Sunday (day 2) was church. It was a pretty neat experience to see people packed in, especially children, worshipping God with such enthusiasm. They don't have any fancy sound systems, worship teams, or worship DVD's, but when they worship, they really mean it. They sing loud, they don't worry about how good they sound, and even people with terrible voices sing solos from their heart to God with no apparent self-consciousness. I sure need more of that.
One of the things that really surprised me about Haitians is how they dress up. It's a total paradox in the midst of squalor to see girls with beautiful dresses and bows in their hair, ladies with beautiful hats, and men in slacks, long sleeved dress shirts, and ties. I don't know where they get such elegant attire in such poverty, and also their clothes look so clean and bright (even whites), in spite of all the mud and filth. I can't believe I forgot to ask them about their laundry tips.
The church is located at Willio's school building and is nothing more than a porch with an overhang on the north side, which provides shade in the hot tropical climate. But still, without a breeze, it's pretty steamy! Even in late November we were drenched with sweat.
About the school. Willio started a Christian school for street kids (and his orphans). He used to teach at a public high school in Ouanaminthe, but he decided to start his own school when he found out the other teachers beat the kids on the days he wasn't there. That made his financial outlook even more bleak, now that he doesn't have an income. But this way, he is able to educate hundreds of kids who don't have the money to go to school otherwise. I was really impressed the day we visited the school and saw 402 kids, mostly three to a chair, paying attention and excited to learn. Just like in America. :-) He has volunteer teachers helping him out for now, but he'd like to be able to pay them as soon as possible so they can feed their families too.
That night, we took a walk with Willio and came across a funeral procession. A whole band clad in uniform led the way, and it was actually very beautiful to watch. When the family came next, they openly expressed their grief, wailing pain and prayers. I had a hard time not crying, knowing how much death and grief is a part of their every day lives in Haiti.
One of the highlights of the visit was seeing the great joy and excitement the newly dug well, provided by Hopegivers' sponsors, has brought for the orphanage. Before that, they were drinking contaminated ground water, and needless to say, were often sick. But now, the orphanage, along with the whole neighborhood, joyfully uses the well for drinking, washing, cooking, and play.
After church that night, we met a young man (18) who was practically paralyzed with anxiety. Willio told us it's because he wants to go to church and become a Christian (he did come to the service that night), but he is terrified of his dad who is a voodoo priest. Voodoo is very common in Haiti. Anyhow, the young man was fearful that if his dad found out he was a Christian, he would kill him. Every time he goes to church, he says he gets a bad feeling in his stomach and he can't eat for days. At a time like this, you want to comfort him with verses and prayers, but it seems so shallow when your own faith hasn't been tested to the point of death. Please say a prayer for this young man that his faith will conquer fear. God will know who you are talking about.
That's all for now. Next entry, you'll get to meet Nancy. She's an eleven year old girl with a very touching story.