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Day 8: Worshipping in the Mountains

March 6, 2011

Went to church above Chardin, a tiny mountain village about 15 minutes drive from Pierre Payen.   Getting to the church involved a 10-minute drive off the highway up a rutted and frequently washed out road up the mountain, through small streams and gullies.  Leslie commented that the road has been greatly improved since last she was on it.  At the end of the road we started up a steep narrow footpath up the mountain for about a quarter of a mile.

The church is constructed of woven palm-frond mats over a frame of bamboo (or at least it looked like bamboo to me, but could be something else).  The church is open on one side and has 6 simple wooden pews and a small table serving as an altar.  The church was full, about 60 people, as in most churches today, mainly women and children.  The service started with prayer in the same fashion as our morning prayers with staff, everyone praying aloud simultaneously.  The church does not have a pastor, but is led by elders.  We then sang a hymn about 20 times, jumping from verse to verse at the direction of one of the elders, who happens to be one of our workers.  I can “read” Kreyol well enough now to be able to sing from the hymnal.  Kreyol is phonetic, so one only has to know the appropriate sounds for the letters to be able to pronounce words.  It also simplifies things that each letter has only one sound.  I occasionally knew a word here and there of what I was singing.  The singing was accompanied by two young men, one of whom had only a very basic understanding of playing the guitar and rarely played a correct note, and another with a young child’s keyboard, pink with cartoon characters on it.  But the singing was wonderful.

Next one of the elders told a very long story about some of the terrible things vodou priests do.  This was followed by time for anyone who wanted to speak.  Chris introduced me to the congregation and translated as I voice my appreciation for being part of their service.  Chris then announced in some detail the plan to move CWH’s operation to their community.  The news was well received.  Another of the elders preached at length on the letter to the church at Pergamum in Revelation 2.  Next another elder delved into some of the details of the lesson with commentary from the elder who had told the vodou priest story.  Then the first elder spoke again and we were dismissed.  The service lasted about 3½ hours.

After the service there was a time of visiting.  Chris spoke to the elders about our plans and Leslie and I spoke with some of the others outside.  One of the ladies was quick to offer me a chair (a sign of respect) but after sitting for so long I respectfully declined.  Many were anxious to greet me and shake my hand, and a few did their best to speak to me with their bit of English and my bit of Kreyol.  One girl in particular asked several questions in English. Later Leslie told me the others teased her, “Your English is so good!”

Chris took me to see the site he hopes to purchase below Chardin.  Although it is only 6 minutes off the highway, it will without question reduce security requirements significantly.  Chris asked for my input on the lot in view of construction of the required buildings.  I told him that I thought it best to build on the sloping part of the lot and reserve the flat part nearer the road for the work yard.  I also suggested building a 2-storey house and putting the solar array and cisterns on the roof.  I also thought doing some grading and perhaps terracing before we started any structures would be wise.  When I questioned the feasibility of bringing in heavy equipment Chris told me it was entirely possible, but that it would be preferable to hire a number of men with shovels and wheelbarrows as it would be cheaper and would provide some employment for the local people.    We seem to be on the same page as to how to go about building on the new site.

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What Is the Truth About Haiti?

If you were to ask me that question I would have to answer that I don’t know.  I’m not sure anyone knows.  Let me explain, but first let me restate a disclaimer.

What I have been posting and what I continue to post are my impressions of Haiti.  Having only been in this country a few days I cannot possibly understand a fraction of what I am seeing.  As I have written, this is a country of complexities within complexities.  I am trying to be as objective as possible but total objectivity is beyond me.  I see things through the filters developed over a lifetime of my own experiences.  I have personal biases.  I have my own picture of “how things should be.”

I guess what I am trying to say is if you are interested enough to want to know the truth about Haiti, spend a little time to do some research.  Be careful of your sources.  Always ask yourself what there agenda is; everyone has one.  Compare facts; when information from several sources agrees, it is probably fairly accurate.  But be careful of the Internet.  So much of what is there is just copied from another source.  Unfortunately the media are not much different; independent reporting is rare these days.  If you find the truth, be sure to tell me.  You will probably be the first.

Let me get back to my explanation.  Let us start with a fact:  many people have died in Haiti since it’s January 1, 2010 Independence Day.  No one disputes this.

How many have died?  Already things start to get fuzzy.  Let’s start with the January 12, 2010 earthquake in the Port-au-Prince area.  Depending on whom you choose to believe the death toll was between 90,000 and 316,000.  According to Haiti’s health ministry cholera had claimed at least 4030 lives.  But in a country where many live beyond access to health care, it is reasonable to believe there have been many unreported deaths.  Then there are the deaths from a plethora of other causes.

Why did these people die?  Now the water really begins to get muddy.  Did people die in the earthquake due to poor construction techniques?  Undoubtedly.  Was the reason for these poor techniques the absence of building code standards?  Partly I am sure.  Was this the fault of the Haitian government?  They must certainly bear part of blame.  But what was the reason for this neglect on their part?  Was it corruption?  Probably.  Was it just poor governance?  Yes.  Was it the meddling of foreign governments and financial institutions?  They certainly played a part.  Was it foreigners trying to bring first world solutions to the third world?  I believe so.  And who brought in the cholera?  With hundreds of NGOs on the ground why couldn’t they keep it check?  With all the money pumped into Haiti, why wasn’t there adequate health care for the sick?  No easy answers here.

Then we get to whether much of this could have been prevented, and if so, how?  I won’t even touch that one.

Me telling you what I see here follows the same pattern.  I can tell you what I see, when and where I saw it.  Even the where is sometimes uncertain.  But as soon as I begin to get into the who, why and how, I can only go by what I hear and what I read, and what I tell you will ultimately be what I believe.

Leslie gave me a description of Haiti that I will pass on to you because it is so apt.  Haiti is like an onion.  You peel off one layer and you find another.  And another.  And another.  I’d like to add my own twist.  While you are trying to peel off the layers it makes your eyes (and probably your head) hurt.

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Walked in the surf along the beach this evening watching the tangerine sun sink into the Caribbean.  Sunset happens very fast here.  The beach is quite gravelly and hard to walk on; it kind of smooshes around under your feet.  The water is incredibly warm.  This truly is an idyllic place.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jean Lockhart permalink
    March 7, 2011 2:42 pm

    Hi, Barry, Ross was here this morning and got your Blog number straightened out for me. I had omitted a period when I copied it down. So, I have had the pleasure of catching up on you all in one go. You seem to be taking your experiences in stride, and you have a wonderful way of bringing a different way of life to light. I am sure you must find it almost overwhelming at times.
    Your telling of the U. S. people wanting to “give ” the filters is so indicitive of our society. Will we never learn? Also found your poem very moving. You really have a gift in the way you express yourself.
    Sounds as if Olivia has your “number” She is really a bright light. Expect we will see a big change in her when they come “home”.
    We will all be anxious to hear live reports when you are here. All the best, Jean.

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