Monday, March 13, 2017

February Church Roundup

February 24th: We headed to the little road just across the river to a large building, half full. When we arrived at 7:00 am, they were already singing their last few songs before the sermon.  It was a breath of fresh air to see that there were no jumbo, over-powering speakers to help with the process of hearing damage.  It seemed like everyone was participating in the singing, which was led by a young woman.  All the women wore something to cover their heads. (Head coverings were the norm for women in Haiti until fairly recently. Now, for the ones who still hold to this value, it doesn't always matter what the covering is made of either. I've seen it all, it seems. Any scarf, Lacey thing, T-shirt, children's pants, stocking caps, ball caps, or even wash cloths are consider adequate for covering.) 

After Pastor Bazalet gave his usual introduction and shared what a "great sacrifice" Barry has made to come live in Haiti, Barry's 90-minute sermon held the full attention of the congregation.  Afterward, the pastor stood up to reiterate what Barry shared.  "Usually we don't have anything to do with Americans," he said, "but it was a blessing to hear one preach the truth." 

February 17: A large group meeting in an old brick structure, squeezed tightly into the bustling town of Mouri, about a half hour north of our house. The building itself was only feet away from the blacktop, but the tight quarters meant the only place large enough to park was a fair distance down the dirt lane that ran nearby. Approaching the church on foot, we could not actually see the building until we had squeezed through a single file alley between other buildings, and stood in the small, paved courtyard just outside. Tne church seemed to have been added onto. A side wing that looked like it was still under construction allowed several more people to sit and participate. As we took our seats on the last available bench, we quickly realized we had to spread out evenly and try to keep our weight towards the ends, or the on remaining board may not hold our weight. I couldn't help but notice the pile of rocks in the back of the room, implying there was still work planned. I wonder if we would ever consider it viable to meet for worship in a building that was still under construction. Many, many churches here do this for years and years, simply for lack of funding. 

Barry delivered a practical message, using simple explanations and examples to paint a picture of holy living that was easy to understand. There was a small group of Americans visiting as well, workkng with the children's home that this church operates. 

February 11th: A somewhat familiar church. Barry has spent a lot of time with this pastor and having Bible studies at this church. Before we left for furlough, Barry had bumped into the pastor at the market. He was beaming. He joyfully told Barry that he was a changed man, and he was going to start getting his church in order. He didn't care if everyone left.  Well, a few months later there's not an empty seat in the house. 

February 4th: The "fancy" church. It stands tall in the village of LaDigue. For nearly a year it was a place that Barry said he would hope to be able to preach, but didn't see it as a very likely possibility. It turned out that one of the young men working on the house is a faithful member, and arranged to opportunity. Despite the grandeur of the structure, it was one of the smallest congregations we've seen. I haven't quite figured out exactly what draws people to one church over another, but it often seems like the more humble church houses are bursting at the seems. Of course, many of them have money for loudspeakers, drum sets, and everything it takes to have a good time during the music portion, and that does draw a crowd. This particular church was more on the mild side. 

This was Piker's first opportunity to translate a Sunday message. Josnel wasn't coming, so I suggested he give Piker a chance. He was evidently very nervous, but the message went forth nonetheless. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Putting the Roof on (and other scenes from the week)

 Recently a group of three dozen or so were down for a week, both for Rameau's wedding and to put the roof on the mission house. Without many words, because our internet signal is currently strong enough to do so, here are some glimpses of the week in photos.

With the roof finished, the mission house is nearing completion.
Darla is familiar with the Haitian concept of "Degaje," which means to "make do." She's using a utility knife to cut meat to serve to the large group.
Rameau's tap-tap was one of the ways everyone went from place to place.

Sorting clothes to be taken up the mountain

Friday, March 10, 2017

Maryaj de Rameau & Helene

Last Saturday was another first for us, but this time it was a pleasant experience. There are many long-term relationships in Haiti, but rarely do they lead to law-binding, God-honoring marriage. Since most committed couples, even those with several children, are joined only by their life situation and a statement of commitment, the wedding of our friends Rameau ("Ramos") and Helene was the first one we've seen.

Rameau, being the generous giver that he is, was busy the week before with wedding errands and preparations, but still made time to help us out with transporting the large group that was visiting from home, or any other thing that was asked of him.  There were many similarities to the way things are done back home.  When the wedding day come, we headed over to Rameau's house to pick him up, with several of our neighbors dressed in full suits riding along. Rameau was also dressed to the tilt in several fancy layers, complete with white gloves. I'm always amazed at the way they can dress up that way but never complain about being too hot.

