Monday, December 11, 2006

Mountain Trip Part One

I just got back from a weekend in the mountains of Haiti. I don’t know how to put it all into words. I’m sure I won’t be able to fully describe it. Between some writing and eventually maybe some video, and a few hundred pictures, maybe you’ll feel like you were there.

We left at 3am Saturday. Well, we tried to. Then we waited around for twenty minutes for the mules that were supposed to be there (since the night before). After another ten minutes we made a new plan and figured we’d find them coming down the mountain on our way up. So we set off on foot. (We learned later from someone else on the path that the mules had left La Digue to go to Archaie carrying beans to the market…and apparently didn’t return in time.) Since I was hardly awake at that hour, and I figured we were going to find mules eventually, and we had no other choice, I didn’t mind the idea of hiking. I would have packed a little lighter however, if I had known that I’d be carrying it all for the whole trip. Ok, fine, so I did give in and let one of my smarter Haitian friends without a huge backpack carry it for me – but not the whole time. I did carry the other bag with camera and video stuff, though – and by the time we made it home, that felt like 100 pounds.

Here are the trip stats, for all of you who are geeks like me and like this sort of thing (I inherited an unnatural love for maps and trip information from my father, and therefore have an obsession with GPS and it’s total awesomeness.):

23.2 miles traveled
Total trip time (hiking) 11 hours and 15 minutes
Average moving speed 2.5 miles per hour
Overall average speed 2 miles per hour
Beginning elevation: 515 feet (above sea level)
Highest elevation reached: 4091 feet
Number of blisters: 1
Number of baths: 1
Amount of sweat: Immeasurable

Ok, so those last few weren’t in the GPS, but I thought you should know. If you are exceedingly geeky (like my Dad and I) and want the GPS coordinates to look in Google Earth for satellite pictures to see the trip, let me know. Trust me, I’m going to.

Here is my overall synopsis of the trip - Amazing. I’ll try to be brief, and we’ll see how it goes…

Haiti is the HUGEST tiny country in the world. While walking for basically two days straight, we only covered 23 miles. Everywhere we went, no matter how remote it seemed, there are families and homes and gardens and life that you would never know existed unless you go there. If where we are living seems like going back in time one hundred years, this was like going back two hundred.

There are two Haitis, in my opinion. The “westernized” and “modern” city of Port-au-Prince, where about a third of the population lives…and the rest of the rural population and people living in the mountains. (Granted, Port is for sure third-world and poverty-filled and filthy by most standards – but it is a world apart as far as “advancement” compared to the rest of the country.) But in my mind, all of those “advancements” are setbacks if you look at the quality and joy of life between the two totally different worlds.

The people in the mountains here are so alive and joyful it has always amazed me and humbled me to see it. When I spoke in church this morning, I shared with them that I don’t think I was sent to Haiti to be a missionary to the people here anymore – I know it was for the people here to be missionaries to me.

The mountain churches in Haiti need to start sending missionaries down to the cities and areas like ours, to start spreading the real love and joy that comes with the saving knowledge of Christ. There I saw no ceremony, ritual, or tradition… and certainly did not feel any spirit of “religiousness”, as is often the case in Haiti’s churches. In case I just made up the word religiousness, what I mean is that many times (in Haiti and the US) religion and all its’ entrapments end up getting in the way of the true gospel. Religion doesn’t save people, God does. God already has, through His Son. Religion - and concern with denominations and rules and traditions and ceremonies and rituals – often get in the way of that pre-existing and all important truth. There is a lot of concern here with denominations, and that even affects cooperation between missions and local churches. That is not the model set before us by the early church.

(By the way, we looked it up – Religiousness is a noun which can mean “Pious” – that’s what I meant.)

But I digress…

According to the textbooks, the word Haiti means “mountainous”. A Haitian Proverb and common saying here is that there are “Mountains Beyond Mountains”. True and True. With every peak we reached, I looked up to see the next one behind it. Everywhere you look, there is another mountain range and countless rocky paths and small villages tucked away. It truly is amazing and beautiful.

I’m officially a band “roadie” now, as this was also a road trip for Lifeline’s singing group – Rock Solid. My favorite part of the hike: The accordion music. It was carried like a backpack and making noise with every step.

I probably won’t be able to walk tomorrow, so I should have some time to post pictures and maybe work on a video.