Just before we left Haiti at the end of October, the family of our neighbor, Alice, finally completed funeral arrangements and laid her body to rest. It was everything typical of a "proper" Haitian funeral, and everything we would consider to be completely improper in the States. There was a brief time to view the body before the service started, which was also the time for family photos around the casket. Then began the wailing and crying. Most of this bemoaning was done by the women, some of which were family who seemed to never take any interest in Alice's well-being while she was still living. Now, though, they were devastated.
The crying stopped upon the entrance of a brass band, playing cheerful, celebration-type music. So many people were packed into the tiny church building that many were standing in back, and dozens more waited and listened outside. The crowd in back parted as a line of young men squeezed through, dancing their way up the center aisle and then to the front of the church. All decked out in hip-hop gear and their faces half-covered by aviator shades, they put on an MTV type show in semi-unison at the front of the building.. After the young men filed out, a group of girls took their turn. Their shimmery blue uniform skirts swayed as they performed their moves to the music of the brass band. One young man in an all-white sailor suit directed it all, blowing a whistle to indicate when to march, when to dance, and when to stop.
The funeral service itself wasn't long. The pastor of the hosting church shared an introduction and prayer, followed by one of Alice's great- grandsons sharing a brief story of her life. When it was Barry's time to preach, he knew it had to be quick and powerful. It was almost entirely an "unchurched" crowd, and it was obvious. He had been told to keep it short, so the Lord gave him the words he needed to speak in his allotted time.
When the service ended, it was time to begin the half-mile funeral procession on foot. The band, the dancers, the crowd, and the casket all proceeded down the rocky path toward Alice's home, where the tomb was built and ready for the burial. As the trumpets blared and the drums kept time, all the dancers spun and bounced their way along. From our perspective, what seems to be the strangest tradition they have is rocking the casket up and down to the rythm of the music, almost dancing with it in a ceremonial way. The pastor had a brief time of prayer at the burial-site, and Alice was slid into the tomb, the first of many family members that will likely follow after her in the same hole.
Months ago, one of Alice's great grandsons, Will, said that he would become a Christian after the funeral. Now, over a month later, he's still not ready to give up and give his life to Christ. Last night as Barry spoke with him, he was clear that he's not there, but knows where he needs to be. In a way, he has a better chance than many people around us who, simply by going to church, believe they are Christians on the right track. Will sees the hypocrisy in that and doesn't want to profess anything unless he's truly converted. He's at the top of our prayer list!
Back on the Mission Field
Our first week back in Haiti has been a reality check and a reminder that, well, we're back in Haiti. We've been without a truck, Barry's been terribly sick with an unknown bug of some sort, we've run out of diesel fuel, water, and almost out of toilet paper. Katie Yoder is back with us and joining in the battle, including the big fight against the cockroaches that did their best to take over while we were gone. One of their favorite places to reproduce was in the boxes of gospel tracts and literature we keep on hand. The motorcycle has been sufficing in getting Barry back and forth to a few places he's had the strength to go, but he returns home worse off than when he left. Part of his running has been to work with 20 or so locals in the building of a wall around the parcel of land that was purchased for a future mission house.
The drama really exploded earlier this week with one of the families we've been working with for quite sometime. A 20 year old girl with no parents had been living with her aunt and her aunt's family, but they kicked her out because they were convinced she was telling us bad things about them. It was revealed that the girl's parents were killed by witchcraft spells that were imposed by this same family. When Barry called a meeting witc
h them and their pastor to get to the bottom of everything, the aunt got so angry with the girl that she
picked up a dense two-foot-long stick with several sharp protrusions and began beating the girl over the head with it, accusing her of lying. Who can we believe? Everyone wants the upper hand, and it seems they'll do anything to get it. A few different, uninvolved Haitians said "maybe they will kill her" when they heard what happened. We're doing what we can to help this girl and prepare her for eternity.
We did enjoy a small, impromptu children's Bible lesson here on our porch. We had some booklets that briefly spelled out the death and resurrection of Jesus in English. We had Peter goal through each page and translate it for them, and he took it a step further and really elaborated and shared the gospel with the children. It was really a blessing to see him so willingly jump in
and start teaching with such zeal. They all took their booklet and a small box of crayons home with
them. Despite having children coming and going all the time, it's hard to get them settled down and organized to actually share with them in that way.
Pray for us as we try to get the ball rolling again here. We look forward to what the Lord has in the coming months. There are several churches on the schedule, and Barry's ready to get back to teaching and preaching.