Working in Haiti: A Reflection

Early in March I made my sixth trip to The New Testament Mission which is 80 miles north of Port au Prince in LaCroix, Haiti. These trips always call for a bit of reflection. So here I go:

I continuously struggle that these trips are only one week long. Does our whisking in for such short amount of time hurt more than it helps? On Sunday after worship we had a chance to walk outside the mission compound. I was struck by how many people along the road called out my name or at least called out "bonsoir, Darby's mama!" as they have also gotten to know my daughter over the years. Their friendliness is so welcoming. Being invited to see these people's homes was such a gift of hospitality. I am slowly learning that we are building relationships and I pray that going forward I am open enough for this to be used in the best way.

 

It's great to report that I have witnessed "with many hands work can be light." The library project we've been working on the past several years has made great strides. With Americans and Haitians working side by side the second room was finished on this trip. It will service the high school students, teachers and pastors. Ten computers were installed to enhance their learning for research, listening to books in online libraries, and practicing their English and French skills. We left with the project taking a turn as the Haitian school superintendent and mission leadership are now taking the control in ideas and action. They are assuming the ownership and that is awesome!

 

Working in Haiti always heightens my awareness of looking at everything as useful. As a generalization we throw way too much away in the United States. Part of our team was from a bakery in Pittsburgh. They were focused on helping to expand the use of the solar oven at the mission. So for example, when they discovered that a cake stand would be helpful to their work they made one from a non working ceiling fan fixture and some scraps of wood from the library furniture construction. Brilliant!

 

We had the joy of working on a sewing project for the first time while in Haiti. I learned many things with this but I will share just two for today: sewing on a treadle machine is harder than it looks but singing while you work makes even repetitive projects joyful. 

Lastly the community that is experienced on these trips is special. We live, work, and eat together. I am a bit of an introvert and need space and quiet. God has surprised me in that I've learned and now believe that living in community is important and stimulating to me despite my sometimes quiet, reclusive ways. The Haitians model community also. As we visited friends homes on Sunday afternoon I was struck by how many generations were living with their homes clustered together with shared laundry and cooking spaces. The school bell symbolizes community to me. It can be heard throughout the valley and rings at many points during the day. Everyone knows what each signal is for. It triggers the start of the day as the sun rises and the roosters are crowing, it is a call to come to school, it tells the teachers it's time to take a lunch break and I suspect there is more I have yet to learn. In Christianity a bell being rung can symbolize the presence of Christ. For churches a bell can be a call to the faithful. At this mission I feel as if the bell is a call to believers and a symbol of a common purpose to work and learn and worship together. It is good.