Sunday, November 11, 2012

Winds of Change in Haiti

I am experiencing a different Haiti.

I've never been to this country - my home away from home - in November before.

The air has been cool. The rain falls intermittently, not in gales or sheets like it does in the summer afternoons, but in drips and drops. The kids gather under tin roof awnings wearing jackets or huddled together.

We pulled into the mountain town of Pignon on Friday, and somehow it felt different. I realized later it was because the road was paved, the drive much smoother. I did not feel the usual carsickness I experience as my welcome to this familiar place.

We have traded dripping-in-all-crevices humidity for cool breezes that make the jacaranda tree sway.

We have traded our usual bustling old farm-mission house for empty rooms. No teams this time around. Even my older girls' bunk beds are empty since they stayed back in California with family this trip.

The nights have been quiet. Sure, our Haitian friends stop by to chat, but it's different from the craziness of summer nights with late-night preparations for morning Vacation Bible School or a long line for the shower. There are no fans blaring and less mosquitoes buzzing.

We have had time for long talks with the ministry's Haitian director, Peter. We feel more on the same page with him than ever before. We have planned and brainstormed and even laughed together.

Winds of change swirl through.

Ericlee and I have even made space for reading aloud to each other, dreaming and casting vision for our own family's future.

The winds are changing among the people we know here in Pignon too.

The congregation of the Pignon church has banded together and they are working on renovating their own house of worship. This might not seem too different. Construction projects are a constant here in Haiti. But what we have seen in the last few days marks a significant change in this ministry. We have witnessed something extra-ordinary.

While in the past it was common to have Americans round up funds and work teams blaze in to do something like church renovation, this time the Haitians are leading the way. Peter tells us they have been praying for years, and planning for six months.

In September, the church leaders urged the congregation to get involved. Instead of outright asking for money, they creatively challenged people in their church to start bringing bags of cement. (A bag cost about $8 American; they needed more than 600).

Remember these Haitians are considered to be among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

That didn't stop them.

In fact, the first woman who gave was one of the older ladies of the church, known by other church members to be among the neediest in the congregation. She brought the first bag of cement in an act reminiscent of a widow in the Bible who brought her last coin for an offering to the temple.

Each Sunday Haitian leaders and laypreachers have stood in the pulpit shoulder to shoulder and offered up the list of supplies needed. They led the giving. Each Sunday men and women of all ages have raised hands and committed to bring supplies. They have done the work themselves.

The 600th bag of cement was mixed this week, the blocks set and moved into place.

We sat up in the dusty church just this morning. The clouds broke, allowing sun to beam through the outlines of the church windows. The people's faces beamed dignity and pride.

We heard Peter report that only a few more bags of cement were needed to finish that part of renovation. Then they move on to the details - painting, tile, sound system, new doors and windows.

They invited us - the visiting missionaries - to sit on their first hand-carved wooden pew placed proudly on the stage. Thirty families have already committed to pay for or make their own pew in the days to come. (Average cost: $300).

As I sat there, my heart swelled knowing this was about a new thing God was doing with His people in Haiti.

They are on a new road to self-sufficiency.

Winds are a-changin'.

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