Getting to the Island
"It's time to go! We'll miss the boat if we don't leave now," Barry announced as we scrambled to finish a quick lunch. We were trying our best to savor it, despite the rush, knowing it may be our last real meal of the weekend. It was Saturday at noon, and Aneuse and his friend Josnel had just pulled in on the motorcycle ready to head for the boat dock with us. Pastor Bazelet, whom Barry had met during his first trip to Haiti, had arranged for him to preach at a church on the Island of Gonave. We had been a bit uncertain as to whether or not the whole family would go along, but we decided to trust the Lord and tough it out if is what was called for. We had no idea what to expect with sleeping conditions, what food would be available, or what exactly the weekend would entail, but off we went, happy that Daddy wasn't going to be away without us until Monday.
In a bit of a rush to get to the dock in time, Barry was focused on the road and on a mission to get to the destination. Suddenly there was a hefty tap on the back window signaling that it was time to stop as Pastor Bazelet was at the roadside waiting for us. We stopped in front of a fairly busy road, the pastor jumped in, and, uh oh. No clutch. We were stuck. The locals were starting to look and wonder why we weren't moving. Some were getting impatient and starting to holler as we were blocking the way for a "taptap" to leave and get on the main road. Soon enough all three of our Haitian accomplises were out of the back of the truck and pushing to the other side of the road, just far enough to be out of the main stream of traffic.
We called a mechanic, and he and a couple of others arrived on a motorcycle. Once our translator was able to help communicate the problem, they tore into things, got out the suspected part, and two of them were off to get a replacement. The chidlren were quickly getting tired of sitting in the hot car, but Katie and I were doing our best to keep them occupied while we waited. Barry was able to sit and talk to the one remaining mechanic, and ironically, he knew many of the people we also know here in Haiti, mostly through connections with Lifeline. After two hours of trying to savor our very limited water, handing out a few gospel tracts, and an unexpcted expense for the weekend, we were off again, still very thankful for a nice truck to drive,and trying to catch the next departure time. I was already wondering what the Lord had in store for the next two days.
Arriving at the parking area near where the boats come and go, we sighed a bit of relief that we had made it, but it was evident that just finding a place to park would present an entirely new challenge. With the help of some of the employees and some others who just wanted us out of the way, Barry carefully squeezed the truck into a downhill, narrow spot, and we were off to the races toward the dock. We had all been thinking how good bananas sounded, and here the entire dock was lined with Haitian women displaying their beautiful produce, mostly mangoes and bananas. "Fig! Fig!" They shouted as they presented us with their hard work. I wanted to doddle and admire and pick up and armload of bananas, but another shout from ahead kept me moving.
"Let's go! Let's go! Come on!" a Haitian man directed us toward the boat. We could see that it was already completely packed, and it didn't seem there was any way the eight of us and our backpacks could still fit. Aneuse had been ahead of me and Barry, carrying Abram. My heart jumped when I heard, "There goes Abram." Through the crowds and confusion I could see that litte Abram had been handed off to a stanger and was moving onto the crowded boat, and Aneuse soon followed. I am fairly certian that I heard the man keeping the traffic flow coming now saying, "That's all, no more." I was still on the dock and my little boy was in the hands of strangers, terrified and screaming for his parents. Barry jumped on the boat just as I was telling the man, "That's my baby!" and pointing at Abram. "Yes, come, come," he directed, and Katie, David, and I were soon leaping our way onto the crowded boat as well. Barry finally managed to grab Abram, who was now clenching tight around his daddy's neck. The man giving orders directed us to "sit up there" as he pointed to two unidentified items. I contorted myself to sit tightly in on top of a large plactic bag that felt like it was full of clothes, while Katie ended up on a large, round item covered in several layers of fabric. There was very little foot room, and we couldn't have stood up at that point if we wanted to.
