HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - For a Coker College student in Hartsville, the earthquake in Haiti has literally hit close to home.

Marc Mergena is a senior at the school, and he was born in Port-au-Prince. He spent most of his childhood in Saint-Marc before moving to Florida when he was 13. His father, brother and sister also moved to Florida at that time.

Mergena's mother, much of his extended family and his childhood friends still live in Haiti. Since the earthquake the devastated the country recently, Mergena has only been able to get limited information about his family and friends there.

"It has to affect you because you were there," Mergena said about Haiti Tuesday. "This is where you're from, where you were born, your origin."

His cell phone calls have not connected, so Mergena traveled back to Florida last weekend to check in with family in the U.S. He learned two of his cousins died in the earthquake, and one of his aunts is still missing. Some of his family members were also hurt in the earthquake, but his mother is okay Mergena said.

Mergena also learned his pastor from Florida is now in Haiti helping with the relief effort.

Mergena says he's grateful for the outpouring of support shown by his home church and by the community at Coker, where relief efforts are now organizing. Especially because he has family in Haiti, Mergena says he's been touched by all the help Americans and the rest of the world have shown to his native country.

"Although we are not from the same place - you were born in the United States. I was born in Haiti, but there is a connection that shows that we care about each other," Mergena said. "God's love is there, and it's wonderful to see that we are trying to help each other."

Although there is a lot of suffering and loss, Mergena hopes Haitians will use the tragedy as an inspiration to rebuild their country better than ever. He says a verse of scripture from the bible gives him hope for Haiti's future.

"'If my people who know my name shall humble themselves before me, and I will come to them. I will forgive their sins, and I will bless their land,'" Mergena quoted. "God is telling the people of Haiti that it's only for a little while. It's only for a little while, and I would love for them to hear that."

Mergena said he hopes to travel to Haiti this summer to check on his family and to help with the rebuilding efforts.

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