July 07, 2007

Haiti teaching

On Sunday, I preached in a service at a church in Jacmel. It was a fantastic experience... while I am picking up some Creole, of course I had a translator. Working at the church in Jacmel was a grand experience... working side by side with congregation members. We returned to Port au Prince over the mountain, and drove through much of the city. What our eyes witnessed can not fully be written down. The city was clearly once a thriving community with infrastructure, roads and commerce. But what has happened since the atrocities of 1986 and 1999 has been a complete neglect of every resource the country possessed. Roads are barely usable, from the holes and the refuse everywhere. Masses gather everywhere walking and peddling looking for a single way to make so much as a morsel to get them by for the day. The conditions that these multitudes endure is beyond belief. The streams and waterways are overrun with garbage, and the primary traffic rule seems to be chaos. In the midst of all the despair that seemed apparent to me, such was not the attitude of the people. Despite the heat and close quarters of so many thousand, I never saw a single squabble or sign of ill-will.

For the last week, I spent my time at the seminary with 40 or so pastors in a series of lectures on the book of Revelation. So much of my teaching on Apocalyptic literature hinges on careful distinctions regarding the use of language, and I found this a very difficult task when making use of an interpreter. There were some who were overwhelmed with what I was offering and some who were overjoyed. Teaching in this context has been complex and challenging. The students have a wide variety of education and theological background. All in all, it went well, and my colleagues would share with me the sentiment that it felt good to feel useful and as if our presence really was making a difference. As the end of the week, I was in the faculty procession of the semester-ending graduation ceremony. (I actually handed them the diplomas as they crossed the stage.)

CONASPEH is an incredible organization and makes possible a feeding of multitudes with such a small loaf.

July 01, 2007

Haiti trip

I have been in Haiti preparing for a lecture series at St. Andrew Theological Seminary, the seminary of CONASPEH in Port au Prince. From the moment of arrival for the group I travelled with, the drive through Port au Prince was eye-opening. Waste and trash evident, people upon people looking for a means to get by in the streets. But I have not witnessed despair, rather a strong spirit among those I've met so far. One of the CONASPEH officials overwhelmed us with her words of thanksgiving for our presence, and for our enthusiasm to come and contribute to their ministry. Sleeping in the heat was not at all unbearable, and I in fact have been sleeping soundly. On the first morning we had a meeting scheduled with the regional coordinators and pastors of the council of CONASPEH. CONASPEH is the ecumenical Council of Spiritual Churches in Haiti that we work with as mission partners. It is essentially the ecumenical gathering of poor Haitian churches left out of the loop by those in power. They are our host.

Our group drove to the CONASPEH central building in Port au Prince and were stunned by the number of pastors and regional coordinators that had come together just for the opportunity to meet with us. There were some 50-60 who had come from every corner of Haiti, and some islands. Mind you these pastors and churches are poor, so they come by small bus and by foot, some of them many many hours. As we introduced ourselves and they introduced themselves, their expressions of joy and solidarity at our presence was spirit-filled.

Our second day takes us to Jacmel on the south coast where we will be working on construction of a church. After 3 days, we will then return to Port au Prince where our group will work on another church while I teach course on Revelation to a group of pastors in the seminary.