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The Household of Faith

March 11, 2014

It’s been more than ten months since I visited the church at Vielle, high in the mountains east of Pierre Payen.  (I wrote about my previous visit in my April 30, 2013, post Something New at Somewhere ‘Old’.)  Sunday, at the insistent invitation of Pastor Job, I returned. 

I had agreed to meet the pastor at 7AM at the kafou (intersection) at the market where the road running east meets the highway, but I had forgotten about the change to DST, which in Haiti is a rather ragged affair.  I couldn’t contact him as my phone was dead, and I had been unable to recharge it having no electricity overnight.  So I decided to bank on the probability of his not having made the adjustment.  Besides, it is still dark at the earlier hour.  I guessed right.  He arrived shortly after I did, and after he purchased ice to fill his thermos jug, we climbed onto a moto taxi for the trip to Vielle. 

It had rained heavily during the night, turning the road to mud that had already been churned up by a thousand passing feet.  As we began to climb, the motorcycle skidded frequently, and at times one or both of us had to dismount so that our chauffeur could coax the machine up a slick incline, a couple of times having to push.  For the distance of a kilometer or so the river serves as part of the road.  But the freshet had swelled it and the banks were greasy, so instead of making a series of crossings as we had done on my last trip, we plowed into the turbid water straight up the riverbed.  Just as we climbed back onto land, the rear wheel slewed violently sideways and the machine went over on its side, spilling me into the dirt.  Fortunately I landed on soft ground.  

Toward the top of our climb, where the slopes are steepest, we did more walking than riding.  My legs, unused to this kind of punishment after my lengthy hiatus in Canada, began to feel like rubber and I had to take frequent breathers.  Finally the church came into sight across the river that has over time carved a deep gash through the local landscape.  I inched my way down the sheer gorge wall, carefully choosing my footing at every step, my knees beginning to cry out for mercy.  I had negotiated the river on my last trip, jumping from rock to rock, but the high water from the night’s rain now covered many of the rocks and those still visible were wet and slippery.  But I managed to make the crossing without falling in, only to face the precipitous climb up the narrow path notched into the opposite wall.  By the time we reached the crest I was done in.

The church from across the gorge.

The church from across the gorge.

The morning sun peeking over the mountains.

The morning sun peeking over the mountains.

At the pastor’s house I was offered recuperative therapy—a plastic lawn chair and a green coconut.  Coconut water is very refreshing (and I am told is the hottest new health/sports drink).  When I had quenched my thirst, a deft swing of a machete split the coconut in two so I could scrape out the thin layer of flesh, not nearly as sweet as it is when mature.  The pastor then brought out a tray of small bananas.  As we headed for the church, I was given a water bottle of iced juice to take with me.

As is usual when I visit churches here, I was afforded a chair alongside the lectern.  Pastor Job accorded me an effusive welcome, stating that he was unsure of the exact purpose of my presence, but that he knew it was part of God’s plan.  My Creole much improved since my last visit, I then said a few words to the congregation, who expressed their enthusiastic approval.  The pastor brought out a solar-powered lantern to be used in the church, and people offered small donations to cover the cost.  A young visiting pastor delivered the homily, incorporating my remarks to the congregation into his message, and though I didn’t catch every word of it, I was able to follow the gist of all he said.  The church is quite Pentecostal in character, very interactive, lively and emotional.  The young woman I spoke of in my blog on my previous visit, who attributed her very good English to my teaching, is now worship leader.  I was surprised at how short the service was; Haitian church services often go on for hours.

As the service wound up, several huge boxes from Project Christmas Child were carried into the church.  Apparently they had arrived just this week, so the children were having a much-belated Christmas.  The gifts were handed out to the fifty or so children present.  Unlike most Canadian children, they did not tear into their packages immediately, but waited patiently for permission to do so. 

Pastor Job handing out gifts.

Pastor Job handing out gifts.

Patiently waiting for permission to open their gifts.

Patiently waiting for permission to open their gifts.

After the service I lunched on plantains at the pastor’s house along with the visiting pastor.  I enjoyed my conversation with him, as though his English is excellent, he stuck to Creole until we ran into words beyond my vocabulary, something I very much appreciated.  Unlike many Haitians I meet, he is very in tune with the realities of the outside world, and realized that although in Canada we don’t face some of the problems Haitians do, we face others.  In his opinion, one with which I wholeheartedly agree, it is better to be poor in Haiti than to be poor in Canada or the US.

I had no idea that the plan for the afternoon was to make the descent on foot.  It is several miles through rugged terrain, but fortunately is mostly down hill.  The midday sun had dried things considerably, making our passage somewhat easier, but also very sultry.  A gentle breeze took the edge off the heat until we left higher elevations.  Walking did have its benefits:  I noticed things I had not from a moto—the tiny hamlets that dot the slopes here and there, the crops in the roughly cultivated fields—and it provided occasion to stop and chat with those we met along the path.

As we passed, Pastor Job again pointed out the spot he hopes to purchase to relocate his church.  His hope can only be realized if somehow he receives a donation, as it is unlikely his congregation could ever raise the purchase price, small by Canadian standards, but huge for these people. 

Reaching the river, I doffed my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants and waded across.  Rather than make our way down the river, we climbed to the canal that runs parallel and walked a couple of miles on the top of the canal wall.  From the river I continued barefoot until the trail turned into a road and the sharp embedded rocks made shoes a better choice.  At that point Pastor Job left us to return to his home.

When we reached the market in Pierre Payen, the young pastor sought out a tap-tap to travel south to Port du Carries, the ferry landing to cross to the island of La Gonave, and I headed for my home.  That last mile seemed endless.  It was wonderful to get out of my sweat-soaked clothes and put my feet up.

Pastor Job had expressed it well.  I too have no idea of the purpose of my relationship with the church at Vielle, but I like him I know God has a purpose.  Perhaps He will reveal it in the future.  Then again, we may never know what He is accomplishing through it.  Regardless, it does my heart good to be welcomed by other believers and to share in their worship.


So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:10

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