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The Church in the Corridor

May 6, 2013

This Sunday I was again a guest at a Haitian church.  Pastor Frito Ferdinand from L’Église Corps du Christ (Body of Christ Church) where I teach my English class Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, invited me to attend.   The church is a busy place, serving as a community center on the corridor.  People from the community are welcome to use the building as they need.  I personally have seen a music class that takes place there weekly, and several ladies’ groups involved in various activities.  Food for the Poor, a charitable organization, used to bring food and clothing to the church for the pastor to distribute in the community, but their support has fallen off and they have been unable to continue this work.

The corridor is always busy.

The corridor is always busy.

Traditional Haitian transportation.

Traditional Haitian transportation.

This lady makes wonderful pati.

This lady makes wonderful pati.

Some of my English students at church.

Some of my English students at church.

I have come to know Pastor Frito as a dedicated and generous man.  He operates an orphanage out of the church, caring for 20 children.  Most have no parents, but as is typical in Haiti, a few of the “orphans” are from families who cannot support them.  He finances this on his own, without outside help.  The children are well cared for and happy, but the pastor has not been unable to provide beds for all, some sleeping on mattresses on the floor.  The children have just two small bedrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls.  The younger children attend school at the church, being taught by the pastor’s wife and another teacher.  The pastor pays for the fifteen older children to attend schools in the surrounding communities.   A few of the older children attend my English classes, and I have found them to be excellent students.

Pastor Frito

Pastor Frito

One of the small bedrooms for the children.

One of the small bedrooms for the children.

The church building is not completed.  It is basically a rough concrete-block shell without windows or doors, started several years ago.  This past March a missionary I know who has been in Haiti many years donated the metal roof.  The floor is rough dirt.   Presently it is piled with gravel awaiting screening by hand to sizes needed for various concrete mixes, bags of cement, lumber, plywood and scaffolding that are being used for current construction, parging the front interior wall behind the platform and the rear exterior of the church.  The benches are of rough wood, and are augmented by some old plastic and chrome school desks, most missing their seats.  There is no electricity for lights or fans, but there is a “kit”, a rented battery that can be taken to be recharged as needed, to power the sound system.

Church building

Church building

Before the service started Pastor Frito invited me to the “upper room” to share breakfast with him.  Since I had already eaten, I passed on the popular Haitian breakfast of oily spaghetti slathered with ketchup and mayonnaise, and instead enjoyed slices of fresh pineapple and bananas.  We then went down to the sanctuary where I was seated with the elders on the platform.

About 60 people attended the morning’s service.  The church’s style leans toward the Pentecostal, heavy on ecstatic experience.  Accompanied by a small band, a tiny choir led the singing, each song starting off in a subdued manner and working toward a crescendo that was jubilant, combined with spirited clapping and lively dancing.  The Lord was truly celebrated.  It was fun to join in, and it was obvious that the congregation was delighted that I did.

Pastor Frito watches singing.

Pastor Frito watches singing.

The congregation really gets into worship.

The congregation really gets into worship.

The pastor had me speak briefly to the people; I thanked them for allowing me to share in their worship, and spoke about how as Christians we are blessed to be able to find brothers and sisters most anywhere in the world.  The pastor then went into a rather lengthy discourse on just about everything he knew about me.  He then added his rather scathing opinion of those Haitians who treat foreigners in a less than respectful manner.

Pastor Frito’s preaching was stentorian and very animated.  By the time he closed his sermon, his shirt was soaked with perspiration.  As he selected scriptural passages, one of the men on the platform would read the text and the pastor would expound upon it.  His theme for the day was baptism of the Holy Spirit.   Following the message members of the congregation asked questions to clarify points for themselves.  Pastor Frito’s brother, whom I have known since coming to Haiti and who speaks English fairly well, sat beside me to provide translation when needed.  But the pastor tends to speak very clearly, and by following the texts in my bible I was able to understand almost all he said.

When the service ended, many in the congregation came to say a few words to me and to shake my hand, or more often than not, give me warm hugs.  The children gathered for me to take pictures, both all together and in little groups of friends.

Children from the orphanage.

Children from the orphanage.

Friends

Friends

I was again ushered upstairs where a few of the ladies served a bountiful lunch for the church leadership.  Included were many of the Haitian staples—rice with bean sauce, chicken drumsticks, Haitian potato salad, fried bananas (I had never had these before; they were delicious!), and of course pikliz.  The food was accompanied by iced limeade.  I learned that this shared meal takes place as funds allow, at times involving the entire congregation.  I was served first and told to begin, but I replied I would prefer to wait until everyone was served so we could eat together.   This met with enthusiastic approval.  After the meal one of the men drove me home on his motorcycle.

As I did in Vielle the previous week, I felt very accepted by this church.  The people were very friendly, and many wanted to know when I would join them again.  They will be very high on my list of priorities when I return to Haiti in the fall.

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