After a few more people squeezed their way into the very tight quarters, the boat finally started moving toward the anticipated island. Out on the open water, the breeze was refreshing and the gentle waves quickly put both boys to sleep on our laps. We did our best to keep readjusting, trying to make sure our limbs weren't falling asleep with the contorted positions we were sitting in. We discussed how Paul's travels were so often on boats across the sea, and recalled our childhood history lessons of how the early pilgrims were packed tight onto ships for months, many of them not surviving the unfit living conditions. We were thankful our trip was expected to be a short one, and the occasional splash of sea water was keeping us fairly cool. The motor died several times, leaving us relying on the sail to push that old boat loaded with hundreds of people through the ocean. It gave us plenty of time to check out our surroundings. We were seperated from Anuese, so conversation was quite limited with the Haitains around us. Katie and I were trying to figure out what we were sitting on. I had determined that her round, hard item felt like a car rim. I just couldn't figure out why it was covered in so much material.
For a long time, it didn't seem like the island was ever getting any closer, but a two hour journey finally brought us to the dock on the other side. The mob of people scrambled to jump off, but we hung back so as not to get trampled while trying to carry small children. As we were moving away from where we had sat, a Haitian woman came from the other end of the boat looking a bit upset, shooing us away from the "car rim" and and saying something we, of course, could not understand. When we were off the boat and trying to get our group organized, the same woman approached us with a man carrying the item. They set it on the ground in front of us and quickly started unwrapping it. Bananas. That "car rim" was a tub full of beatiful Haitian bananas, and at least half of them were smashed. I knew we were about to be buying them, but I was thankful that, well, at least we'd have plenty for the weekend. As soon as an amount was settled on and the transaction was made, hands came in from every direction to snatch up the "free" bananas. We managed to walk away with a few pounds of them, and I was glad we'd at least have something for breakfast. Well, Praise the Lord for taking care of us in unexpected ways.
With our backpacks, diaper bag, and semi-smashed bananas in tow, we piled in a little black pickup and started accross town for the house we'd be sleeping in. I was surprised to see that the street was smooth and paved with decorative block down the main stretch. We made several turns and after 10 or 15 minutes arrived at a home with a wall and gated drive. We were sighing relief and praising the Lord to see that we'd be staying in a house that was more or less closed off from the rats, had a good roof, and a bed to sleep on. We had enough time to get settled in for the evening, and made supper of our pretzels and corn chips that (thankfully) other folks had left behind at the house.
Getting to Church
We awoke early the next morning after a scorching hot, restless night (yes, we're spoiled with fans and good ventilation at our house). On our way out the door, we went for the smooshed bananas, but they had already disappeared. It turned out we were able to help feed some of the other Haitians staying there. Departure time was scheduled for 6:00 am, since it would take some time to get to church. I had no idea what time the service was actually supposed to start, so Katie and I, holding Abram and David in the front seat with our Haitian driver while Barry and several others were piled in back, rode along not knowing what to expect. We headed through the town we were staying in, and the roads quickly turned to the rocks and dirt we were familar with in Haiti. We bumped along into another town, and I thought perhaps this was where we would have services. We kept passing several churches, however, and soon we were out of that town and back into the rocky countryside, bouncing along and honking at goats to clear the road. We slowly got further and further away from town, and it seemed like further and further away from any sort of civilization. The road got worse and worse as we went. Several times the driver had to use four-wheel drive to get through. It had been nearly two hours in the truck, and even the motorbike traffic had died off. There was a tap on the back window that we had missed a turn. What turn? I didn't even see another road. After the sudden stop, the truck died and didn't want to start back up. Again, all 9 men were out and a good push start got it going again. We made the turn onto a "road" that was more like a path that was so uneven and rocky I thought a donkey would have trouble making it. Futher and further we ventured, weeds and trees growing up in the path. We wondered how there could possibly be any people out here, let alone a church body waiting to hear a sermon. There were no signs of houses anywhere.
