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Travail, Joy, Gratitude and Conviction

June 27, 2011

You’re probably sick to death by now of “hearing” me talk about my difficulties in learning Creole, but it is the single most significant impediment to my being able to work effectively here.  And as I have expressed a few times, it is also what isolates me.   Consequently I have a frequent need to process, and my chosen vehicle is subjecting you to my personal distress.  Maybe that will motivate some of you to pray for me out of self-interest.  The sooner I master the language the sooner I will no longer make you suffer with me.

I have come to recognize that for some reason I have little confidence in my ability to quickly learn the language.  This is based entirely on self-assessment and in no way reflects the opinions of others.  My inability to speak embarrasses me.   I hesitate to speak in most situations because I think no one will understand. Yet I am able to communicate effectively with Yonèse, albeit with difficulty at times.  I understand more and more of the conversations around me and I now have enough courage to add to those conversations, although most often I resort to English.  I can read more and more with understanding.  My pronunciation is good.  Bryan and Yonèse were discussing me this morning (I understood that), assessing my progress.  They seem to be of the opinion that within three months I will be able to converse effectively in most situations.  I hope they are right.

I have set my mind on putting my Creole to the test.  Tomorrow I am going to address our workers at our morning meeting.  Entering the data from last week’s installations this morning, I was annoyed with them.  The paperwork they complete with each installation is relatively straightforward and simple.  We had recently set aside a day for training in this very thing.  But what came in last week was terrible!  It’s not that they are making errors, it’s just that they leave areas of the form blank.  Sometimes even their own names are missing.  So it is my intention to call them to task.  I’m not at the point where I can do this without notes, but I believe I can do it using them only as a reference and not just reading them out.

This has called to mind a somewhat similar situation from several years ago.  At one time I had little confidence in my ability to speak in public.  Attempts to do so often resulted in paralysis.  But when I first became involved in my ministry in the prisons, something happened.  It wasn’t that my fear went away.  It was that telling people about what I was seeing and what I was doing became infinitely more important to me than my fear.  I knew I HAD to do it.  I think it is happening again.  Not speaking is no longer an option.  I suppose I could get Bryan to speak for me, but it has become extremely important that the crew knows how I feel, and only I can convey that with real meaning.



On Saturday in Port Barb introduced me to a couple of new experiences.  We took a moto (motorcycle taxi) and a tap tap (truck taxi).  The moto was much faster, but the tap tap was more comfortable and certainly more social.  We got to ride in the cab, so were able to talk with our drivers (they changed shift during the course of our trip).  I say we talked to our drivers, but the truth of the matter is that Barb talked to them.   But I did understand much of the conversation.  On a moto conversation is very limited.  Since I rode as second passenger, I got to sit on the luggage rack.  Port’s streets are horrendous and when I got home I came to the painful realization that I had bruised my tailbone.  So I’m being very careful how I sit down.

One of our tap tap drivers pointed out the obvious to us; although slower, tap taps are far safer than motos, especially in the city, as moto drivers tend to weave in and out between other vehicles, often with almost no clearance.  If your tap tap scrapes against something, at worst it is an inconvenience.  If you are on a moto that scrapes against something, it could mean a trip to hospital, and especially in Haiti, that’s not an experience I am thrilled to consider.  I am looking forward to a “real” tap tap ride, packed into the back like a sardine with my face in someone’s armpit.



On Sunday, I went with the Foxes to Faith Baptist in Williamson, Pastor Morvan’s church.  I spoke about visiting him a couple of posts back.  He had reserved seats for us at the front of the church, which initially didn’t thrill me as I don’t like to be centered out for special treatment.  But I soon came to appreciate our situation, as the breeze

Faith Baptist Church, Williamson

from the open door beside us was welcome respite from the heat.  Pastor Morvan explained to the others who we were, and apparently was quite effusive about it; I heard “Canadian” more than once, and since I was the only Canadian there, he was obviously talking about me.

He asked Bryan to speak a bit to the congregation and then insisted I speak as well.  I had Bryan translate for me and kept it very brief.  I wish I had known I would be asked, as it would have given me the opportunity to think about what I wanted to say in Creole.  I have to choose my subjects carefully as my vocabulary is limited.  My only other option is to expand my vocabulary on the topic I choose before speaking.

Bryan was then asked to explain to the people about our filters.  The pastor is actively promoting us as Williamson has no good water source.  After the service he has us come to his home for lunch and a cold drink.  We visited with his wife who is still convalescent, but quite obviously in less pain.

Bryan Fox, Pastor Morvan and I

Bryan talked about the sermon on our way home.  The church uses a sound system with the volume cranked up, and the good pastor tends to shout, so I hadn’t caught much of it.  He had spoken about how we are called to be examples to those around us.  I know the power of example; my life has been changed through the example of others.  That is how I came to know Jesus, and I am eternally grateful to my “Ma and Pa” for almost 30 years of being my personal touchstones and for frequently being in prayer for their quixotic “son”.  I have been told that my example has been instrumental in the spiritual lives of others, although I tend to be unaware of it while it is happening, and indeed often question if I am a good example for anyone to follow.  I am comfortable on my own journey, but to have anyone follow me is a grave responsibility.


As Christians, we should all be able to echo Paul’s invitation,  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  1 Corinthians 11:1.  The implied caveat is that we ourselves need truly to be following the example of Christ.



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