The secular world calls it synergy. Jesus calls it what happens when two or three are gathered together. "I will be in the midst of you," he promises. And when that happens, we can expect the Holy Spirit to start stirring.
Several of us began our day in Port au Prince driving directly from the airport to a meeting with the Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. We brought him the materials that Carolyn Kroh and her team had assembled for the seminar we'll be offering in a few days for the 1st and 2nd grade teachers at several Episcopal schools near Les Cayes. This is the third year that Carolyn has led this effort to model an alternate approach to Haitian early-childhood education -- one that honors kids' different learning styles and makes learning interactive, which has not been the Haitian model. The workshops in the past two years focused on preschool kids; now the effort is being extended up the grade levels. In addition, Carolyn and her team have compiled curricula for the various preschool levels (Haitian schools have no common preschool curricula), and they've documented kid-focused teaching strategies to align with Haiti's existing curricula for 1st and 2nd grade. So we presented all this to the bishop, hoping to gain at least his willingness to let this creep into other Episcopal schools. Instead, his canon told us later, he embraced it heartily. He wants to introduce it as a standard for the nation's Episcopal schools, and he's considering recommending it to the national education minister as a standard for all Haitian preschools. Not bad work, apparently.
Then came the Spirit's next move. One of the potential issues in implementing one of these curricula is the need for manipulatives, especially blocks -- blocks that can be moved and connected to teach math concepts. There was some discussion about the hassle and cost of bringing blocks from the States into Haiti. (Shipping is a constant headache in missionary work here because functionally there is no mail or package-delivery service, at least in the country outside Port au Prince.) So what you want your school to have, you have to bring ... or not. As Steve Rock pointed out, one of the fundamental roadblocks to prosperity here is the absence of a middle class. So why not create a business opportunity for some folks in Maniche (or somewhere else nearby) to make wooden blocks for all the Episcopal schools in Haiti -- maybe for all the schools in Haiti. Identifying the right people in Maniche would be a great job for the vestry at our partner parish, St. Augustin, and give them a new stake in their parish's educational mission. We sat around a table enjoying a late-afternoon drink with the bishop's canon as a cooling rain began falling. And the Holy Spirit smiled as the kingdom of God broke into our day.
There were also the smaller (or not so much smaller) miracles of this good day. First of all, 13 people from St. Andrew's invested their time, talent, and treasure to leave Kansas City yesterday and come to Haiti, easily the largest Haiti mission trip I've known. We arrived with no problem, with all our duffel bags of supplies, and with very little drama. With the post-earthquake renovations finished at the airport, security and baggage claim were quick and easy. We spent our day in Port au Prince having productive meetings and running errands in the most beautiful part of the city, Petionville. We saw people working their jobs and connecting with friends and neighbors in the teeming streets. We saw a much cleaner Port au Prince than what we'd seen before.
None of this is to deny the lingering sorrow and grief from the earthquake, which you can still hear. Nor does it ignore the poverty and hunger that bind people just down the mountain from more prosperous Petionville. But it does recognize that beauty lives and miracles happen here, every day.