Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Haiti: The Delta

I returned from Haiti and I am still dazed and thankful by all that took place... I am still in suspended animation, whatever that is in Christian spirituality...but it takes a couple days for me to begin to see what is in front of me in Puerto Rico. I am still there in Haiti; anticipating any moment I will be going outside to deal with the bumpy roads, smells of all sorts, the rush of people going who-knows-where, the spread of colors of student uniforms, motorcycles and the countless number of old, unfinished homes and water and trash; if I was on a motorcycle, I’d be thinking to myself, I should have worn better undergarments...the dust; that every crevice is a place for relieving oneself; around any corner maybe a fully unclad woman or man taking their morning bath. Haiti and the thoughts of the place crawl into the undiscovered, intimate places of one's spiritual makeup.

To say that everyone has a distinctive fingerprint is in no way saying they are less human but the Haiti experience is sufficiently indistinguishable and incongruent to other mission-fields that one is driven to think it is an entirely different creature-place. No where else does what Haiti has done in the lives of so many... Probably no research has been done on the deeper impacts of places like Haiti on the mind, emotions and spirit of a believer...and unbeliever. The eternal impact of Haiti cannot ever compare to what anyone can materially bring to it. That's the unique, intangible exchange that we have not verbalized; that we immeasurably gain from places like the Dominican Republic and Haiti...

If all the world were meandering, tributaries from a source called the First Adam, its delta would be a place like Haiti…a kind of persisting, permeating Golgotha… Beauty may surround it yet the despised, the rejected, the unsalvageable were found in that place; classically it was called Geenna…with a continual burning. Well, there is no difference in my mind when I think of Haiti… What does a Golgotha need? – The Glorious Cross… And like Golgotha the only redeeming influence that can be envisioned for Haiti is the news of Calvary’s Cross. Some of us may come away so dumbfounded and mesmerized by its dramatic confluence that it will take the Holy Spirit to define the rewards of stepping out or becoming involved, by faith, with the dynamics of such places…

If this overview seems hard and subjective, we can listen to Barbara Walker who has lived there for over 25 years… Publicly she says, “I hate Haiti,” yet she sold all her belongings in the US and took her retirement income to build an orphanage and single mother’s complex/village. She expects to live out the rest of her time there… On this trip I met Patrick, a pilot who had been to Haiti over 70 times, walking with a halt, sometimes bent over… He, like Barbara, has the physical outcomes of years of bumpy roads and landing planes in dry river beds. They could not imagine turning their backs on the place indefinitely. Doesn’t that seem to indicate some kind of schizophrenia or conflicting dichotomy? Thank God for the Holy Spirit who gives us the third, needful, balancing part of our humanity –Spirit. This trichotomy causes us to see beyond the now - - we and the people of Haiti are therefore not inconsolable by the present reality and its seeming permanence. That’s relief, Hallelujah! Eph. 2:1-10.

This was a successful trip, all the major things were accomplished:

1. Our campaign, though a short one, to purchase fabric for uniforms for the orphans and students under Pastor Anous’ care went well… The Salvation Army of Mayaguez, PR; the Lienau family--friends and co-workers; the Heffern family; Amaury (a pilot, PR); Ms. Hector; our neighbor, a former mayor of Cabo Rojo, Mr. Negron, all contributed to the purchase of fabric and other children’s necessities. We had fabric for about 100 orphans/children. Far into the countryside we drove and taxied on motorcycles and arrived at the unfinished church and orphanage. Both needed major upgrades…but the smiles and naked appearances of the children to happily take pictures momentarily restrained our unbelief as we reflected on the gulf of separation between the children in front of us and those we knew elsewhere, in Puerto Rico, the US mainland, etc. The children happily received and were just as pleased to see others around them gifted… Pastor Anous was delighted with the fabric donation and other personal items for the children… What should we do when we realize that so much, so often, does not cause a flutter emotionally but here, with the little these children have received, they are jubilant with thanksgiving?

2. After undue time and money spent at the Haitian-Dominican border, we were stopped several times by M-16 holding soldiers checking for illegal travelers. Ten hours later we were in Santo Domingo, the capital. There we would meet, for the first time, the Haitian-Dominican Church and Shawn Rineholt of Barahona, a US missionary, in the process of acquiring a radio station. Difficulties exist for the Dominican people but it is compounded for the Haitians; with residency issues and for some, the language barrier. They have migrated for work and better conditions for their families… With electricity brought in by an extension cord from a neighboring church member’s home, primitive drums and other hand-made percussion instruments we sang. Into the night drifted our songs and preaching. With the dim lights, it did not take much to see the night sky and the flicker of stars through the holes in the tin, galvanized roofing of this wooden church. Windows are closed mid-way during deliveries because music from the neighboring houses are so loud it makes hearing the message difficult. Without money and citizenship status it will be a while before the church moves or purchases property to build, something bigger than the 40 x 20 church that continues to lose members from the overflow on Sundays and the leaking roof in the rainy season. What appears to be a reality for the Haitians in the Dominican Republic can also be said for the Haitian church there; they are a persecuted…

3. Did a bit of “undercover” work searching for housing for Pastor Bill; negotiating prices and scheduling appointments to visit them. From a contact made two years ago, an American retired marine, we were able to secure housing for Pastor Cannon. The building would be able to separately house P. Cannon and his wife while having a location for Bible college classes and quarters for a bilingual assistant, who potentially would assist with teaching English and for Pastor Cannon, Haitian Creole acquisition. The plan is to return in six weeks to take care of the repairs, painting, rewiring and organizing for the move-in by Pastor Cannon.

4. A room was rented for four weeks for Bible College classes. This will bring the rental up to the time when we return for the move into the house and therefore continuation of classes… Last year attendance peaked out at 52 pastors. Classes will be held in the town of St. Marc at Le Gou-t. Classes resumed Saturday, February 12.

5. The connection with Shawn Rineholt is a excellent one for many reasons. He knows the legalities and requirements for establishing a work in the Dominican Republic and some of those he is still undergoing… With the radio station, he is hoping to transmit not only across to the border towns of Haiti but will attempt to have transmission from St. Marc through the station manned by Pastor Pierre of the Church of the Nazarene in that town. Programs from the stations will be in Spanish, French and French Creole… Through him assistance may be possible from some of the mainland churches to upgrade and provide consistent care to the orphanage. Shawn is looking into the possibility of an orphanage in Barahona, Dominican Republic.

The issues of this trip to us seemed to have already been settled even before we got there… We can acknowledge that we were simply guardrails to make sure that what was given and envisioned flowed to the correct places… Let’s keep ourselves fresh in the call and in prayer for the next couple weeks… After I fully land in PR and through the next couple weeks, I will begin another campaign for Haiti. We now need to get the vehicle purchased by Chris Mitchell and the farmers of upstate New York to Haiti for Pastor Bill’s use… I will continue my research for the transport from PR to the Dom. Republic by the ferry and then across the border to Haiti…

Again, thanks to each one who prayed, encouraged us in going forward and those who were able to support the work financially. For the sake of the call, I pray that your blessings are super abundant… Together we can undertake the corporate work of reaching the lost and dying and open doors to the next generation of spiritual leaders of Haiti.

P. Julian Matthew
Iglesia Greater Grace de Puerto Rico
Cabo Rojo, PR

Thanks to Jeff Leinau, my travel companion, I have the above photos. Unfortunately, our camera went out of commission shortly before my trip. He has also put together an excellent blog with many more photos: