Our Haiti Pilgrimage (as told through Haitian Proverbs)

“Manje kwit pa gen met.” This is one of the Haitian proverbs we learned on our pilgrimage to Haiti during April school vacation. Translated from Creole it means, “Cooked food has no master (or owner).” Haitians are taught to share from the time they are tiny children. If you have food, you do not own it. You must share.   Haitian culture is rich in such proverbs that describe the values of a society that has suffered much and learned much.

On the morning of April 18 eight high school youth from First Church and five adult chaperones boarded American Airlines flight 1050 bound for Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The group included students: Lisa Garrity, Noelle Peluso, Mercy Togba, Aaron Richardson, Keating Flaherty, Abigail Glick, and Mary Catherine and Emily Carroll. The adults were senior pastor Dr. Jay Terbush, Mark Garrity, Mary Ellen Flaherty, Monica Torpey, and Mary Friedman.

In the tiny remote village of Gwo Jan the group spent three days and two nights learning about Haitian culture, history, language, and music…..and lots of proverbs: “Woch nan dlo pa konnen doule woch nan soley.” (“The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.”)

Then we transferred to Walls’ International Guest House in Port-au-Prince and spent two days at the headquarters of CONASPEH (the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti) where we delivered solar lights, a solar panel, a battery, and projector donated by our Board of Missions, soccer uniforms and balls donated by the Longmeadow Soccer Association, children’s books, and other items. Dr. Jay led a seminar for the Haitian bishops and the students toured the school and visited classrooms, talked with the students, and played soccer!

We learned that, “Yon bel ‘bonjou’ se paspo ou.” (A beautiful “hello” is your passport!) We spent two days in Bon Repos, an hour outside the city painting a church inside and out as well as some office space, , resurfacing the chalkboards in the school, distributing school supplies, teaching two classes how to make “God’s Eyes” , attempting to play soccer with 250 excited students, and generally feeling very welcomed by our Haitian hosts. Things are not easy or convenient in Haiti….”Deye mon, gen mon” (“Beyond mountains are mountains.”) There is always another challenge to face. But we did learn that “Men anpil chay pa lou.” “Many hands make light work.” (And I thought my mother invented that!! )

We also learned that things in Haiti don’t necessarily happen on OUR timetable! “Piti, piti zwazo fe nich li.” Be patient. “Little by little the bird builds its nest.”

The students shared some of what we experienced in worship on Sunday, May 3, incorporating the hymns we sang and the scripture we read while in Haiti. It was a deeply moving experience I think for all of us and one we will not soon forget.

Have to close with my new favorite Haitian proverb: “Fanm se kajou: plis li vye, plis li bon.” (“A woman is like mahoghany: the older she is, the better she is!”) That one’s a keeper!!!

CONASPEH Congress June 9-11

On Sunday, June 8, Mark Pohlman, Julie Pohlman, Mary Friedman, and Pauline Bassett (from First Churches Northampton) will be traveling to Port-au-Prince, Haiti for the congress of churches supporting CONASPEH, the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti. Representatives from Global Ministries and other U.C.C. and Disciples of Christ churches in the U.S. will also attend the congress with our Haitian partners. The group will be bringing school supply kits donated by the fifth grade students at Blueberry Hill School. The students heard about Haiti and the CONASPEH school during a program at the school on Thursday, May 22. Mary Friedman presented a power point and shared her experiences and crafts from Haiti with the students. The group also hopes to take the money from our church’s Haiti Scholarship Fund Drive to Director Patrick Villiers when they go.

Farewell to CONASPEH

Our last day at CONASPEH was yesterday.  Our group was treated to a lovely brunch after our evaluation session.  It was Fred’s birthday and our hosts even had a cake for him!  We loved seeing familiar faces such as Porcena, a high school student whom I first met when she was in grade 6.  She is a scholarship student who is very artistic and she showed us some of her drawings. She helped to design and paint our Haiti banner in Bailey Hall.

Mary

Bishops of CONSPEH Support One Another

Yesterday afternoon we were able to sit in on a session of sharing and support among the leaders of CONASPEH.  Pastor Fred Morton  has been in dialogue with them this week to gain a better understanding of the challenges they all face in their ministries.  This session was especially poignant in that Pastor Francois Villiers described her experience of preaching a sermon the week after she had buried their 12 year old son Demetress last March after his kidnapping and murder.

 

Bishop Jean-Baptiste told the story of when his wife died.  It was clear that these two people understood the burden of grief born by each other and felt the presence of God in their suffering.  This mutual support is so vital to these people who serve their respective congregations in so many ways,  They are the teachers, preachers, counselors, social workers. . . the glue that holds their communities together.  We are in awe of their responsibilities and commitment.  They are people of great faith!

Mary