Today was my last full day in Haiti. There are many mixed emotions.
Yesterday we spoke to our second English class made up of adult Haitians who are mostly professionals or students. They are highly motivated to learn English. When enrollment opens up, people line up around the block to sign up like they're trying to get tickets to a rock concert. Dan and I got to share our stories and talk about our families and our occupations to two different classes this week. I got some interesting questions about being a pastor:
Favorite questions I got from the ESL Classes
- What do you think of our country? (this was asked in both classes)
- What time do your church services start? How long do they last? (they laughed hard when I told them how 'late' we start at 9:15 and how 'short' our services are 1 hr. 15 mins. Some churches here have services at 6 AM and they last many hours.)
- What are the differences between your church and the church in Haiti?
- How do you handle 'rival' churches and 'rival' religions?
- What was your best and worst moment in ministry?
- What size is your church?
- How do people watch your sermons on video - how do you record it? Can I watch your sermons on the internet?
- What do you think are the signs that Jesus is coming back soon?
- How many Haitian members are in your church? (I was asked this in both sessions)
- Does racism still exist in America?
More detailed info about my day
I got to talk to Kim and the Kids last night and so it made me miss them all the more. On the other hand – this country does something to you. The people are profoundly beautiful. It has been a joy to encourage many of the believers here. To remind them that there is hope, that God is not distant but close by. And to be reminded of these things by them. My heart has been encouraged and my faith has been strengthened.
Day 4 was a good day. We trekked half way up the mountain to what the Americans call the ‘Prayer Tree’ – the Haitians call it the ‘Fasting Tree.’ There is a local prayer meeting that happens at the tree every Thursday beginning at 6 AM and lasting until mid afternoon. It was started over 20 years ago by two sisters who continue to lead it faithfully. Hundreds of people come and go throughout the day to pray for their needs and to pray for Haiti. There is a small sound system that is used for the leaders to guide people in and out of times of corporate prayer, singing, and private prayer. The tree is a mango tree with an exposed root system that makes for plenty of seating. Fortunately I had Wadner there to interpret all of the prayer instructions that were coming over the microphone.
We were there during a time when people were encouraged to bring their requests to God. There were prayers for those who needed healing, those whose family members were sick or dying, those who were hungry, prayers were offered specifically for those who couldn’t sleep at night, throughout this time people were consistently encouraged to wave both hands toward heaven. Then there was a season of celebration and praise. Passionate singing, dancing, hand waving, greeting one another, swaying – all prayers were being offered at the same time so a low rumble of exultant voices was being raised to heaven. It was absolutely beautiful. Our praying is weak in America.
Then I was asked to come forward to pray into the microphone for Haiti. I was honored. Wadner came with me to interpret – during the introduction it was noted that I’m the Pastor of the church who sent Bud and Jane and Miss Kate to Haiti – there were oohs and aahs from the gathering because our missionaries are so loved and respected throughout this whole region. I prayed for the redemption of Haiti – that the Holy Spirit would claim this nation for his name and his renown – I prayed that the enemy would be held at bay in Haiti and that God would continue to raise up leaders who would bring renewal and revival to this land. I couldn’t match their intensity, but I’m confident that God also heard my prayer... even though I’m sure my faith is small compared to these great souls.
We spent some time before lunch making the rounds with some of the missionaries to try to capture some of their day to day activity on video camera. When they come back to Erie to report what’s going on – they sometimes bring pictures or videos but never seem to have pictures or videos of themselves in action (for obvious reasons)! So we wanted to capture some of that.
While we were out at one of the schools – we got word that the child my family sponsors (and his mother and Pastor) had arrived to meet me. We were 45 minutes away because this meeting wasn’t supposed to happen until the afternoon (time is a bit fluid here). So we hurried back while they waited and I got to meet Sander. It wasn’t exactly a Hallmark moment – but still deeply rewarding to meet him. We had a major language barrier so we couldn’t really communicate, he was very shy and not sure what to think about this whole thing, but I found out that he likes soccer and math and is doing very well in school. He and his mother also had met Jesus through the program that he was in. I gave him a kids Bible in Creole – and some gifts that I had brought from the states. My kids had made some pictures and there was a picture of our family. He and his mom were both very appreciative.
We then met for about 3 hours with Pastors Miguelson and James to discuss the church to church partnership some more. It was greatly encouraging – I heard some things that I was waiting to hear. They weren’t afraid to tell us that some of our ideas were not good ideas. They said that they would not hesitate to back out of the partnership if it was not serving their goals or our goals. They, like us, are interested in an equal mutually beneficial relationship that will expand God’s Kingdom. We nailed down some specific next steps and timelines. We walked through a SWOT analysis with them which helped to give us a good understanding of where they are at as a church and we both agreed to move forward with the partnership pending some conversations with both of our leadership teams (elders, ministry leaders, etc.)
We then shared a Q&A time with our second adult English class which was taught by Kate (questions included above). At dinner time we went out with 3 Haitian young men for a night on the town. It was a great time. We went to a local restaurant for dinner - drove by a stadium with a huge local soccer match going on - saw a revival at a downtown church and got to witness first-hand how Cap-Haitien comes alive at night. More than that we had an absolute blast with Miguelson, James, and Wadner (ti Lo-Lo)! We laughed hard and long and continued to establish what I believe will be a deep and lasting bond. The guys shared some good-bye speeches with us that were very touching and gave insight into their hearts. These are godly young men who are going to be instrumental in bringing the light of Christ to Haiti.
I look forward to the future together. Tomorrow - we travel home...