It seems that we are always pressed for time and something happens to keep us later. I was on my way to attend a funeral. Trying to leave were me, two Haitian pastors, our driver, and one of our kids. We had over a 3 hour drive ahead of us and it seemed the morning dragged on indefinitely. One thing after another kept us from leaving and I was about ready to give up and call off the trip. Finally our driver showed up and said he was ready.
After we got started one of the pastors said we needed to get a wreath to bring with us. Of course – one more thing when we are late already. We stopped in the first town and started asking random people on the street. Our driver happened to know one of them and he got in the car with us to help us with directions. We stopped at 3 different places and finally the 3rd place was willing to make one for us while we waited. I struggle with being late. God is refining me here and teaching me patience. You can pray for me because I am not being a very good student right now.
No one else seemed the slightest bit concerned so I just decided to roll with it. After what seemed like forever one of the pastors emerged with the wreath and we were finally off. Our destination was Camp-Perrin, a town in the mountains between Les Cayes and Jeremie. The drive was long and I fell asleep for a while. We left the paved road for a while through a mountain pass, and then picked up a beautifully paved cobblestone street when we hit our destination town. Most of the town was pretty clean and well maintained – the first one I had seen like this since moving to Haiti.
We drove all the way to the edge of town where the road ended. In one direction the way was accessible only after fording a river. It was obvious that the locals were familiar with this route and used it often. There was almost no water in the river and plenty of people continued on over the river and into the mountains beyond.
We were waiting there for one of the locals to meet us and point the way to the funeral. While we were waiting I spoke to a local Haitian man that sat repairing shoes. After speaking with him he motioned to the others with me and told them something to the effect of “There are 3 Haitians and one white guy. The only one that spoke to me was the white guy. Why didn't you guys talk to me. If this white guy needs anything while he is here I'll help him.” I guess a little kindness goes a long way.
Finally the locals showed up to lead us to the funeral. We drove for a short distance, parked, and then started the hike up the mountain. The road was passable by 4wd and Off Road Vehicle only so we had to go on foot. After a 20 minute walk uphill we finally started seeing other funeral attenders. Everyone was dressed in their best and were making their way to a small church.
All of the mountain dwellings were simple, but clean and nice. The church was concrete. We had arrived just in time. The procession was making their way into the church for a visit with the deceased. The deceased was residing in a nice casket – the same style you would find in the US. After paying our respects we stood back a little bit so that the others could make their way in. I was not prepared for what was going to happen next.
I heard a sound like someone falling and looked just in time to see one of the women in the procession convulsing on the floor. I started to move in to help and then paused when I saw several men rush to her aide. She didn't need help – apparently she needed restraint. She began wailing and writhing on the floor. The men restrained her arms behind her back to prevent her from doing damage to herself or anyone else. Finally she came back to her senses and took a seat. I looked around and noticed everyone I came with had excused themselves and were waiting outside.
I met up with them and we all went back inside when services began. We took our seats and the service continued much like any other Haitian church service. As the service got into full swing the scene with the woman began to repeat with other women and increase in intensity. This just seemed so unnatural. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my stomach feel queasy. I began to pray fervently against any evil presence in the name of Jesus and that God would be with us.
The wailing and screaming grew louder and many of the women became violent. The men continued restraining them and several had to be carried out while swinging their fists, kicking wildly, and screaming. One woman gave a eulogy that was very eloquent and sang a song. After she was finished she stepped down from the podium, and threw herself on the casket, grabbed all the wreaths, and then destroyed them all in a violent fit. She then fell to the floor and had to be carried away by the men.
The service finished just before dark. When we walked out of the small church building the first drops of rain were starting to fall. One of the pastors in our party began to hurry our small group away from there. He said that we were not going to stay for the burial. I didn't argue with him. We all excused ourselves and hurried down the mountain for home.
It seems like the spiritual battle never ends here – but we know that Christ is victor. He promised to build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We are just still fighting even though the victory is sure. Lately we have been battling mice.
After traps and poison we still have some mice remaining. I decided we needed a blowgun. Taking a piece of PVC pipe, some hand whittled darts, and dart cones made from paper coated in superglue I was ready for battle. The kids were mildly impressed but didn't take to it right away because it required an incredible amount of air to make it deadly. A good thing probably because the were not able to hurt anyone with it when I let them try it.
Of course almost instantly they wanted to shoot each other with it. The ones waiting would jump in the way of the target and the ones shooting were happy to oblige by aiming at them. I just laughed because they were not effectively shooting it. When I grabbed it and aimed however, everyone scattered and no one got in the way. They just have a sense of where the line is.
