"What are you trying to accomplish?" That question feels like the crystallization of our discernment over the past week. It’s been a time of reimaging our role as a partner with St. Augustin’s church and school. In that process, we’ve struggled to make out what shape our collaboration might take in the future. But just as much, we’ve struggled to see the shape of our collaboration thus far. We’ve had plenty of discussions of agenda – in the sense of, “Whose agenda is it?” and “Are we talking with the people who have the greatest stake in the outcome?” (i.e., our partners themselves). Legitimately, I think, our Haiti team has said we’ve done a good job consulting our partners and working with them to identify how we can serve the children at our school and make it a place of high-quality education. But what we’ve come to see is twofold: that our partnership has been centralized in Pere Colbert on the Haiti side, and that we haven’t been focusing on the richest question.
This week, we’ve learned important things about Pere Colbert’s pursuit of a collaborative model of leadership in his mission congregations, as well as the new mandate that parish vestries will now be responsible for the schools affiliated with them. That means we’ll now have a new relationship to build – with the vestry of St. Augustin’s, not simply with our partner priest. We talked with Colbert tonight, and one of the questions was excruciatingly tactical: How can we communicate with the vestry members? He affirmed what we had heard at the school earlier in the week, that none of them have e-mail. So, we’ll have to use the school’s headmaster, Samuel, as an intermediary – which will actually be a blessing, because it will force the headmaster and the vestry members to interact more often. That, too, should strengthen the partnership.
We’ve also learned that we haven’t been asking our partners the best question. Thus far, we’ve been careful to ensure that we fight the old-style missionary impulse to dictate outcomes by always asking our partners, “What is it that you need?” That has seemed like the right question for a long time, but it actually falls short. The richer question came from a conversation I had with John Walker, driving up the mountain today for the second service, at Maniche. (We had already had 7 a.m. church at Pere Colbert’s church in Cayes.) John and I came to see that perhaps the real question is this: “What is it that you (our partner) want to accomplish?” Then the follow-up questions would be, “What can you bring to that work, and how can we help achieve it?” That’s not a bad place to find ourselves understanding our partnership at the end of this week.
So here are some observations from the day that’s now nearly gone:
· 7 a.m. is awfully early for church, especially if you’re the preacher and you’re being translated to people whose language you don’t speak.
· In Maniche, for the second service, Pere Colbert had the lay ministers conduct the service up to the point of the sermon, so that when we arrived it was time simply to walk in and preach. Hmmmm…..
· We presented Bibles to last year’s graduates of our school – those who had passed the national 6th grade test and gone on to begin secondary school. It was a joy to get to congratulate them ourselves and bless them for their journey ahead.
· The beach at Port Salud and the lobster grilled on it are evidence that God is very good.
We packed most of our things tonight and will leave Hosanna House tomorrow, after visiting Maniche one last time in the morning. I think I can take the risk to speak for all of us in saying that we have had enough beans and rice for quite a while. We aren’t quite dreaming of cheeseburgers, but it’s close. Still, this has been an incredibly productive trip, both in terms of the work in the moment and the work for the future. And if we can say that, I think it makes Jesus smile.