“Could be worse. Could be raining.” [Cue thunder, lightning, and downpour.]
-- Igor, Young Frankenstein
There’s a saying among Haiti missionaries: “What do you do when it rains in Haiti? You get wet.” That was our early morning today in a nutshell. It rained all night in Cayes, and was still raining as we got ready to head out for the hour’s drive to Maniche. There were seven of us in a pickup, so some were bound to get wet. We put on rain ponchos and put our heads down as we acted as weights for the last load of lumber to go up the mountain for the school desks. Our real concern wasn’t getting wet; it was getting the truck through the swollen rivers along the way, especially the large one right by the school. Our driver today, Shumi the interpreter, was a master of aquatic driving, and he was wise enough to ask a child to wade into the river so he could sound the depth. It was “only” up to the thighs of a 10-year-old, so the truck plunged in. Shumi made it through without any drama at all. Just another day in Haiti.
At the school, we finished up projects in preparation for coming home. Bruce and a few parents completed five more desks for the fourth- and fifth-grade classes, as well as stabilizing both the teeter-totter and the swing set. Both are in good shape for the near future, at least. Chris taught a little cultural geography this time, telling the fifth and sixth graders about our world in the States and Canada (Chris’ homeland) and showing them photos on his laptop. You’ll be happy to know the kids in Maniche have now seen Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums. Kathy taught about hand-washing and cholera prevention, telling the kids they need to be models for their families and friends to help keep the disease from spreading. And Vanessa taught the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders about fractions using time signatures in music as the example. It was a brilliant way to instill some math principles and have a great time in the process. The kids in Maniche don’t often listen to iPods (through battery-powered speakers, in this case). Vanessa had found a Celine Dion song, in French, with a strong ¾ beat, and you could hear kids singing it on the schoolyard after class. And I finished some school-picture “retakes” and tried to shoot all the activity in the classrooms and the construction site.
Once the school day was over, we all found ourselves looking for one more small task or organizational detail to manage, just to delay actually leaving. It’s hard to go once you spend a few days there and renew relationships with the teachers and students. This is a great manifestation of the truth that we really aren’t in a partner relationship with a school in Haiti. We’re partners with people who teach and learn at Maniche. The relationship isn’t about improving buildings, or building libraries, or eventually adding computers –- as important as those things are. Instead, the relationship is about helping families and educators work with God to transform the lives of these 161 students.
And we were given a wonderful exclamation point on that message as we left the school and drove back into Maniche proper. We stopped at two of the three schools where our graduates from last year’s sixth grade are now enrolled in the next step in their schooling. These are larger schools, with more resources and about 30 kids in each class (compared with the 15 or so in our classes). We had worried –- with good reason, in the past –- that our students might not be adequately prepared to make the move to the “town” schools and succeed. So we asked the headmasters at these schools how our students were doing. The answer: Just fine. They were keeping up and even excelling compared with the other students.
This is a microscopic victory. For this year, it means a grand total of six kids are moving on in their schooling. So what, in the bigger picture? This doesn’t change anything about the problems of Haiti. It doesn’t even make any visible changes in this tiny, remote mountain village. But for these six kids, at this moment in their lives, it makes all the difference. It helps them take another step in the process of becoming the new creations God intends, able to transform life for themselves, their families, and the children they will rear. Most of all, it takes these kids seriously; and, in so doing, it takes Jesus Christ seriously. As you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it to me (Matthew 25:40).
Au revoir –- until next year.