A Treasure in the Rubble
Apr 14, 2011
It has been an amazing week so far in Haiti. We have grown very attached to the community around Thor church. Leaving tomorrow will be difficult for all of us. I have become particularly attached to two teenage boys, Joseph Schneider and Zachary Bajou, both 15 and best friends. They are very small for their age, about the size of a typical 12 year old in America.
Joseph is extremely smart and speaks very good English. While the rest of the children kick the soccer ball or play games in the back of the church, he sits quietly with his notebook and teaches Deon and I Creole lessons. He's making a dictionary for us to use and is a stickler about pronunciation! He says "I did not learn English in school. I can speak English because Jesus lives in my heart and shows me how". Joseph told me he wants to be a teacher one day - seems like he already is though. He's a natural and seems wise beyond his years.
Zachary is Joseph's good friend. He wants so much to attend school, but has missed the past 2 years because his father can't afford the tuition. He shared with me about his mother dying in the earthquake last year, and said he cried so much. Zachary has a beautiful endearing smile that covers most of his face and makes his eyes squint. He lives in a tent city with his father and 7 year old brother Steeven who rarely speaks and who has never been to school.
As I stood between Joseph and Zachary, passing buckets of concrete to build the church alter, they taught me to sing "We Are the World, We are the Children" in Creole, "Nou gen sou latè a, nou se moun". Their smiles as I sang the song with them one chorus in English then one chorus in Haitian Creole, are imprinted on my mind.
The teenage girls went crazy over the "US Weekly" and "People Magazines" we shared. They all love Justin Bieiber! "Bieber Fever" knows no boundaries . . . unfortunately. Because we were camped out in their class room, one group, mostly girls between 10 and 13 held their class in a small area outside the bathroom. The teacher, Fritz was always kind and patient as we interrupted his lessons to slip into the bathroom from time to time. Once the children asked how old I was and when I told them they all screamed and put their hands to their mouths. I wasn't sure how to take this :-), but then the teacher quickly said, "they think you look much younger". Not sure if he was just trying to make me feel better though!
During recess, Sarah, Christi, Pam, Deon, Jill, and I would often return to their class and let several of the girls braid our hair. Mine was quite an experience - 4 girls working on my hair at once, each doing their own thing and pulling hard to make the braids tight. I don't think "ouch" means anything in Creole. I got a little nervous when I thought they were arguing about the style - each pulling at the braids in their hands, their voices escalating. Finally, they gave in and one girl gathered all my braids in her hand and quickly wrapped the pony tail holder I handed her around my hair and pulled it up tight. It actually looked pretty good and kept me cooler during the hot afternoons. "Beauty School" went a little past schedule, and Fritz (the teacher), needed to start class again, so to repay the girls for their service and Fritz for his patience, he allowed me to hand out lollipops to the whole class, himself included.
Yesterday we walked around the city, through the tent city, and the market. The ground is like walking up and down a mountain in many areas - uneven and full of ravines created from the earthquake. Garbage scatters the landscape everywhere you look and streams of brown water trickle between crushed and rusty Coke cans and faded candy wrappers. Yet, men, women, and children, many dressed in what were once bright colors but are now faded and torn, are eager to greet you with a smile and a "Bonswa" (good afternoon).
What is clear to me, is that among the desperation and ruins lies a jewel in the Thor Church community. Their faith is unwavering and inspiring. They praise God for everything and put all their hope in him. They believe through it all that God has a plan for their life and their country. They sing constantly praise songs to God. Each morning as early as 4 and 5am we can hear members of the church gathered downstairs in the sanctuary singing songs to God in Creole, no hymnals needed. All of them lifting their voices loudly, with passion, and emotion. I can tell you that even in the heat, in a mosquito tent, sleeping on a cot - there is no better way to wake up than to these gracious and heavenly voices praising God.
Peace and Love from Haiti -