When we arrived at the church building, Helene was already there waiting. This in itself was a blessing. We've heard there's a "tradition" that the bride shows up late to her own wedding, so she can make a big entrance for herself when she so chooses. We were glad to see her desire to be humble and keep the whole event simple and Christ-like.

The ceremony included many of the brothers visiting from the States. It began with an introduction from the officiating pastor, then an opening prayer by Dan, and scripture reading by Nate. A friend of Helene was on the program to sing a special solo, but for some reason she announced with hand gestures that it wasn't going to happen. The congregation then sang a beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" in French. Barry shared a sermon that was a perfect mix of love, appropriately enough, and the need for Christ in all our lives. 

The couple exchanged vows while nervously and seriously looking into each other's eyes.  It was evident by their demeanor that this commitment was not something to be taken lightly, and its a good thing.  The large group of youth from ACCF went to the front to sing a couple of songs. In the middle of the first song, the officiating pastor announced over the mic that the couple would sign the marriage certificate while the choir sang. However, since he announced it in Creole, nobody that was singing knew what he said, and the song quickly tapered off into silence.  Several parents tried to signal them to continue singing. After a long minute of looking around wondering what was going on, they began another song while the witnesses came forward to also sign the documents. Denny and James also prayed and offered a word of blessing for the bride and groom.

Signing the Marriage Documents

"Best Man" Dan

The pastor announced the couple officially married, and Mart said a final prayer.  "Before we finish," the pastor said, "there's one more thing we need to do. It is something very important for a wedding in Haiti." The close family members in the front row knew exactly what was about to happen, and they all left their seats to gather around the couple in front, with cameras ready.  After a loud count to three, Rameau and Helene had to exchange their first married kiss in front of everyone.  I never asked them just how they felt about that little tradition.

Leaving together as a married couple.

We all headed over to the tidied up, yet incomplete mission house for a short reception. Several ladies had worked hard to prepare a lovely spread of all kinds of special Haitian food. The bride and groom didn't stay long, but got their food in a take-out box and headed to their new home to enjoy it together.

It sounds as though they've really enjoyed their first week together.  They were gifted with a two night stay at Kaliko, the local beach resort. They returned to work shortly thereafter. Before the wedding, Helene desired to keep her job at the nearby orphanage, knowing she really enjoyed working there. It only took a few days, though, before she was ready to "stay home and take care of her husband" in her words.

Overall, it was a blessing of a day. We are pleased to see them take their commitment to each other seriously and desire to honor God with their lives. Since their home is the next one over from the mission house, we look forward to being able to spend even more time with them soon.

Violence and Political Unrest

Some of our previous posts have shared a little bit about the road blocks that occur on a somewhat regular basis in and around our area.  Last week, the chaos began with more fervor than anything we've yet seen around here. There's a lot of political unrest over the district that is Arcahaie. From what we hear, the federal government has proposed a notion to take away Arcahaie's title as a district (or whatever the correct translation is) because there can only be so many of these districts throughout the country and they would like to create a new one up north. This would also mean a loss of all of the little tax money they receive to function.

To put it lightly, people are pretty upset about it. We have seen some peaceful protests, but there is always the group that likes to take the violent approach.  After the first bizarre couple of days of numerous vehicles and tires sent up in flames, guns fired, and "the blacktop" backed up for miles, law enforcement stepped in.  The police and UN troops are both out in full force along the main road.  Armored vehicles with fully-automatic machine guns, helicopters overhead, and guns in every hand are on standby in order to prevent the chaos from continuing. They have announced that they're not afraid to shoot anyone who gets out of line.

Schools are not in session, stores are closed, and the usually very busy streets are mostly vacant near and on the blacktop. All of this prevention has caused the gangs to be upset about their inability to wreak havoc, so they said, "tomorrow, we'll call on the voodoo powers." Thankfully, we heard or saw nothing of anything really coming of it. For now, on Friday, people are still very cautious, but starting to ease back out toward the blacktop. We are prayerful that no unprepared lives will be lost by all of this, and that the whole ordeal can be resolved peaceably.

Troops and police guard a protest.

A burnt flat-bed truck, still loaded with bags of concrete that never made it to the job-site.

What's left of the dozens of tires that were burnt in the streets. The police have done a lot to keep things cleaned up, which helps keep a sense of peace and tells the trouble-makers they aren't accomplishing anything.