Being in the USA is always a curious time for me. The cultures are not the same. As good as I have gotten at adapting to both, the first days and weeks are filled with tiny shocks.
Like the toilet paper. In Haiti my toilet paper is so thin that you need to wrap your hand about ten times in order to be...safe. Here, if you do that, you'll stop up the toilet.
And TV is full of commercials for medicine. Don't see that in Haiti...ever.
I've been visiting churches and playing a short piece of a service that I recorded in Haiti. It's from a special service at our church's annual conference. It's remarkable how different worship is here. Here in the land of sooo many blessings where we enjoy sooo much, worship is often quiet and reserved. The energy meter might tick up to three or four on a scale of ten. Whereas in Haiti, where people eat less than they should and suffer more than seems fair, their worship is full of joy and emotion. The energy meter rarely dips down to four. Why do we, with so many blessings, find it difficult to be excited about God while people who suffer do it so easily ?
They say that Christian ministry is pouring yourself out as Christ poured Himself out to us. Well, by that definition, I experienced the greatest week of my ministry this summer. The twenty members of the brass band began preparing back in the Spring. We played a couple of concerts in order to raise money for the camp. After two concerts, we had funds for almost 2 days of food. J ASAPH funds covered the rest of the expenses. On a Monday afternoon we traveled to a town out at the highway and lived the rest of the week in a Salvation Army School campus. We studied music from 7:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m. with only short breaks. Then there was time for playing and relaxing. I taught all day long every day. It was a tremendous opportunity to pour myself into this fine group of young people. We had daily devotions in the mornings and evenings. We ate together. We slept together. We played, rested, and showered together. It was a shared life for five days.
We achieved our prime objective of learning to read music better. The band is a much better band nowadays. But we grew in Christ as well. And in that sense, we are better people. We also grew together, learning to love and support each other. It was a marvelous week. And we are all looking forward to BAND CAMP #2.
I had never really thought about preparing other teachers to minister here at ASAPH. In my mind, I was the teacher. As this year progressed, my eyes opened to the possibilities of including some of my students in the teaching that happens here. One of my music theory students helped teach a course to the Brass Band members. One of my trumpet students spent a week working with beginner trumpet players. A drummer student began teaching kids drums, and he even found employment teaching for another organization! He’s making money teaching drums. Amen! The definition of an academy is a group of people with a shared interest or passion. I’ve always used the word for ASAPH activities…ASAPH Soccer Academy, ASAPH Bible Academy, ASAPH Music Academy. Now I see the beauty in a group of folks with a shared interest helping each other and moving forward hand in hand.
Hurricane Matthew came through southern Haiti the first days of October. We were able to follow the approach quite closely via websites. The eye went over the extreme tip of southern Haiti. I figure it to have been about 70 miles from Pasbwadòm. The difference in damage was dramatic. Our town had minimal damage to homes and no loss of life. Banana trees were destroyed, and the river gushed across the road breaking the village into two distinct parts. But 70 miles west was such a difference. It will be a long time before those folks get some kind of normalcy back in their lives.
The winds of Matthew began kicking up on Monday night around 10:00. We had wisely spent Sunday preparing for the storm…shutters, drainage ditches, removing everything that could fly away. Then the storm slowed down and gave us all day Monday to sit and wait. Many folks began doubting the severity of the storm. But at 10:00 it was clear something big was coming. The first hour was the worst, from my perspective. I doubted the shutters. I doubted the tin roofs on my steel buildings. I thought about trees, about neighbors, about flying objects. As the first big gusts whipped around my house, I couldn’t sleep. Every gust sounded like a train. The guys at my house, in typical Haitian fashion, slept through almost all of it. Around midnight I began adjusting to the gusts. I was able to rest from time to time. The rest of the night was like that…rest…gusting…rest…gusting. I imagined hearing neighbor in need. I imaged hearing things rattle. I did in reality hear a branch fall behind my house. About 4:00 a.m. I began to anticipate daylight. I knew it was close and felt much better. According to information on my phone, the worst was yet to come. BUT, I felt better…for a while. Thirty minutes passed and there was no sign of daylight. I grabbed my guitar and enjoyed some peaceful songs about the peace that God offers in the midst of storms. Another thirty minutes passed. And then, finally, there were hints of light in the sky. The house was boarded up so tightly, we had to open the door to check how light it was outside. Around 5:30 we could see the whole yard. I ventured outside to look around. Leaves were everywhere and everything movable was moving. BUT, I felt better. There is something about light that brings peace. Flying things, rain, and noise are all worse when you can’t see. Now, in daylight the storm, though bigger, seemed smaller. It’s like that in this life, too. Jesus is the light of the world. In His presence, the storms may rage. They may be huge, but we’re always in a better position if He is with us. I came to appreciate the declaration Jesus made, “ I am the light of the world. “ It’s full of meaning to me. The grace and the peace that daylight brought to storm survivors is only a taste of the grace and peace Jesus offers us in this life.
This extended stay in Haiti was "bookended" very nicely by two rare events. On May 1st, I was one of several educators recognized for our contributions to the local community. Then, on the Monday before I fly home to PA (one day after my birthday...which used to be a secret before Facebook), my church’s worship team surprised me with a birthday party where about ten church members spoke one after the other thanking me for things I’ve done for them over the years…personally, for the church, for their families, etc. They brought back many beautiful memories of the ‘early years’ here in Haiti. Many of our current church leaders were children then, or youth. I’ve been blessed to see them grow up and grow in the grace of God. It’s truly a great position. And I mentioned it to them. I said, “ I don’t know what it’s like to be rich and look back at your life and see only things…things that are now rusty. I don’t envy that. I think when you are old every good experience you’ve had with people is a blessing and a reward. If you’ve piled up lots of those, then you really are wealthy. I am a wealthy man.”
Missionary in Haiti.