After dark it was time for a test. Within 2 minutes of entering our food depot I had skewered a mouse. The boy that was helping me corner it jumped up and down with joy. He picked up the wiggling, squeaking mouse by the dart and held it up. He brought it outside to show the security guard. The guard laughed and kept poking at the still alive mouse with the dart through the belly teasing it to bite his finger.
We put the mouse on the ground s that we could step on its head and he took off running with the dart. It managed to free itself and we all began stomping wildly with vain attempts to finally end its poor life. Finally it ran under a rock and the boy that was helping me didn't miss a beat in picking up the rock and bringing it down in several repeated strokes. The mouse was unrecognizable – the boy and the guard were happy.
The good thing about small towns is the local crazy guy. Everyone knows him and he becomes a byword. But for some reason, everyone smiles and laughs when his name is mentioned. His name is Jackie Don for the town of Grand Goave. Adorned with dreadlocks and camouflage he walks the streets muttering continually. Occasionally he throws a few words my way. Usually in a sing song manner with the word “blan” most frequent and noticeable. His demeanor is more comical than threatening, but we still keep our distance. Lately he has taken to wearing a full face motorcycle helmet. I have never seen him ride a motorcycle – only walk.
We see the hand of God and His Kingdom advancing evidenced in recent redeemed souls. After a long revival week, and sharing my personal testimony with the kids here, we had 11 boys give their lives to Christ and follow through in baptism. What a privilege to be able to lead them into the kingdom. What a joy to be able to baptize a boy with no known family, kiss him on the head, and tell him that he has many mothers, brothers, and sisters now.
The victories always seem to come at a price and we are always aware that the enemy is unhappy. Shortly after the baptisms I received a series of texts from an unknown number. The texts described the fact that my presence was not welcome here and the person on the other end was willing to kill me to make me leave. The method of execution was described in detail. The reason they were mad at me was not directly related to the baptisms, but the timing was too close to dismiss the fact that the enemy was not happy. Jesus promised that when we follow him there would be persecution.
The locals here that are solid believers know this all too well. We were invited to play music and speak at a church near Port-au-Prince with my brother in Christ, Rubens. I picked him up well before sunrise and he was insistent on praying fervently inside his house before we left. Sincere prayers in the dark with the only light coming from a small led lamp were lifted up for our safety and effectiveness as we prepared to leave. With the looming threats hanging over our head we did not take our journey lightly.
We arrived near the church and had to wait for the pastor to meet us before proceeding. He showed up in a Tap Tap and then got inside the vehicle with us. A pleasant older gentlemen who shined with the love of Christ. He had lost a son in his early 20s not to long ago when armed gunmen robbed him and killed him on the street in Port-au-Prince.
He led us up the mountain as far as the road would take us. We parked the vehicle and proceeded on foot. Many church members were there to meet us and helped carry our instruments. As the road climbed all of Port-au-Prince began to spread out before us and the view was breathtaking. We climbed for about 30 minutes and finally came to a small concrete church building. After the long ride the first visit was the outhouse.
The church was very welcoming and it was a joy to share the word of God with them. After the service they wanted to feed us. This was a special privilege and we sat as they brought heaping plates of food to us and special drinks. I was hesitating to eat because I noticed that no one else had food. I was unsure how to proceed. The pastor saw my hesitation, walked over to me, took my spoon and a big bit of my food, then handed back my spoon and said “Manje!”. OK – I obliged.
Shortly after we started eating I noticed other plates begin to appear and it was not long before everyone had some food. After we ate it was time to start the trek back down the mountain. Again a team of porters showed up and wouldn't let us carry a thing. I love the Haitian hospitality.
It seems that there is always more than meets the eye in Haiti. There is always something unsaid or under the surface that everyone understands except the uninitiated. Even with money. The money system that every Haitian knows and uses does not exist. You can't see it or touch it, but it is what they use. It is known as the Haitian dollar. You would think it would be as simple as reading the numbers on the money, but that is not what they do.
The Haitian dollar is the number that is on the actual money – The Haitain Gourdes – divided by 5. When they give you a price, when you give them money, and they give you change what you see is not what you get. They don't even see the numbers or think in those terms, it is only in multiples of 5. All the Haitians get it and have no problem buying and selling from each other but it drives the foreigners crazy. Every purchase and money exchange is a constant press for clarity on what is actually being transferred in terms of real money.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this but it just seems that this is an extension of a culture of deceit. Even the money system is not real and can be used as leverage for deception. May the Gospel continue to change this culture and may the truth triumph over lies. May Christ have victory over this entire nation.