Friday, June 30, 2017

Fresh Mountain Air

It's surprising how easily we can re-adapt to the way things are at home in the US, even for a short visit. Upon returning to Haiti from our three-week stay in Ohio, I was surprised at myself for having a bit of culture shock all over again as soon as we left the airport in Port-Au-Prince. It was spring in the Midwest.  The pastures were lush and green, surrounded by neat orderly fences, where plump, healthy animals happily grazed.  Farmers were cutting thick hay, and gardeners were tending their tidy rows of freshly sprouted vegetables, while flowers adorned the green, well-manicured lawns that surround nearly every home. Spring is beautiful in the Midwest. All of that scenery along with the calm, seemingly empty roadways give a stark contrast to what ensues the minute we stepped off the plane.

There are people everywhere. People people people.  There is hardly room to move through the airport. Everyone wants to be first. Hundreds of people are waiting outside the airport for their loved ones. Scores of vehicles are haphazardly jammed into the undersized parking lot. It took 20 minutes and three people watching all the angles just to back out of the parking space. When we finally get out, the streets aren't much better. There are no traffic signals or stop signs. The only rule that permits any movement is that everyone drives on the right side of the road (mostly.)  There is no description for the smell. Clogged sewer pipes are being dug out, and the grey sludge is heaped along the roadways,  adding to the trash that already carpets the landscape.  It's not uncommon to see bony cows rummaging through the heaps, right with all the pitiful looking dogs that run around scavenging, just trying to survive.

All of this, though, still isn't the most shocking contrast. The reminder of why we're here is painted on the public transportation vehicles. A vibrant rainbow of colors are the backdrop for various people  and  faces. Typically, the paintings  are hip-hop artists, various nude women, and then there's always a place for an artist's depiction of Jesus.  There is a cultural mentality that stems from voodoo heritage which gives  reverence to various spirits and gods. Jesus is one of the good ones that will help to protect them through the rigors of life, so "If I say I love and trust Jesus on my tap-tap or on my store, I'll be blessed."

The fruit of this mindset is clearly seen in the churches in the cities and big towns. When there's an opportunity to visit a church in the mountain, however, it's a breath of fresh air. Not only is the air cleaner,  the chaos subsided, and the scenery beautiful, but the people are different, too, as these groups still remain mostly unscathed from the influence of the world.  Such was the case with Barry's trips into the mountain this time around.

The team shared at revival meetings at a church in the southern part of Haiti near Jacmel last week. Since it was an evening service and such a long drive from home, they stayed over night for the start of the week. By Thursday night, they decided to make the trip home in the dark, arriving safely between midnight and one a.m.  During these meetings, Barry was in the heat of an intense sermon about being ready to suffer  persecution, or even die, for Christ's sake.  He hadn't quite finished his thought when some pranksters outside lit off some high magnitude fireworks right next to the church building! The entire congregation hit the floor, hiding behind benches as though their time had come. . There couldn't have been better timing to drive the point home!

This week offered another memorable experience. Pastor Bazalet arranged for preaching at a church so far off the beaten mountain path that the truck could never have made it, and the motorcycles barely did. The ascent up the footpath on motorcycles wasn't so bad, but the trip back down the steep grade was far more risky.  With the brake completely depressed, the bikes were still moving so quickly that it was difficult to keep them upright on the rough terrain. To one side was a steep drop off, to the other another wall of mountainside. Barry somehow lost hold of the footbrake, and couldn't get his foot back on. The bike picked up even more speed, and Barry was beginning to think his time had come, too, as he saw the drop off that lay ahead of the next curve. Suddenly and unexplainably, his bike just stopped.  Another testimony of the Lord's protection!

We're again reminded of the safety that is found only when we are in God's will and doing the work He has assigned. Thank you for your continual prayers and support!