Friday, April 8, 2016

Haiti Mission Trip, Day 7

We’ve come to the end of our last day on this mission trip.  The conference’s final session reinforced the themes we’ve been hearing:  emphasizing being first and doing second, practicing relationship rather than benevolence, finding assets rather than scarcities, expecting mutual accountability, and focusing on individuals rather than human abstractions.  It’s the heart of ministry.  The only difference is the context and the cross-cultural challenges in pulling it off.
Speaking of which … we also learned something interesting this morning about our partner school in Maniche.  Yesterday, I wrote about the benefits of creating an advisory board made up of leaders from the community and school, as well as the church.  We discovered today that such a board not only exists but is mandatory; the national education department requires that each school have one.  I have no idea who its members might be, but it exists (at least on paper) – so, a good start.  But why hadn’t we ever heard about this before?  In a nutshell, we hadn’t asked, and Pere Colbert hadn’t thought we would be particularly interested.  Even after all these years, we have work to do in building this relationship.
The conference ended with Eucharist, and the highlight (as is usually the case in Haiti) was the singing, led by one of the choirs of the Holy Trinity Cathedral Music School.  The cathedral building was reduced to rubble in the 2010 earthquake, but the cathedral’s ministries remain not just strong but, in this case, glorious.  The music moved people to tears.
After lunch, the St. Andrew’s crew went to Haiti’s national history museum.  It survived the earthquake nicely, being built underground (reminiscent of the WWI museum in Kansas City).  It tells the story of Haiti’s oppressive history: from the Spanish genocide of the indigenous peoples, to the enslavement of African people by the Spanish and French, to the revolution that created the first black nation-state, to a series of leaders tempted by personal self-aggrandizement – several of whom proclaimed themselves rulers for life (including a couple of “emperors” of Haiti, complete with French-made royal regalia).  It seems Papa Doc Duvalier was only following a well-established pattern of leaders who exchanged a once-liberating heart for the oppressor’s fist.  And it helps explain the historical DNA that challenges Haiti so deeply simply to complete transfers of power under the rule of law.
Holy Trinity Cathedral's temporary worship space
We ended the day at Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  The site of the beautiful church, with its famous murals, is now literally a parking lot.  The earthquake took the building, but the ministries of the cathedral’s faithful people go on. The cathedral congregation now gathers in a temporary structure, only a shadow of the old building’s towering arches and stunning paintings.  It is not aesthetically pleasing, to Northern eyes – probably not to Haitian eyes, either.  But it’s only a placeholder.  Holy Trinity Cathedral will have a new home someday, though when that will be depends on fundraising.  It will be a glorious thing when a new structure ushers in a new age, complete with reconstructed murals pieced together from the rubble.  As Haitian Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin said at our conference:  Yes, buildings toppled; 300,000 lives were lost; and countless people remain maimed, physically and emotionally.  But the Church goes on because “the ministries and mission of the Church belong to God, not to us.”  Since the earthquake, the bishop explained, the Haitian church has been living out this unofficial motto: “Haiti, stand up and walk!” (see Acts 3:1-10).
Amen.  The only edit I might make, based on today’s worship would be this:  “Haiti, stand up and sing!”

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