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Into the Mountains Behind the Mountains

July 7, 2011

Let me begin with an apology to Chris and Leslie and a correction to my last post.  I don’t know where in my head I got my information.  So, Alexander Michael Rolling was in fact 9 pounds 13 ounces at birth.  Chris takes great pride in having such a strapping son.

Monday Bryan, his sons Seth, Ian and Koby, Fritzner, Julie and I set out to travel into the mountains above Williamson.  The purpose of the expedition was to determine if the area was accessible to us, and if so, to begin promotion of our filters in the area.

We were to pick up Pastor Morvan at his home.  Our destination was within his catchment area, and he has become a very active supporter of our program.  On arriving in Williamson we discovered that the pastor intended for his wife and son to accompany us.  We now had 10 people in the Santa Fe.  I was shoehorned into the rear seat with Seth and the pastor’s son.  A very few miles up the road it got very rough and we began to bottom out.  It was obvious that the SUV was not going to survive our intended trip even without its prodigious load.

When we reached the 17-acre compound that houses Mercy and Sharing Village, the orphanage that former

Mercy and Sharing Village

Playboy bunny Susie Krabacher built and runs, Bryan dropped Fritzner, the pastor’s wife and son, Seth and I off and returned to our base to get the Canter. The plan was for Bryan to return immediately and pick us up.  However on arriving back at the base Bryan remembered that the spare tire was flat, and knew it would be foolhardy to venture into the mountains without it.  So unbeknownst to those of us who were waiting, a repair stop was necessary.

Meanwhile we settled into the shade of the orphanage wall at the gate.  A few people were gathered there, visiting and just hanging out.  Among them was an interesting young man who was playing hymns on the recorder.  He was very accomplished, and I was blessed to hear How Great Thou Art, Great Is Thy Faithfulness and others.  It soon became apparent that he was very

My Antagonist

intelligent and could speak a fair bit of English and some French.  It also became evident that he had quite an attitude.

He set out to mock us, posturing for his friends.  He displayed a mastery of Christian rhetoric and went into a spiel about how I would be “richly blessed by God” if I gave him money.  He targeted me for a while, spouting his derision to his friends in Creole, thinking I understood nothing.  When I decided I had given him enough rope and made it clear that I did understand, he adjusted his assault.  When he learned I was Canadian and not American as he assumed, he again made adjustments, speaking in French.  When I informed him that most Canadians do not speak French, he went back to his Creole to his friends and a combination of Creole and English to me.


When he tired of baiting me, he turned to Seth.  Seth had been looking for something to fill his time as we waitedand was throwing stones, trying without much success to hit some cans that lay along the road.  Suddenly he hit his stride and began to strike his targets with some regularity.  When the young man saw this he moved in, obviously bent on showing Seth up.  Growing frustrated at his inability to match Seth, he began to throw larger and larger stones until he was heaving rocks larger than footballs.  As I experienced as a boy, and have seen again and again, this one-upmanship quickly built a bond between the two.  By the time we left the young man was relating to Seth as a friend, offering his hand as we were about to pull away, declaring, “You are my blood.”

I have seen something here (one of many things) that makes me very sad.  It seems that Haitians who live in the shadow of Christian missions often develop a cynical attitude toward us.  They clearly see the inconsistency between the message Christians deliver and the lives they live.  They see Christians striving to “help” with no love in their hearts for the Haitian people.  They experience help that is no help at all, help that hurts.  As I thought about this young man I prayed that someone would come into his life who would channel his obvious intelligence for good.  With the right influences he could be a great man for his people and for God.

When the Canter finally came into sight we were all relieved.  Pastor Morvan sent his wife and son back to Williamson on a moto taxi, and Fritzner, Seth, Ian and I climbed into the bed of the truck.  The pastor had brought a sack of pig feed with him for someone at his mountain church and this made a passable seat for me.  However as we bounced and lurched our way up the road, everything in the truck bed began to work its way to the back, including my seat.  By the time we reached Domo 1, a village about halfway up the mountain, over an hour later, I decided that standing was a more workable option.

