Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Celebrating Easter with choirs of angels
This Easter we abandoned the typical celebrations with baskets and egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and daffodils. Instead we experienced Easter Sunday as a festival of singing with choirs of Haitian angels. We were blessed to participate in two rockin' celebrations with our Haitian brothers and sisters.
When the Haitians say Sunrise Service, they really mean rising before the sun for service and then celebrating royally at the first crack of light. That meant they rang the large church bell outside our window in Pignon at 3 a.m. and gathered for service at 4 a.m. We left Meilani sleeping with Auntie Stacie, dressed quietly and snuck next door to catch a peek of what was to transpire. We tried to seat ourselves consipicuously in the pews amongst the people, rather than our usual perch at the front of the church. Five choirs, including singers from four other Baptist churches were already warming up for the big event. We slipped into the middle of a broken pew and the singing commenced.
We really had no idea what was in store. The church on the main mission compound where we stay was the host to this year's Sunrise Service. People from the neighboring churches helped pack the house with more than 1,000 people and the choirs rotated with special music. The Baptists are not usually a demonstrative bunch but for this service they were raising hands, shouting Hallelujahs and spreading the joy of the Lord. Then the preaching began. Ericlee didn't understand the Haitian Kreyol but he saw the sweat on the preacher's brow, felt the passion in his words, and felt the excitement in his heart.
As the sun began to rise, the people in the church flooded the streets and started to march toward the town square. The choirs sang. The band marched and played. People watched from their front porches and through the cracks in their doors. Ericlee was able to follow the parade - something he later said was indescribable. At the square, they shouted "He is Risen! He is Risen! Cris Resusite!" at the top of their lungs.
After a quick nap, our team packed into the pick-up truck and started the trek to service #2 at the San Raphael church. This one was more "low-key," although the enthusiasm and passion was still all there. We saw the faithful flock of people as they sang, recited scriptures and ate together. Many of these walked 1-2 hours to get to church from their mountain homes. We were awed by their dedication.
While the lades of the San Raphael church served our group and the church members an Easter feast, Meilani found some new friends. The girls in their Easter dresses played hide-and-seek in the window, shared a few pieces of candy and climbed a pile of rocks. What a different kind of Easter than we are all used to. What a blessing to drink in the simple life and celebrate the true meaning of the holiday. Christ has risen!