The path was finally deemed unpassable, and the truck came to a stop next to a foot path just off to our right. We gathered our belongings and set off on foot, still not seeing anything to even be headed toward. Down a hill and around a row of trees, there it sat. There was a partialonstructed, block church building sitting completely alone in the middle of a large open area. As we got closer we could hear singing coming from below the temporary tarp roof. Beni swa a la'eternal! We made it!
e finished and closed, Pastor Bazelet offered and invitation. Three women came to the front desiring to turn their hearts to Christ. We are prayerful that it was communicated well enough for them to understand the need for repentance and a broken and contrite heart. May these women be truly freed from sin and surrendered fully to Jesus.
We were invited to take a walk with some of the church body, and the mystery of where all these people came from was soon solved. A hundred or so yards further down the footpath, a little fishing village sat quietly on the shore of the island. It seemed as though most of the access, little as it was, was likely done by water rather than land. They showed us briefly around the village, and we admired God's creation at a beautiful, clear spring that flowed from underground and and into the ocean. It formed a small swimming hole that several young boys jumped in as soon as we arrived. We were treated to their best, as a basket of cold sodas came out from one of the homes to be shared with us.
It was soon time to make the trek back to the house. The children were again exhausted, hot, and terribly hungry. I tried to satisfy their (and mommy-feeding-two) appetites with more pretzels and corn chips, but after no supper and no breakfast, we were shutting down. We were thankful to count out that we had just enough money to get us some gas station food from nearby, a few waters, and still have just enough to pay for the boat ride for all of us to get home. Sunday evening, the men had some much-needed fellowship time. Barry was encouraged to hear that he and Pastor Bazelet share much of the same vision and biblical doctrine.
Despite our efforts and inquiries to return to the mainland and our much more comfortable living situations, we stayed another night on the island. We were anxious for a showers, water to drink, and fans to sleep in front of, but there were no boats running on Sunday. Despite our cell phones being dead and having no idea of the time, we were on the boat that left at 6am Monday morning. This time it was a much larger, American-owned boat with many more passengers. We were packed tight inside a steamy room with little ventilation, but we were quite thankful and optimistic about heading back to familiar surroundings.
I hadn't quite realized how much we had adapted to calling this rental "home" until we spent some time away from it. It's easy to take for granted our supply of drinking water and a plentiful supply of beans to cook when we're hungry. The trip was full of little flesh-killers, and if nothing else,we're all the more thankful for what we've been given for our long-term stay here in Haiti. I and the children spent the day back trying to rest and rehydrate, while Barry had more things that needed straightened out before he finally took a few minutes to sit down.
Other Opportunities Since Our Last Update
Pastor Bazelet has been busy for months talking to other pastors about Barry's vision for Haiti and arranging opportunities for him. Last week he met with a group of area pastors in Port-au-Prince and was able share quite a bit with them. The plan is to continue meeting with pastors all over Haiti, teaching them the importance of discipling their young men and wathcing over their flocks.
Friday evening we met for Bible study with a group from the church where we attended last Sunday. It was mostly women in attendance, and there were mixed reactions when Barry read 1 Timothy 2. There were a host of questions on modesty, how to handle an unconverted husband, and what to do in this and that situation. The pot was stirred a bit when he read straight from the word of God about women remaining silent in the church. What we've seen a lot of so far is women taking charge of the worship and speaking in front of the body. One in this particular group that does so stood up and said, "I don't like you because you said women should be quiet in church." The Word does it's own convicting of the soul. Overall, it seemed to be a fuitful Bible study, and the pastor has asked if Barry could come back every Friday at 4:00.
It has been a long week, and we feel we were all stretched and stregthened in our faith. Please keep praying for open doors, and that God will continue to bless our time here! We have been here for one month, and are thankful that God is always faithful. Also ,pray that we can learn the language, as it seems Barry is not finding as much time as he would like to learn it.
May God richly bless each one of you!!
Bondye bon tout tan.