It's Thursday, just the third day of our team's service experience. We've all been touched by the many sights, sounds, smells, faces and experiences of our first two days. And the schedule for day three while uniquely different, proved to be an incredible day of contrasts. Let me explain.
The morning started early with a 6:00am trip to the Morningstar Church - an open-air tent service for any and all comers who want to start their day by praising their Lord. We arrived to the sounds of a praise band and many locals singing with arms raised and focused solely on their personal relationship with The Lord. As we took a seat near the center back of the church, the regulars did not sit but moved in unison to the music singing at the top of their lungs. Contrast #1 - How uninhibited the Haitian people are in their worship while we often worry more about how we look, how we act and what others think. Clearly, that was of no concern to them. It was just pure praise and worship between each individual and their Savior - very inspiring!
Our first stop for the day was a tour of Grace Village. As we arrived in the town of Titanyen having read the stories of the town's past and learning that Titanyen means "Less than Nothing", it was easy to spot the large walled-in facility located high on the hillside. From a distance it was not obvious that this was a very different and special place in the town. But as we approached and entered Grace Village it became clearly evident. The property was so clean, we'll-maintained, uplifting and alive that is was as if we had just entered a different world. And I am sure the people of the town who experience Grace Village feel the same every time they walk through the beautiful gate. Contrast #2 - From the very ground that was known for years as being "Less than Nothing" rises Grace Village which is clearly to the people of Haiti "Greater than Anything" they know on this earth!
We departed Grace Village to visit several of the Elders in the village. What a special time this was. Each was so appreciative of the visit, enjoyed the attention they received and even sang with us. While it was so special to visit with each of them, it is hard to imagine anything better than spending time with Ms. Marie - 103 years old and still full of spunk and smiles. Her stories were captivating and her excitement was contagious. But the contrast of this part of the day happened as we visited with Ms. Marie-Terez who was quietly sitting on her bed with an infant baby girl lying on a mattress at her bedside. Contrast #3 - Even in her later years, Marie-Terez was caring for a new life - certain to carry on her legacy with renewed hope and dreams of a Haiti healed from years of abuse and neglect.
Our next stop was Olson's Orphanage. A small, ill-equipped home with 10 children in their care. While small and just getting their footing, they has a dream of making a difference in their village - and they were making progress. Their connection with Healing Haiti was benefitting them and the small kids they were caring for. We brought them but a few things - including some hand-made dolls from a women's group in Paris Arkansas. The kids loved their new dolls and it was great to see them cling to them like their most precious gift. Contrast #4 - Right in the heart of Titanyen, the seeds of a new Haiti are rising like a newly planted tree. While the soil is not as fertile as one would like, the nourishment, care and feeding by teams from Healing Haiti are making a huge difference.
We ended our day with a stop at the Mass Grave site from the 2010 earthquake. You only need to view the photos of the site from earlier years to get a glimpse of how awful and painful the memories of this place are for all Haitians. But the healing and new growth is clear to a new visitor. Past wounds do heal, and they heal even faster when people from around the world come together with a common goal. It was uplifting to be a small part of the effort. Contrast #5 - Like watching a small child grow up, if you are with them everyday it is hard to see the changes that happen along the way. But when you look back over a longer time or visit after an extended absence, the contrasts are clear and obvious. Haiti is like that child growing and healing every day - and we had a chance to be a small but important part of that growth and change.
I am sure that tomorrow will bring even more reasons for giving thanks to God, but today was a one-of-a-kind day of contrast, and I was glad to be in it.