5:30 seems really early to be up for church, but Sunday that’s exactly what we did. On Tuesday, Flag Day and a holiday here in Haiti, Chris decided to take Olivia and go visit one of our workers and his family. I was at the clinic doing Medika Manba so I didn’t get to go, but Chris loved it so much he wanted me to see it. We decided to take Fritzner up on his invitation to attend his church.
Fritzner lives in the mountains around Kan Marie. The Kan Marie “corridor” (essentially a main street type road) is about 10 minutes from our house. We piled into the white truck around 6:30 and headed out. We drove down the corridor, just taking things in. I love being out when it’s so early in the day. There had been a light rain during the night so things were still overcast and cool. It was lovely.
We were in the big white truck because it has 4 wheel drive. The road is okay until it makes a T. We turned right and the road started to go up and I was actually amazed that we got up it at all. The fun thing was that we could stop halfway up a hill (pretty much rocks and ditches) and pick people up who wanted a ride, then keep going without losing traction.
We went up, up, up to the end of the road and then parked the truck. Our area is quite desert like, but as we got closer to Fritzners zone there were bigger trees, and way more of them. The air was cooler and everything was green. We got out of the truck and walked along a path that took us down the hillside. We crossed over a small stream that ran down between two hillsides, covered in trees and vines, and then up the other side. I was hoping I wouldn’t slip, and figured that since the girl in front of was marching along in two and a half inch heels I shouldn’t complain about things being slippery. As we walked we could hear the people from church. Their singing carried down through the valley.
Up on the other side of the hill the church sat nestled under two big trees. It’s walls and roof were nothing more than “tres kokoye” (woven palm frond walls). People shuffled a bit and made room for us. It was easy to see that this was a village church, comprised of several families from the immediate area. The women wore head coverings. There was no pressure for men to wear ties.
There was no pastor, but rather the message was delivered by three men from the church, Fritzner being one of them. The messages we have heard in other churches recently centered around end times, and being ready for the return of Christ. On Sunday the men spoke of God’s grace, the importance of conversion and having a relationship with God, that God is our protector and provider, and that in Christ once we are believers there is no difference between people, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no rich or poor, there is no black or white, there is no difference.
The section above where I sat was missing part of the roof. Several times I found myself looking up at the trees, one dripping with mangoes, the other dripping with green oranges. Every so often the wind would shake the leaves and the previous nights rain would sprinkle us. It was so cool and quiet there. It was so simple.
The kids look healthier and the people seem happier. I can only imagine that part of it is that the weather is cooler on a daily basis. I know how much the heat takes out of me and how much better I feel when it’s cooler. We have always noticed that the further away you get from the main highway, the more content people seem to be. I think that people who live in the mountains have had to learn to be a community, to work together, to be dependent on the land and each other. We saw a lovely example of community. The closer you get to main highways and cities, the more access there is to aid and resources. You can live for yourself and not be reliant on working together for the good of the area. In the mountains, people need to decide as a community what is important to them, and find ways to keep order. One thing that surprised us what that during church one young man got up and shared that he was sad that he had been sanctioned (disciplined) by the church for having a woman who was not his fiance or wife cut his toenails. You and I might look at that and think it was silly, but in Haitian culture that’s a thing of intimacy that should be done in certain context and relationship. This young man had gone outside of that and the church, his church community, had disciplined him for it. It was loving. I thought that the fact that they cared enough to do it was interesting, but that he was comfortable enough to tell the church he was struggling with it was even more interesting to me.
After church was finished we walked up to Fritzners house so I could meet his wife. One thing I love about Fritzner is that he has been committed to and married to the same woman and has children from only her. His faith is important, he is a leader in his community.
As we walked back down to the truck many people asked if we were going to come back to the church soon. It was so nice to be welcomed so warmly and sincerely. The area was beautiful. It was truly like being in a rainforest. There were flowers popping up everywhere and things growing on every inch of ground. It was so green and fresh. We could hear streams bubbling as we walked. As we headed back to the truck children yelled from the top of one hill to Olivia. She’s quite popular wherever we go, and was very sad that we had to leave. She had so much fun playing with the kids earlier in the week and being able to go back was the icing on the cake.
I didn’t take a camera but wish I had. The view from the top was amazing. We could literally see all the way to the Artibonite Valley and beyond. It was a morning well spent.