Ian in misery

When we stopped in Domo 1 the inevitable crowd gathered, this one mainly women and children.  We communicated as best we could.  I took a few pictures and then one of the women hoisted her daughter into the truck and sat her down on the headache rack beside Ian.  Ian’s obvious great discomfort at this delighted them all and they encouraged the girl to move closer.  Ian wore his torment on his face, turning redder and trying to squirm away from the girl.  Bryan, who had been talking to some of the men, came over and in his characteristic way engaged the women in some light-hearted banter.  He told them Ian was far too young to have a girlfriend to which they responded they would save her for him.  Bryan countered that perhaps the girl would be unhappy with their decision and should be allowed to choose for herself.

Looking out over the Caribbean

We set off again climbing higher and higher into the mountains.  The panoramas set before us were often breathtaking.  Looking down over the verdant mountains and the busy patchwork settlement of the coast, across the incredible blues of the Caribbean edged with glistening white sand beaches, I could see the muted blue shadow of La Gonaive cloaked in distant mists.  The road grew more rocky, more rough, more gouged by runoff, twisting and turning through tight switchbacks as it climbed ever upward.  Vegetation became more dense and more beautiful.  The robust reds of hibiscus flowers were set off by the creamy yellows of angel trumpets.  Trees for which I have no names and enormous succulents provided a backdrop in a rich palette of vibrant greens.

Above Domo 1

Mountain man

Fritzner, Ian and I



























Mountain people are a different breed.  They are so friendly, fieldworkers waving enthusiastically from distant hills, trying to catch our attention, everyone greeting us with a smile and a bonjou as we passed them on the road, children running frantically to reach the road before we passed, squealing with delight.  On our way home Julie commented to Bryan that they are such beautiful people.  They truly are.
























































As soon as we arrived at Robert, our final destination, we stopped to eat the food we had brought with us.  It was

Our "evangelist"

quite the mélange – pizza, griot, corn flakes with condensed milk, bread and peanut butter.  Water and Tampico, Haiti’s answer to Sunny D (better by the way) to drink.  Afterward the promoter set out with his bullhorn to gather the people for our presentation.  Fritzner stepped boldly into his role as our “evangelist” spreading the good news of our filters to any and all.  Little clutches formed around us with animated questions and comments.  Finally, all assembled in the church to hear what Julie and Fritzner make their presentation.

Bryan and Ian in front of church at Robert

Julie explaining our filters




















As soon as the presentation was over we headed for the truck with our gift of butter beans from one of the ladies.  Rain clouds were gathering and we were not anxious to add mud and runoff to the already treacherous journey down the mountain.

Rain clouds move in










Going up had been difficult.  Going down was worse.  Bryan had to contend with holding the weight of the truck back as we descended as well as trying to pick a path that was a little less torturous to the Canter and to those of us in the bed.  Tight downhill turns are much more difficult to negotiate than uphill ones., often necessitating backing up to realign our long truck.  At times the road grew so narrow the truck hung precariously on the edge, hundreds of feet of air between us and the valley floor.  At one point Bryan missed a gear and the truck careened forward alarmingly until he regained control.  The rain began, but remained gentle.  Cool on the skin, it was a welcome relief from the heat.

Riding Haitian style

A long and winding road



















We breathed a sigh of relief as we reached level ground.  We turned north onto Route National #1 and as Bryan wound the Mitsubishi diesel up, I stood clinging to the headache rack, the wind blowing my hair straight back and bringing tears to my eyes.  Weary, a bit sore and a bit sunburned, I was glad to be heading home.  But I was thanking God for another amazing experience.


When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur....

I don’t know how this happens.  When I set out to put this post together I intended to post a lot more pictures than usual and not say a whole lot.  But in order to provide some context for the pictures and convey accurately the flavour of my day I find myself rambling on and on.  What I meant to be a very short post turns into a very long one.  C’est la vie.  C’est moi.

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