We embarked upon my first (Chuck’s second) trip to Haiti on Friday, November 2. Our flight was scheduled for departure shortly after 6:00 AM, so we left our house at about 4:00 AM. Our luggage was stuffed just to the maximum weight. We each had our carry on and personal items, plus a checked bag apiece. We purchased secondhand suitcases with the intention of carrying them over with items for the Haitian congregation, and leaving the suitcases with them. The suitcases were stuffed with clothing, shoes, food, and even hurricane ties for the church building that is about to be constructed.
Our nonstop flight to Haiti was uneventful, as was our progression through immigration. As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we were in a different world. A very busy, loud, crowded, disorganized one. Thankfully, deacon Joseph Jean was there to meet us, with a big smile and a warm welcome. With him was Miloet, a recently baptized young man he is mentoring. Miloet was to sit in the back of the pickup truck to prevent our luggage from being stolen as we wound our way through the dusty and chaotic streets of Port-au-Prince.
Driving/riding through Port-au-Prince is a nervewracking experience, to say the least. It is extremely crowded, and there appears to be no traffic rules. There are no traffic signals. People on foot, bicycle, and motorcycle mill around and dart across the street at will, often with no warning. “Tap tap” vehicles were everywhere, and would pull out in front of you, stop suddenly in the middle of the road, and cut you off as you tried to make a turn. Tap taps are brightly painted buses or pick-up trucks that serve as share taxis in Haiti. Literally meaning "quick quick", these vehicles for hire are privately owned and ornately decorated. It was amazing to see how many people could crowd into one of these tap taps.
We finally made it out of Port-au-Prince, and traveled two hours up and around the mountain to Mirebelais, home of Joseph Jean and our Haitian congregation. After a stop to visit the Jean family, we checked into our hotel for a short rest before the Friday night Bible Study.
The Church van is currently out of commission, so Joseph picked us up that evening in his pickup. He then drove all around Mirebelais, picking up brethren, until both the cab and the back of the pickup was full of people. The first stop was to pick up our church pianist, Franelle, and his family. As they climbed into the truck, I was handed their baby girl Rose to hold, and I was instantly in love with this petite, quiet, beautiful baby with big brown eyes. Her older brother, Silas, climbed in beside me, and gave me the biggest, whitest, toothiest grin.
Around 45 people attended the Bible Study, conducted by Chuck and translated to Creole by Joseph.
On the Sabbath, Joseph again made the rounds, this time picking up even more people. Both the bed of the truck and the cab were full. Around 65 people eventually showed up for Sabbath services. I was struck by the number of children. I counted at least 20 children, not including teenagers! A few were scared of me, but most were very friendly. They are beautiful children. All were dressed in their best; which varied greatly from family to family.
The opening songs were lively. The Haitians love music. As soon as the pianist arrived, he began to play, and those who were already present sang along until time for services. After services, he played again for around an hour while some of the members lingered and sang along. The sermon was given by Chuck, again translated by Joseph. After services, everyone was served a meal prepared by Mrs. Jean and her sisters. She had prepared a huge pot of rice and peas along with chicken, slaw, and beet salad. After a long afternoon of fellowshipping, Joseph again made the rounds to take us all home.
On Sunday morning, Joseph picked us up, along with Miloet, Franelle, who is not only a musician, but also an electrician, and two members who are in the construction industry. Chuck went over the plans for constructing the meeting hall on top of the Jean’s roof. The engineering/electrical is to adhere to international building codes. The four men worked through the plans, and arrived at a concise list of materials needed to complete the structure. Once complete, this room will hold up to 200 people. It will be used for Sabbath services and Bible Studies, and will serve as a training center for classes in English and computer skills.
On Monday morning, Joseph picked us up around 4:00 for our trip back to the Port-au-Prince airport. A quick stop to pick up Miloet and we were on our way. It was a long and white-knuckling trip, but Joseph got us to the airport on time. We were sad to say goodbye to Joseph and Miloet, but we did and made our way into the chaos of the airport’s check in and security procedures. Our trip home was again uneventful.
This trip marked a HUGE step in our goals to help the Haitian congregation, both spiritually and physically. Our short-term goals are:
1. Complete the church meeting hall/training center before the Spring Holy Days.
2. This summer, send teachers to conduct the English and computer skills classes.
3. Acquire a piece of property where a park and a community garden can be developed, the goal being to provide food for the brethren to eat and to sell/barter. We plan to provide soccer balls so the youth can have an outlet for good, clean fun, as well as learn teamwork. You don’t see anything like this in Mirebelais--no soccer balls, cricket, or children’s toys of any type. People do not have funds for those things.
We are very thankful and excited that Goal 1 is now fully funded, and getting under way! We continue to pray for our Haitian brethren every day. We also continue to thank Him for all the generosity that has been shown on behalf of the Haitian brethren, and we ask God to continue to bless all who are giving so much of themselves.
|Making Plans to Build|
|Preparing to Build|
|A Tap Tap|