Monday, July 13, 2009

more off-roading for the Lord

This Sunday we set off early for Chateau Gaillard, a mission church in the mountains. The first stage, as before, was by pick-up truck down a riverbed and then on up the mountain as far as possible. Eventually we could go no further, and it was there that a horse awaited. However, as there was only one horse, and he was in a very bad mood and kicking, we all elected to hike. "Sure, I can go on foot!" I said. So off we went, first downhill to the creek below, then back up again, Willy, M. Berthony with the thurible, me with my backpack, and Pere Samuel with his things as well, striding on ahead of us. This middle-aged city dweller may be used to climbing the hill in Roxbury, but hiking up a mountain in habit is rather another thing. I had to take a few rest breaks (along with one photo stop for the curly-horned sheep), and by the time I got to the top, I was thoroughly winded to the point that Pere Samuel informed me he'd be borrowing a horse for me for the way down. I was pretty sure I could walk downhill, after all, but I didn't object, either. I was infinitely grateful that the coffee we were offered there was made with treated water so that I could have some. It was just the pick-me-up I needed, even in the heat.

I preached my first homily in Haitian Creole there at St. Timothy's. I was a little unsure how it would go, given that not only was there the issue of language, but also the assigned gospel reading was the beheading of John the Baptist. Such a lovely story. Furthermore, Pere Samuel had been out very, very late Saturday night because the car broke down again, so he had not had a chance to look it over before breakfast that morning, which didn't leave time for revision. Fortunately, Guerling, the rector's wife, was kind enough to fix my grammar for me, and I checked the pronunciation of a few words on the way there. I think it went reasonably well, as I got vocal feedback during the preaching that let me know they were with me. I found that quite heartening! People here are so patient with foreign accents and grammatical mistakes. I can't tell you how much I have appreciated that generosity of spirit.
Two groups of children sang during the service. I enjoyed their music.

St. Timothy's also has a school with a couple of classrooms and another class which meets in the nave. The photo here is of the outside of the classrooms - they were locked, so I couldn't go in. I would have taken photos of the church, but I was too tired to remember.

Following the service, we were served a
snack (no coffee hours here, but they knew we were coming from a distance). I helped myself to some fried plaintains before getting on the borrowed horse and heading back down the mountain, led by the man whose horse we had borrowed. Absolutely stunning views.

Once down the mountain (and back up the other side of the creek), we piled back into the pick-up and jounced along to the next stop, Christ Roi, Corail. Or nearly - once we'd parked the truck, there was another hike, this one mercifully shorter and less steep. Which didn't stop me from slipping, falling, and thus arriving dirty as well as sweat-soaked. A sight to behold, I'm sure. But it didn't matter much: God showed up and we worshipped, which is what counts! Pere Samuel tells me that there are some parish priests who have six hour trips (on foot) to their mission churches. Fortunately, his parish only has eight missions, and none are further than three hours away. I suggested that maybe required PE should be a part of seminary here. Good thing most seminarians are young so they can get used to it if they are currently city dwellers.

Once again, I preached and Pere Samuel celebrated. We were joined by those who had come along from the home parish, Annonciation, and by several from Chateau Gaillard who came along as well. Corail is a smaller church with maybe 100 members, much tinier. However, the corrugated metal roof is in better condition than that of the previous church, which they are raising money to replace.

Christ the King also has a small school, and this time I was able to get in to see the classrooms, which were decorated with the children's illustrations of vocabulary words and so on. The preschool weekly schedule was posted. I don't remember my nursery school being so organized! You can see in the photo of the inside of the church that there are also classes held there: there are brown chalkboards along the sides and back of the nave. This is one of the four schools which may have to close in the fall, as sufficient funds have not yet been raised to pay for the teachers' salaries. They are short $4000 for six schools: teachers make approximately $60 per month. Not much to run six schools for a year, but it's $4000 more than they have.

When the service was over, the weary travellers were fed once again. The rice and beans were very good, but I can tell you that I have never enjoyed a cool Coke so much in my life!

When I got home Sunday afternoon, I was beat. That cold shower was just what I needed. It was a long day, but I am grateful to have had the experience of the two mission parishes, and I continue to grow in respect for the work of Haitian Episcopal priests. It's no small job here.

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