Sea of Hugs – Day 8
Sunday August 22nd 2010,
Al let us know that it was 5:30 AM, when he left for a walk this morning, so I rolled back over for another half an hour. At 6AM, I got up, showered and dressed. Then I made my way to the Holiday House for coffee and breakfast. I’ll emphasize coffee! The kitchen ladies have Sunday off, but they made us a coffee cake. Along with the cake, we had Corn Flakes by Alberto and bananas. Julie and Hannah picked us up in the van to take us to the Haitian church service. Wadner came with us as our translator. We also picked up Dr. Rodney Baptiste and his family. Dr. Rodney was preaching today at the service. So that made 17 of us in the van going down the bumpy roads to church.
The church was in the back of a kindergarten. We walked through the gate and around the building. There was a cinder block wall with an empty spot for the door. It looked like the other four walls were either part of the wall that surrounds the land or an adjacent building. It had a metal roof, which was held up by 2 x 4s. There is a stage in the front to raise the preacher and choir up. The pews were mostly just wooden benches that you have to step into, with a desktop in front of you. It was mostly separated with the women on the left side and the men on the right. When we arrived, they put out plastic patio chairs for us. There were two speakers in front of the stage to help hear the keyboard and microphone. Everyone was dressed up. The men were all wearing long sleeve dress shirts with undershirts underneath them as well. I couldn’t believe it. I was already sweating in my light linen short sleeve shirt! The women were all in dresses and the kids had on their best clothes. When we got to the church, the choir was already singing. I noticed that Johnson, who I met the day before at the English service was playing the keyboard. I had a huge smile on when I recognized him. Wadner handed us headphones and a receiver so that he could translate without being too loud. After the songs, the Pastor came up to pray and thank the Lord for this day. He had us stand up, say our names and where we come from. Then he welcomed us and we started to do the passing of the peace. I walked over to a few men and shook their hands but noticed everyone hugging each other. When I turned around into the aisle, everyone started hugging me. It was amazing. It was just a sea of people, men, women, old and young, hugging each other. I saw Johnson and hugged him. It was a moment that I will never forget. For the first time, I could really feel the peace of passing of the peace. The music and everyone were loud, but it still felt so quiet and peaceful. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that moment.)
During that time, we were to take up our offering to the front. There were two baskets, one for the men and one for the women. I wasn’t really sure why until the Pastor said that it was a competition between the men and women to see who would give more. Someone counted the money quickly while the Pastor was talking and came up with the totals. Then the Pastor announced the results and then women were ahead. He called out for the more and more people got up to add to the plate. A couple from our team went back up. I didn’t have any more on me, as I only brought what I was going to put in the plate. The Pastor said that they needed the money to buy some land to build a proper church, but it cost $100,000 US for the land and they only had $9,000 already collected. When all was said and done, the men won $745 to $725. (When we talked about the competition later, the female members of the team seemed to think that the results we reversed to the women, but I will still stand behind what I have written in my journal!) A couple of different choirs came up to sing some more songs. The Pastor introduced Dr. Rodney and he came up to give his sermon. Dr. Rodney is not a very big man. I’m not really sure how old he is, as he has a young looking face, but he really got into his sermon. Dr. Rodney spoke on the difference between being a follower of Jesus and being a disciple of Jesus. I was glad to be able to pick up the odd word here and there that is the same in French and Kreyol. Dr. Rodney did a great job. He spoke so passionately about the hardships of following Jesus but also the rewards that will come from it. One thing that I found amusing was that when Haitians say Christ in Kreyol, they don’t pronounce the “t” so it sounds like Chris. When I pointed it out, Erin told me not to get a big head. After the service, we said goodbye and got back into the van.
I forgot to mention, that on the way to the church, I was sitting in the back of the van with Gordon and Wadner. I kept seeing signs that said Pap Pa Da, so I asked Wadner what it was for. He explained that it is one of the slogans for the cellphone company Voila and the Direk Direk was the slogan for Digitel. There is also a third company in Haiti, but they are not as big as the other two. Wadner told us mover about the cellphone services in Haiti. Then Gordon asked him about the signs with the cat eyes that said Patane. Wadner laughed and told him that they were a brand of condoms. Gordon’s face went pretty red!
After the church service, we were spending the day at a hotel, the Roi Christophe, for lunch and a swim in the pool. It was nice that Dr. Rodney and his family along with Wadner joined us. When we got there Julie showed us around and we got changed for a jump in the pool. I spent quite a bit of time in the pool. Wadner was learning to swim and asked us to swim beside him to pull him up if he was having trouble. He got to about 2 feet away from the wall when he couldn’t take another breathe, so I grabbed under his arm and pulled him to the wall. Dr. Rodney’s two little boys were loving the pool and were playing with Julie and Hannah. After my swim I got out to lay in the sun and read. At about 12:30 PM, it was time for lunch in the dinning room. I ordered the Kreyol chicken and a Coke. They also had a big plate of rice with bean sauce and french fries to pass around the table. the food was excellent and everyone was stuffed. We went back to the pool after some more reading and sunning. We hopped back into the van and Julie drove us home. That’s strange. I wasn’t really thinking about what I was writing and home popped out. I’m feeling very comfortable here in Haiti now. With the walk through Cite de Pup and the church services, I’ve felt a greater connection to the people of Haiti.
When we got back, I showered and got changed. There was a church service at the radio station for the missionaries. Chris and Barb decided to go, the rest of us stayed back and did some more writing in our journals. At 6 PM, we had supper in the Holiday House. the ladies had left a macaroni salad for us.
After supper, Jane and Bud joined us for a debriefing of the week. Since we were working so well together and progressing faster than anticipated, there were a couple of scheduling changes. Most of us went around to tell about what part of the week we liked and what could have been changed. I mentioned that our walk through Cite de Pup was the greatest birthday present I could ever have received. It opened my eyes and let me see into the hearts of the people of Haiti. We got to share smiles and shake hands. I would say that it was a turning point in my trip and hopefully my life. Jane also told us that we’ve gone out more than some other groups in a week and that being in the city and walking with the people is more help than anything that we could ever build. The Haitian people might not have much, but they have deep relationships with their family and friends. A nice house with lots of stuff isn’t important to them. A home is only for sleeping, the rest of the day is spent outside. I think that it’s the relationships that are most important. Jane mentioned that in the Haitian culture, people are really hurt when they are not said hi to. When we were travelling down the road, I kept seeing people and kids especially, holding plastic bags about the size of a ziploc sandwich bag. It wasn’t until we were in church that I found out that they are bags of water. There was a little girl drinking from one and had the word Krystal on it. You don’t really see many plastic bottles of water, just bags.
After the debriefing, Jane taught us how to play Golf with Skip-bo cards. We played a bunch of hands with Jane. When Jane left we switched to playing “Janitor”. By about 10 PM, we called it quits and Gordon, Erin and I went for a walk around the compound. The power had gone off and no one had turned on the generator yet, so it was dark outside. Fortunately, the moon was full and the sky was fairly clear. We said good night to Erin and went off to bed.