There are lots of touristy ways to do this, but the best way I know to get into people's lives is head for the hills. Enick, one of our graduates from 2009, has been ministering on an incredibly remote mountain village since he graduated, and yesterday seemed like the perfect chance to show our Northern Irish friends more of true life, to give our Vietnamese visiting professor Nheim the chance he's been looking for to be a part of the "real" Haiti, and to visit, pray for and encourage Enick.
After chapel, at 12:45, I mentioned to Leme that we'd be doing this at 1:15, and he asked if it was ok for a few students to go along, if they wanted...thirty minutes later, I had 7 first-timers, and Lily, heading over the hills with me.
I know Matt thinks hiking voluntarily in Haiti in August on the first day of school is close to purgatory, but I love everything about it. And yesterday--with such a neat group of men and women with such unique cultural experiences and world-views and perspectives--was just SPECIAL.
As we walked through villages, greeting children and mamas and men playing dominoes, Nheim was nothing but nostalgic. "This is EXACTLY what my village was like. I WAS that little boy! Our village looked just like this, I ate mangoes just like that, I played soccer barefoot right over there, it was hot just like this...this is my home!"
How awesome to experience that with him.
The students, of course, were a bit nervous that I had lost my way. "It doesn't seem possible that there is a church somewhere out here! How does he DO it?" they marveled, and I saw the wheels turning. Jacsene was especially moved by all the hundreds of people we greeted.
"There are SO many people up here!" he kept saying. "You just would never have thought it! Everywhere you look, you see or hear or see signs of people. And there are NO churches in this village! How many of these people have never heard the Gospel?"
As we walked, it hit him deeper still.
"How many thousands of OTHER little villages and mountains are there in Haiti, JUST LIKE THIS, where no one has heard? Where no one has the chance to hear? What if Enick wasn't up here? How far must people travel to hear the Word? Oh oh. Something must be done."
And at that, he did what he could, talking to everyone we passed, asking them if they had heard about Jesus, asking if they knew about Enick's church, asking them if he could be praying for them.
And while it didn't remind our NI friends of their childhoods, nor did they have a completely new perspective on their calling as pastors in Haiti, it did show them far more of life...what it looks like, the hearts of the people, and how to pray for this new burden they have called Haiti.
When we finally arrived, Enick shared with us a bit of his vision, some of his joys and burdens, a bit of his calling, and I was so thankful for all of us to have a better insight into praying for him, and those like him.
My last several visits, he's been living in one of the school classrooms. This time, however, his straw cot has been moved to the tumbling supply depot, and he explained to me that there are now four youth sleeping in the classroom. After working with these young people, all of whom had struggled with different versions of demon-possession, their families were continuing to take them to the witch-doctor for healing. No matter what Enick said and did, he could NOT convince their families that there would be NO freedom outside of Christ, and finally, he took the youth in, protecting them from well-meaning but entirely lost families. Now, he meets with them continually, praying and teaching and working with them on "cleaning house and being filled."
Singing with him, praying with him, altogether, listening to all the ways God was touching hearts and stretching minds.
..it was a GREAT day to be the sweaty lady in the middle.
I was most touched however, this trip, by a little neatly woven shack in a neatly swept yard. Bethany pointed out branches of cactus were hanging, upside-down, from all four corners of the home.
I know enough to know it was a voodoo thing, but after we walked on, I asked Wileme about it.
He confirmed that it was, and explained that oftentimes when a new baby is born, or if there is someone particularly fragile or vulnerable in the home, it is common for those who are not in Christ to hang shards of glass, knives, or even thorny cacti, from each corner, making it more difficult for evil spirits and curses to come in. It was an effort to threaten away, to trick, evil.
It touched me anew that today, in 2016, there are still people in this world, many people, who live in such fear and darkness that they would do such a thing, would believe that thorns could keep out evil.
In it, you see love of course...love for that baby, that sick person, a desire to protect. But that love is utterly and completely lost. Afraid. Desperate.
The great need in Haiti, in the world, for Perfect Love continues.
Love is NOT all the same. Love is NOT all you need.
It is only Perfect Love, His love, that casts out fear, that shines Light in darkness, that lifts veils from clouded eyes and brings Truth in twisted times.
And any day I get to walk in that Love, with Northern Ireland and Vietnam and Haiti and my daughter around me, with men and women who are determined to live it and give it is a GOOD day...and a great way to start a new year training up.
It was a good day to remember why.