Friday, July 21, 2006
Just a Farther Walk With Rony
Wednesday, Pastor Rony asked me to come with him to visit a family that attends the Lifeline church. He said he wanted to pay them a visit to encourage them. I was free for the afternoon, so happily agreed. I asked him where they lived, to which he replied "outside" and pointed back behind the mission in the foothills. I asked him if it was very far, and he said "no, not too far." I've lived here long enough to know what that means. Paige and I packed some water bottles and put on our hiking shoes, and left in the scorching heat of the afternoon. We followed a rocky footpath up and down and around the hills surrounding us.
Most of the land surrounding the mission is made up of gardens belonging to various members of the community. They seem to usually be 5 acres or so, separated by sticks and thorn bushes marking each plot of land. Rony knew who each garden belonged to, and educated us on the way. The gardens are often a compilation of watermelons, some pumpkins, very small corn stalks, eggplant, okra, and millet. Rony, like most Haitians we live around, is an expert on plants and gardening. They truly live off the land here. We could see what a hard year they are having, and expecting to have, based on the lack of rainfall. Our area has not had nearly enough rain, and the food supply is suffering.
"Not too far" in my culture would usually mean under 10 minutes or so, I think, especially for a walk. Here it means 45 minutes. At times we could look back and see the cross at Lifeline through the hills.
Haitians take great joy in mocking white people (all in good fun) when they see us out and about, in my experience. I remember when we first visited La Digue last September, Tara and I went for a hike to Petit Bwa with Bryan (the former Lifeline missionary). He was acting as our interpreter, and informed us each time a Haitian asked us where our vehicle was (surprised to see white people on foot), and questioning our sanity for being out in the sun. Paige and I experienced a great deal of this, especially as we passed small huts in the farm fields - the families resting under tarps or shade trees - and they called out to remind us that the sun was hot. One even said we shouldn't be outside, and in astonishment asked why we weren't afraid of the road we were on.
When we arrived in the "neighborhood" of the family we were going to see, we must have been quite an attraction, as many of the neighbors came out and followed us to our destination. They were happy to have us, and excited to sit and talk. I realized that when your afternoons consist of trying to find shade, and watching your garden and means of living wither in the heat, having company must be a welcome change of pace. They were all very nice and we enjoyed trying to communicate. They especially enjoyed Paige, her Creole, and her blond hair. This particular family lives more than 40 minutes away through rough terrain, but attends services at Lifeline every Sunday morning, and in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Their joyful spirits and loving hearts were evident, and later I told Rony that they encouraged us more than we encouraged them. These people who live in a grass hut with barely enough to eat, no medicine or doctors available, and threadbare clothing went out of their way to make us welcome. We visited three different homes, and each offered us watermelons and other fruits from their suffering gardens as gifts.
Rony saw one man he didn't recognize from church, and was as bold as ever in his witnessing approach. After teasing him a bit, he asked if he knew Jesus. His name is Dieudonne, which translated means 'God Gives'. He has many health problems and seemed very sad. Pastor Rony spent time praying with him and encouraging him. In the end, his spirits seemed to lift and Rony asked if he would like to accept Jesus as his Savior. Dieudonne agreed and prayed a heartfelt plea to God for forgiveness and healing. It was very touching, and we're looking forward to seeing him here at the mission soon.
God moves in this place. If perception truly is reality, then my perception of God's spirit outside of this grass hut was very real. As we prayed and sang, clouds rolled in and a breeze blew through the hills, bringing welcome relief from the heat. The rain the family prayed for came later that afternoon, after Paige and Rony and I made it back to the mission.