We’ve had a long and full day, and we have to be alert for a 7 a.m. service tomorrow (the first of two at which I’m preaching), so I’ll try to make this relatively short.
We arrived in Maniche this morning with considerably less trouble than yesterday, and without having to take the hour-long detour to find a river crossing. Our intrepid driver, Jean-Marie, took the Hosanna house truck underwater up to the door handles, but he pulled us through to the other side. Praise God, literally.
This being Saturday, there was no school in Maniche. So we used our time on things we couldn’t have done while the kids were in classes. One of the plans was to continue the “field day” activities from yesterday, to the degree we had any takers show up. When we got there, only a few kids were around. So Bruce continued with his second construction project, the swing set –- which he finished today, too. Kathy and Vanessa painted little girls’ fingernails, and Chris supervised a game of soccer, much more organized than the bedlam from yesterday. I shot photos and hung around with the kids.
Once the customers for the nail boutique ran dry and the kids had played quite a bit of soccer, we took off with a group of students to have them take us to their homes. We walked through the countryside around Maniche for about an hour and a half, stopping at the homes of maybe a dozen students. At each one, through our interpreters, we explained who we were, said thank-you for sending your child to the school, invited them to a parent-teacher meeting on Monday, and found out which kids lived in that home. (Chris also mapped each child’s home using a GPS and recorded which kids lived where.) Then I prayed with each family and blessed their homes. It’s a wonderful illustration of the thin place between heaven and earth that Haiti is. Here there’s very little sense of separation between the secular and the sacred, and the notion that a wandering stranger would stop and bless your home really isn’t odd at all here.
I need to share a story from this walkabout. Several of the kids who led us around adopted an adult as a special friend, and I ended up with two little girls who insisted on holding my hands the entire time we tromped around through the rocks and mud. They were darling, apart from the scabies; and they really seemed to enjoy the time with these strange blans who had come to call. Along the way, we crossed a creek on stepping stones, which the kids would have had absolutely no problem navigating. I was a little hesitant about this, not having crossed a creek in a long time. But one of my little companions, dressed in an enormously long Hannah Montana t-shirt acting as a dress, insisted on walking through the creek next to me, holding my hand. Along the way (surprise, surprise), I slipped on a wet rock and pitched toward her a bit. She held her ground in the mud, holding me up and righting me back on the rock so I could continue with dry feet. I was reminded of the story of Christ calling to Peter to walk on the sea to meet him. When Peter began to doubt and began slipping into the sea, it was Jesus’ hand that kept him up. And so it was with me today.
Once we got back to the school, Vanessa had done an incredible job of organizing the kids there (now probably 40 or so) into two groups in two classrooms, getting them ready to paint with watercolors. The kids at Maniche have no art whatsoever in their curriculum, so we wanted to give them an experience they wouldn’t normally get. Vanessa had all the materials out and was giving the kids instructions in French about how to do this activity they had never seen before. The results were incredible –- many simply beautiful paintings, as varied as the kids themselves. Then, to top off this experience, we have this story: Bruce was in the church, measuring the benches so he could build desks to fit with some of them in the classrooms. One of the students came into the church with his watercolor, which Bruce appropriately admired and praised. The boy then went to the back of the church, took the top off the baptismal font, and placed his painting in the empty font, an offering for God and for the church. We are all called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and this boy completely gets it. Thanks be to God, and may we all offer ourselves so beautifully.