I met a young man named Kendet years ago. He was a third-grader at the time. He was living with a family that I visited often. At some point, that family asked him to leave. It happens that way about 80% of the time in Haiti. Families will gladly help a little boy, but are not interested in helping the boy when he turns into a teenager.
Kendet called me around Christmas time. He then came from the city of Cayes to my place for a visit. He has finished school and is a leader in his church. He was planning a youth camp for the Mardis Gras vacation. It worked out for his youth group to spend their days in the National School of Flammands…about 2 miles west of my house. Kendet invited me to present a two-hour session for the youth campers. I enjoy the chance to meet Haitian kids from other areas, and I have learned a few ways to capture their attention. I think the session went pretty well.
The questions that they had for me after the session showed some clever thinking. They had heard the subject I presented and were working to tackle it, each in his/her own way. City kids often have serious advantages over rural kids here in Haiti...better teachers, more equipment in the classroom, and parents who are more educated. I had them work in groups to answer a few questions. Their answers were all good.
After I taught, the young men in the group hosted me in their room. It was a just a classroom…with benches and blackboards. However, they had transformed it. Each time this youth group goes to a camp, the girl’s room and the guy’s room are involved in a competition for the neatness and attractiveness of their sleeping quarters. These young men did what most Haitian people do when sleeping away from home : They brought bed coverings (like you’d find on a bed in a hotel), and they used them as their mattress on the cement floor. BUT, in the morning, they used those same quilts to cover the school benches. It was amazing! They looked like upholstered furniture. I couldn’t help but be impressed with their creativity, their cooperation, their planning, their ingenuity, and their attention to detail. It was like I had stepped into a hotel lobby.
People are amazing. I love working here in Haiti. The potential that people have is remarkable. It encourages me every time I meet new people and learn to know them. God has made a wonderful world. I wish everyone would see more of the world than their own little space.
I bought a tent several years ago. About twice each year we go camping somewhere on the beach. Thanks to Bethlehem United Methodist Church and their youth yard sale, I now have 5 tents. Over the Christmas holiday, we had planned a trip, but it never happened. We rescheduled for the 3 days of Mardis Gras vacation that Haiti always observes. On Monday morning, I worked most of the morning. At noon, I visited a youth group from Cayes that was spending the Mardis Gras vacation in our area for a youth camp. I taught a 2-hour session in which I encouraged them consider that the best way they can prepare for their own future is to fix their eyes on God (His word, His creation), and then fix their eyes on others (service). In the evening we gathered our gear, loaded up the wagon, and headed to the beach. We set up under the lights of my Honda generator.
We don’t always travel with the generator, but it does give an extra feeling of safety when you can see the space around you all night long. A favorite part of beach camping for me is waking up early (not too hard to do…the soft beach sand turns to asphalt at about 2:00am). As light moves into the environment, fishermen head out to do their jobs. The peaceful, easy feeling out on the beach is remarkable. Another day is being born. Waves lap. Birds sing. Crickets settle down. Trees stand still. Live begins again. The sky is like a theatrical show. At some point the sun appears like a special guest whose entrance has been built up over time. In an hour or so, it will be hot again. But for a brief period, Haiti is all beauty and no heat.
Without thinking of the connection to the American holiday, I packed several doughnuts (that a neighborhood lady sells from time to time) for Monday night and Tuesday morning. There were 3 left for breakfast on Tuesday…for three guys. I enjoyed mine before I even realized I was eating a doughnut on the day before Lent, like so many other people.
The guys at my house brought me food at noon. Eating at the beach makes a regular meal great. I then rode a cycle back to my house in order to watch a big soccer game on TV…in which the team I had hoped would win was beaten soundly. That has been a theme lately for the games I choose to watch. Immediately after that, I walked quickly back to the beach wondering if our tents and my generator were disturbed while we were away for a few hours. They were not. Everything was as we left it. The guys with me agreed that they would be shocked if ever they heard that Andy had something stolen from him in Pasbwadòm. I live in a community that appreciates me.
Tuesday evening was hotdog night. We ate…too many. As always we roasted them on an open fire of coconut leaves and other twigs. Even the sandy ones were tasty.
Wednesday morning was another glorious beach morning. I wrote a song about Haiti the other week. One line in the song is : “Ayiti! Chak jou mwen lakay ou pou tande pipirit chante, mwen santi nanm mwen beni.” (Haiti! Every day that I get to hear your morning birds sing, I feel blessed.)
On Sunday morning, I got up before 6:00am. I arrived at the church to find a group of people already headed to the beach. Five young people and one adult were about to be baptized.
As we left town on foot headed south to the ocean, the sunlight of a new day was enough for us to easily see our way. But, the sun had not yet peaked above the trees on the eastern horizon.
The six baptism candidates had trusted their lives to Christ at some point recently. A new day was dawning for them, but the public declaration of faith was still ahead...just ahead now.
As the ground under our feet turned from rich soil to sand, the sun was beginning to appear in all of its glory. By the time I walked out onto the beach and looked east, the whole sky was glorious with light. The dawn had given way to day.
Six people were baptized as the sun began its trek across the sky. Their lives in Christ had just begun. It is a new life, a new day. The new day had actually begun earlier, but this was a dramatic and key event. The sun was now visible. Their commitment to Christ was now public and clear. They died with Christ and rose again with Him.
I am humbled by every baptism I attend here in Haiti. It is a blessing to see people profess faith by receiving baptism.
May God bless each of them...all day long.
Missionary in Haiti.