|Cleoda Midi receiving her “Certificate of Encouragement”|
The old people of Grand Goâve are few. The average age of the Haitian population is 21 years. Men are expected to live till they are 61 years old and women till 66. We were celebrating anyone that was over 80 years old.
Haiti is a hard place to live. illiteracy is high. Access to clean water is difficult and often an hours walk up and down a mountainside. Education is a privilege, and not a right. The majority of our congregation and the community as a whole are subsistence farmers.
With that as a back ground Sunday was one big celebration for the church community, for the longevity of some Haitians, men and women, and it was a great witness to the younger community.
Brenda and I rose early, for a Sunday, as we had offered to be the Tap-Tap taxi service for a number of the seniors. We have a Nissan pick-up with a king cab; 5 or 6 seats inside and space for……you’ll see, at the back! We were asked to pick up four people from the Grand Goâve area and upon dropping them off at the church to do a second run, this time further up the mountain.
As the day started I realized that I needed to stay calm, pray and be at peace with whatever the Lord had in mind. As we picked up our first person he morphed into a husband and wife. We were expecting four old people and Brenda had already said she would ride in the back of the pick-up truck! With a smile they hopped inside and we drove to house number two. Here a young girl, eight or nine came out! OK what happened to the old lady? No, here she comes and as she is with her Grand Daughter she deliberately hopped(!!) into the back of the truck saying riding outside would be just fine. Now the count was meant to be two had grown to four! When we got to house three we knew that this lady, Cleoda, was not able to walk and came to church, when she could, in a wheel chair. Moise had told us it was OK to tie her and her wheel chair in the back of the pickup, she would be fine! Cleoda came out of the house, no wheel chair in sight, supported by her son, Inatel, and daughter-in-law. Cleoda was eased into the car making up three across the back bench. Her son, climbed into the back.
The fourth (!) person we picked up was Lucius; we saw him walking at a very quick pace (for him) along the river path, as soon as his son told him we were waiting for him – up the path he came, Brenda gave him the front seat and Brenda and Lucius’s son, Borgella, hopped into the back.
With the pick-up now with a total of 10, few by Haitian standards, we headed for the hills. The drive did not need the 4x4 engaged but there were a few points when I thought I might need to. We arrived at the church in time for the adult Sunday School lesson.
So if you made it to Sunday School, remembering that the service runs, without a break from the start of Sunday school through to the end of the main service, you will be in church for a total of 4 hours – hmm comfortable pews?
I dropped them all off, carrying Cleoda into the church; saving her from having to negotiate the uneven ground, which includes the raised run-off canal from the water pump in the church yard.
How many of us do we know people that won’t go to church because it is too far to walk from the car park or that there are no wheel chair access where they think it should be! Perhaps we should be thinking more about these people and offering to help!
Off again, this time up the mountain to the community of Monthabort. This road needed the 4x4 to get there; it always does. Arriving, there was no one to greet me, mountain time is not clock time so I parked up, under a tree and waited.
About ten minutes passed and couple of ladies, one old, one middle aged came along the path. Neither of them seemed in a hurry. They stopped to chat to the lady digging in the field; the younger lady bounded over to the local church and chatted to the Pastor, then popped into the church and greeted her friends. Meanwhile, the younger of the two ladies gathered up the old lady, by the field, and wandered over to me to check I was their ride down the mountain. Mme. Deniye told me other people were still coming so we would have to wait a bit longer.
After maybe five more minutes we all piled into the pickup, there were now two middle aged ladies and the old lady. Off we went down the road, maybe an eighth of a mile, before being told to park up under a tree.
Mme. Deniye, one of the ladies, got out of the car walked 100 yards further down the road; she then stood on the side of the road and yelled, at the top of her voice, to a house way in the distance across the valley. She was telling a family to hurry up! The conversation went on for about five minutes and she got quite cross; it was obvious the family had either over slept, unlikely, forgotten the special church service was this Sunday, or had just not realized the time. While the yelling back and forth was going on the neighbors joined in and it was also obviously that Mme. Deniye did not appreciate their comments! After fifteen minutes Mme. Deniye stormed off down the valley, up the other side and out of sight, five minutes later I saw her directing three men as they physically carried Granddad, on their shoulders, all the way to the car!
How many of us would wait nearly 40 minutes for basically one man to get to the car? The family should have known the time! The family should have planned ahead! But this was about honoring the Seniors and for me it was a lesson in patience and working in God’s time and not my “Hurry up and get it done” time.
When I was ready to drive off there were three of us in the front, four on the bench seat and eight or ten in the back – now that is a real Haitian Tap-tap – 15 to 17 and we were ready to go!
Arriving at church we were met by the church officials and the Seniors were ushered into the church, to take up their official seats, at the front of the church and the rest of us were left to ourselves to find a seat. The church service had started 30 minutes before we arrived, and it was packed, like our church, in the USA, at Christmas or Easter!
Would your church service just carry on as 17 people, some with the guests of honor walk in, late, and march right up to the front of the church? It was their day and everyone was just glad they had been able to attend.
Brenda and I like to keep a low profile in these events. It is a Haitian church, a Haitian celebration and while we were very pleased we could help with the transportation, extremely content to be part of the occasion, we were also happy to blend into the congregation! However, Pastor Pascal had us sit at the front pew and then almost immediately asked me to come up and say something! I think I can speak Creole almost acceptably but in a church with 350 people looking at me, it is difficult; but I was able to say some words of encouragement and return to the pew with a few “Amen” as I finished – perhaps they were for the Lord, or perhaps they were glad I had finished!!
|A packed church celebrating the Seniors of the church|
• How many children they had and how many of them had died.
• How many grandchildren they had and how many great grandchildren.
• How long they had been married.
• The year they were baptized, where they were baptized and by which Pastor.
• If the individual held a position in the church and some had their profession announced too.
There were 22 Seniors in all, each one was spoken about at various times in the service. The oldest person was a gentleman that was 105! Apparently his father lived to 120!!
|The Seniors, smart and attentive.|
The service was not a true Haitian church celebration because the men leading the service kept assuring everyone that the service will end at midday! Normally a service of this nature goes for a long time with additional hymns, verses and impromptu comments and witness. The sermon would be long and people would not be at all uncomfortable to be in the main service for three hours plus.
Would a three hour service have been OK at your church, before a meal?
We were, however, sung to by the children, the teenage ladies, and the women group from the host church.
At the end of the service special awards were presented for four of the Seniors for outstanding service to the church and the community and then all 22 received Certificates of Encouragement in recognition of their longevity. Each person was helped up and brought forward for their certificate and photos were taken of each one by the official photographer and others that wanted to capture the event too
At that point the service closed with the Benediction and the Blessing of the lunch. We were all told to sit in the pews at which point 400 meals, with a cool drink, were served to us all. It was handed out and consumed in 35 to 40 minutes. The community that did not attend the service had, by this time, all appeared, knowing food was being served, they all received lunch too.
|Lunch preparations for 400 people|
|Lunch served to 400 people|
Probably a good thing this doesn’t happen at home, the police would pulled us over for overcrowding!
|The oldest Senior heads off home…..on a motor bike!|
Praise the Lord