I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on
- From 'Goodbye Stranger' by Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson (Supertramp)
Up before the dawn was a standard while we were in Haiti, at least for me. The great majority of our thoughts, strength and effort were focused on the people of Minoterie and others whom we served while in-country. But there is also a personal component. I'm probably not the first person to realize that being 'on mission' is physically, mentally and spiritually taxing. There has to be some rejuvenation - a time of refreshing - or our effectiveness will wane.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:5 (NASB), "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding."
So each morning, I was up before the dawn spending time in prayer and Bible study. Thursday morning, the refreshment was from Romans 1 and 1 Peter 3. Paul's explanation of the Gospel in his letter to the Roman church is illuminating, and God has really put 1 Peter 3:15 on my heart this year.
We were blessed to have lodging near the water so, after my reading and prayer time, I was able to look out over the Canal de Saint-Marc as the sun rose over the mountains behind me. This morning - and indeed, every morning - the fishing boats were small, bobbing fairies of light in the darkness. Each one with but a single lamp on board. Dawn hid the lamps and revealed faceless men rowing along the contours of the shoreline in rough, weathered boats, with no sails and no motor, propelled by arm strength alone. They stood amidships - a grand term befitting the fishermen, if not their craft - strong hands gripping two oars, pulling against unseen tidal forces that have existed since God placed the moon in the heavens and brought forth land from the deep.
Canal de Saint-Marc with Île de la Gonâve in the distance
On this particular morning, I turned and walked back toward our room. I was again struck by how the mountains in Haiti rise, seemingly, out of the sea. This was my fourth trip but I am still awed by the beauty of this land.
Haiti seems - in a way - what it has always been: a small island inhabited with hardworking, creative people (who, I don't believe, ever sleep in); nestled in its own little corner of the Caribbean, like the youngest child who sits at the side-table during holiday dinners. As if to emphasize my thoughts, a man passed nearby speaking to his friends, his deep baritone laugh - hearty, not cynical - echoing through the trees.
Mountains in Haiti - one with the sea
After breakfast, Christy led our team in a group devotional based on Romans 12. We also sang - but for the life of me, I can't recall which song(s). It's not that it wasn't uplifting, it was; it's just that I'm not the most musical guy on the planet and...
We left the hotel and rode our trusty steed Bluebird to Minoterie. On this morning, we held a dental clinic and provided fluoride treatments for the kids in the village. We had to track down the caretaker from the Prosperity of God (PoG) school so we could get inside and set up for the clinic. We did not have to walk the village and call the children...as soon as Bluebird rumbled into Minoterie, the village children streamed along behind us like Haley's Comet.
While the dental clinic was going on, us guys - all three of us - retreated to a classroom where we started blowing up soccer balls. Locking the door didn't help much because the village boys would just sneak down the window ledge and peek in! We weren't hiding per se, we just didn't want to distract the kids before they received their fluoride treatments, instructions on how to properly brush their teeth, and individual toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Michelette getting his brush on
After the clinic wrapped up, we deployed six soccer balls, about ten Frisbees and a couple of jump ropes. Attendance estimates hovered around two hundred. A great time was had by all and we made some new friends - that's another way today that the Supertramp song Goodbye Stranger came into play: once you meet someone and begin to establish a relationship with them, they are no longer a stranger. So, even on our first full day in Minoterie, we were saying, "Goodbye strangers," and, "Hello friends."
Jump ropes are universal
Lunchtime in the village was a casual affair. Each of us had brought a plastic jar of peanut butter and one of jelly, three cans of Pringles and a package of sandwich cookies. One of the PoG young men went to buy some fresh bread and Israel, another young leader, invited us to prepare our sandwiches at his home. And wouldn't you know it? Israel had a television and antenna so we were able to watch the World Cup match between the USA and Germany!
Those patient and wonderful folks who persevere and read all of these blogs will notice something: soccer will feature prominently throughout the week. Soccer (football) is the national sport in Haiti and they are devoted to the beautiful game. Everywhere we looked, there were kids playing, flags flying, radios blasting commentary. Being in Haiti during the World Cup was a fantastic experience because I was able to share my love of the game with them as well.
Brazil and Argentina flags flying at the police station
Above are two snapshots of a police station on the road to Port au Prince. Note the Brasil and Argentina flags flying from the yardarm in the second photo. Cars, buses, tap-taps, motorcycles, houses, and yes, even police stations were flying the flags of these two favored soccer nations. I never did get a satisfactory answer as to why Brasil and Argentina. I think the answer lies in Messi and Neymar. If you know the beautiful game, that will make all the sense in the world.
After lunch, we returned to the school and launched into a Kid's Club. We started with some games, including a really neat one where someone calls out something like, "Thumbs up!", extending their arms with, you guessed it, their thumbs pointed up. All the children then shouted it out and put their thumbs up without being told what to do. I heard everything from, "Feet together," to what sounded like, "Rumpy shake." I think you get the idea...
Alarmingly, this game includes a moment when the person who is leading points to someone in the audience and then that person has to jump in the middle and take over the calling. Hopefully no one took any pictures of me.
Next, Karen led the kids through the life of Jesus, from birth, to death, to resurrection. She held up a picture book so the children could see the illustrations that went along with the narrative.
Wi, Jezi se wa!
We finished up with a craft in which the kids made crowns using paper plates, colored pencils and foam appliques. To say they were into it would be a huge understatement. Haitian people in general are extremely creative, musical and artistic and the children are no exception. Some of the crowns were fit for a king or queen and shouts of, "Jezi se wa!" (Jesus is King) were heard echoing off the classroom walls and corridors the rest of the afternoon.
It's my crown...and I like it!
After the Kid's Club, we basically just hung out in the village and talked with the children, continued playing games and had a chance to meet some of the parents. Climbing aboard Bluebird we waved goodbye amid shouts of, "Hey, you!" and, "Michael, Michael, Michael!"
A small cadre of children who would prove to be some of the core group we would work with the rest of the week, followed Bluebird as she was expertly guided through the narrow streets of Minoterie by Jean Justin and back out onto the main road. The stamina they showed - and the excitement - was inspiring. We waved and shouted, "Au revoir," or, "à bientôt," until we accelerated away onto the paved portion of the road.
A quick nap on the way home...
We were bushed - but in a good way. The late afternoon sun glinted off Bluebird's windows as the Caribbean day came to an end, and we drove west toward our hotel.