutheran Church.
The two survivors told the ELCA News Service of their escape and their unsuccessful attempts to rescue Ben Larson.
"They also talked about the suffering of the people of Haiti, their strong feelings of gratitude for the ELCA and the positive influences it had on Ben throughout this life," according to an ELCA News press release.
"We were all together on the same floor," when the building began to shake, Renee Larson told the press service. "We all kind of panicked and started running. Jonathan and I were together. (Ben) was hugging a pillar in the middle of the floor. I turned and I saw him, and I saw concrete starting to fall on him. I called for him and started running toward him."
That's when the two floors above collapsed on them, they told the ELCA Press. They squeezed out onto the roof of the building and called for Ben, his wife said, but the building continued to shift as the aftershocks continued.
The two told the news service they went back to the place where they had crawled out and called again for Ben. Renee said she heard Ben's voice and that he was singing, which not unusual for because he loved music.
"I told him I loved him, and that Jon and I were okay, and to keep singing," Renee said. But the singing stopped after he sang the words "God's peace to us we pray," she told the ELCA service.
"If he was alive, he would have been calling for help desperately," Renee Larson told the service. "Ben spent his last breath singing."
The ELCA News Service said Jonathan Larson described his cousin Ben "as my best friend. We were always together. We grew to love God together."
Renee and Jonathan Larson said they spent the night nearby and returned in the morning, but were unable to find Ben Larson. They then went to the U.S. Embassy and flew home, after being encouraged to do so by their families. Efforts to get to Ben Larson continue.
To read the complete story, go online to www.elca.org and click on ELCA News.
The Rev. Randall Johnson of United Lutheran Church in Red Wing, Jonathan Larson's home church, said it's his understanding that Jonathan has been with family in the Twin Cities since returning to Minnesota. He is expected to be in Red Wing later this week before returning to Wartburg.
Johnson also passed on word of a gathering at 7 p.m. Saturday at Marty's at Luther College for Ben Larson, and a memorial service for him at 2 p.m. Friday at the college's Center for Faith and Life. A hymn sing will precede the service at 1:30 p.m.