Communiqué #113 TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY to the PEOPLE of HAITI April 12, 2015
A N E W B E G I N N I N G
What a glorious weekend it was! What a sight to behold! Witnessing the marriage of 21 couples in a mass wedding on a tiny island in Haiti was the culmination of many months of planning and preparing by Grace Ministries of Île-à-Vache. A mission team and I were blessed to be a part of this incredible weekend!
For years, we have heard of couples on this little isle that wanted to marry but could not afford a beautiful bridal gown, a suit for the groom, rings for the couples or a reception for family and friends. Before plans went into full swing, a marriage seminar was held several months prior to teach the couples about Christian marriage. Following the seminar the couples were asked if they would like to make a commitment to marriage. Many, many said, “Yes! We want to get married!” And with that … a plan to make it happen started to take shape. Through the generosity of many friends, all the obstacles were overcome and a real wedding was made possible. Donations came in many forms. We received gently used bridal gowns and veils and men’s suits, wedding bands, flowers for bridal bouquets, decorations for the church, photographs of the couples, cake mixes and cake pans, candy favors and monetary donations for a celebratory meal for the newlywed couples and a food treat for the hundreds and hundreds of guests.
It seemed fitting that the weddings would take place on March 21 – the first day of spring – the day of new beginnings! Some of the bridal couples walked 5 hours, from the other side of the island, in time to change into their wedding attire prior to the mid-morning wedding. The grooms were like many others, as they sat on a bench out-of-the-way of the brides who were taking much too long to get ready. The brides would eventually emerge from the school classroom where they had make-up applied and the dresses and veils were adjusted to perfection. All ages of brides appeared with a glow on their faces as they were finally able to experience this special day. For at least one couple, which had been together over 30 years, this day was a day that they would be celebrating both with children and grandchildren!
The grooms waiting for their brides!
Sauvnette – one of the beautiful brides!
Preparations for this big event started taking place at least 3 days before the event. The professor for the culinary arts/cosmetology classes of our Trade School was put in charge of many things. He and his students literally worked three days and three nights to get everything ready. They used ONE propane-powered stove/oven to prepare three tier cakes and over 900 cupcakes. They prepared the “fancy” meal for the newlywed couples. They decorated the bridal reception room that was held in a school classroom and also joined the missionary team in decorating the church – a task that would be an interesting combination of Haitian & American decorating techniques. For the brides, they styled hair and gave manicures & pedicures (using a good old-fashioned 5 gallon pail for the foot bath).
One of the tier cakes prepared by the students of Grace TRADE School!
People from all over the island, as well as people from the mainland and others who had traveled from other countries to witness this ceremony, had begun arriving long before the wedding was to take place. So many people came it was soon evident that a vast majority of them would not be able to fit inside the church. Appointed people were in charge of not letting any guests into the church until the bridal procession of all of the couples and their “parans” and “marans” was in place outside the church and the start of the service was imminent. When the doors opened, the crush of people vying for a seat was a bit daunting. In the end, even the aisles of the church were crowded with people standing tightly woven together and a multitude of people were left to find a place outside where there might be some hope of at least hearing the service. But hearing the start of the service was impossible, both for the people outside the church and those inside. People who could not get into the church were loudly protesting the fact that they would not be able to enter. The service started anyway with several choirs sharing musical numbers and finally the vows of the couples being exchanged.
Hundreds and hundreds of guests arrived!
No matter what, anything that did not go perfectly on this day did not spoil the day. It was a glorious day for all of these special couples!
As a “maran” for one of the couples, I was invited to be a part of the bridal meal that was served. A not-so-typical meal was served to the couples that usually dine on rice & beans or less. It was at this point in the day that an oxymoron thought began tumbling through my mind. I observed a bride refusing to eat anything of the specially prepared meal, but rather, looking out of the room in search of her hungry children she called them in one-by-one to feed them morsels from her plate. Only when they all had received something to eat did she chose something for herself. There was no food left on her plate, but she was able to salvage chicken bones from some of the other brides and feasted on the marrow of the bones. The luxuriousness of this day and the of eating a special meal was impossible for this mother to enjoy as on a daily basis she struggles to have food to feed her children.
Following the wedding and the reception, we were invited to attend a few open houses in the community. Some families chose to have an additional celebration at their homes for their close family and friends. The homes were small, but the largest room was cleared for the setup up of a very large array of food! I am sure that the family budget for the month was all spent on this special occasion, but nonetheless a celebration like this does not happen very often and families were willing to make the sacrifice to share their joy with their family and friends. Outside the family homes, people would stand under mango trees or crowd on a borrowed school bench to enjoy the food on their plates. It was a joy to be a part of the happiness of the day!
An array of food was served at an open house in the community!
One would think that no more joy could be packed into one weekend, but what occurred early the next morning only added to the “incredibleness” of the weekend. Fourteen people were baptized in the Caribbean Sea just prior to the Sunday morning worship service. At least one bride was baptized and one of the team members who had been adopted from Haiti when he was a baby was also baptized! What a glorious reminder of yet another new beginning! Again, what a privilege to have shared in this wonderful weekend!
An early Sunday morning baptism in the Caribbean Sea!
What a great God we have!
If you wish to view additional photos of this weekend, copy and paste these links to view
Nora Léon Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………