“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!!!