TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
January 1, 2006
At the close of the evening service on Christmas Day, little Kendy (one of the boys of the orphanage) walked towards me with tears streaming down both cheeks. He did not speak a word, but I knew the tears were for his father. He was remembering one year ago his father’s death from starvation. He welcomed my embrace and stayed in my arms for several minutes. No words were needed. The warmth of someone who cared was all that was required.
Holiday time this year in Haiti has brought back memories of my first visits to this little island. I used to say that I could tell that I was in Haiti with my eyes closed. I could tell Haiti by its smell. That is still the case, but now the smells AND the sounds are what intrigue me. Just before Christmas, I could hear this repetitive thud, pause, thud, pause. I went out onto my balcony to see if I could determine where the sound was coming from. I narrowed down the noise as coming from the rooftop of a neighboring home. I could partially see a man working on something behind the huge water container on his roof. I moved from one position to the next trying to get a better look. Ah! The man was using a machete and I could see fur. The man was preparing a freshly slaughtered goat for his family. As with many other families, Christmas meals are special and the purchase of a whole goat is a treat that will not only feed the family for days but also will cause the cost of goat meat to soar. The poorer families may dine on cat during the holidays. I am told that the aroma of a cat cooking is wonderful. If one did not know what was being cooked, and tasted it, they would want to return for more of the tasty morsels. I am not quite convinced of that fact!
Haitian music is another sound that cannot be missed! Not the “missed” as in you just gotta hear it, but the “missed” as in you cannot avoid it. Music is everywhere and at every hour of the day or night – LOUD music to be exact! Radios are blaring from speakers out into the road so that whole neighborhoods can hear the beat. Radios are blasting from empty homes so that occupants who are visiting their neighbor’s houses, four doors down the street, won’t miss a thing. The nightclub in town has speakers with such amplification that one either is rhythmically rocked to sleep or overtaken by music-induced insomnia. It seems the only person who does not enjoy the volume inflicted on them is me, a person who enjoys easy listening songs or upbeat gospel music! Church is one place a happy medium can be found for my music tastes and for the tastes of my Haitian friends – loud, joyful, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, dance-prompting praises! A glimpse, I am certain, of the kind of praising we will be doing in Heaven!
A special New Year’s Eve tea is prepared for the midnight church worshippers. It is brewed in a huge pot for several hours prior to its consumption. The recipe includes a generous portion of cinnamon that tantalizes the nostrils long before the brew is offered as a holiday treat!
Sounds of the night and early morn serve as reminders that I am not in the country of my birth. Throughout the night, the incessant barking of dogs can be heard. How is it that they never become hoarse? The goats are always getting their two cents in, along with the roosters. Some have a serious need of time-telling classes, as it is not anywhere near dawn when they prompt their vocal cords into full gear. The chime of the church bell at 5AM is actually a welcome and soothing sound, but a reminder that the sleep of night was far too short!
Closely following on the heels of dawn are the sounds of children on the soccer field. The thump of the makeshift ball on the dusty turf, the competitive shouts of the more experienced players, and the squeals of delight at a goal being made are just one more reason for me to resign myself that indeed it is time to get out of bed.
I relish the rare days where I can breathe in the fresh morning air while sitting on my balcony. Most days, fresh is not a part of my vocabulary. Usually the remnants of last night’s garbage-burning fire still lingers or the scents of a freshly ignited cooking fire wafts its way to my nostrils from the ground level up to my second floor dwelling.
Each day that I am here I try to remind myself what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to live in a culture that is so different than mine and also, at times, so similar to mine. There are still times that I look around at the world that I am currently living in and cannot believe that I am actually here … seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and experiencing the things that I am. I thank God for the people I have met here, the lessons I am being taught, the failures I have experienced and the joys that have been delivered to me. I wonder if I am making a difference or is it in me that the differences need to be made? I suspect it is a combination of both. More than once, I need to remember words that are attributed to Mother Teresa: “I can do no great things, only small things with great love!” Jesus makes that possible, not only at home but also in a country, such as Haiti, that is so in need of God’s great love!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic
Until next time ………….