Our time in Haiti so far has been incredibly blessed. We live in Madian, Haiti at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization. We live in a community with other missionaries and a priest. Some of us are from Haiti and some from America. We have been so blessed so far to pray together in a mixture of English, Creole, and French. This has been challenging but also beautiful as we learn prayers together and attempt to read and sing in other languages.
On October 22nd, the feast of Bl. John Paul II, we had Mass with about 300 people from the surrounding community, including many school children and our beloved Bishop Dumas. Many people came at 7am to celebrate this feast with us. Later on during the day, some young girls from the school on our property (ages 9-15), came by to talk with Ti-Roro (our 71 year old congo player and dance teacher) who had told them to come by for dance lessons. Apparently, the plan is for them to learn to dance and then teach the “blan” – the white people. Since Ti-Roro wasn’t home when they arrived, we spent time with the girls singing, learning English and Creole from one another, and praying in the chapel until he came back. It was such a joyful time and so easy to minister to young people who just walked up to us and were interested in what we had to offer. In America, we would have to plan events, advertise well, and hope that teenagers could fit us into their busy schedule, somewhere between their soccer practice and homework and jobs. Here, thirty girls showed up for a dance practice and were excited to sing and pray for an hour as well.
The night before, we had a night of prayer, praise, and adoration (very similar to a Life Teen XLT). Between 50 & 100 people showed up to pray with us. Marc-Arther (a Haitian who lives here with us) led us in praise, Paul (a Life Teen missionary) gave a witness, then Fr. Louis (our priest here) talked and led us into adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The difficult part about the night was that we saw how much the Haitian people need to be catechized and evangelized in the faith. Some spiritual things happened in our prayer time that you don’t see regularly in America. Afterwards, Fr. Louis was able to pray with a girl and her family who had been to see a voodoo doctor, and he heard her confession. God was glorified, and it convicted me as well of our need to be here in Haiti. The people here need to know that they cannot worship other gods or practice other religions. They need to know more about their faith so that they understand it and don’t leave it. Haiti is a “Catholic” country where the Catholic faith is suffering.
A priest here said to us recently, “Haiti is very much in need of the New Evangelization, because the first evangelization never took root.”
I have heard many people talk about foreign missions and say, “The poor know God better than we do.” Many people come back from foreign missions feeling that the poor have a beautiful faith and we are lacking in America. While I understand and sometimes agree with this statement, there is also something absolutely crucial that is missing. People in Haiti do have a beautiful simplicity, and an openness to being taught about the faith. Much of the prayer here is beautiful as we sing loudly together, and as the Haitians praise with their whole bodies. We do have much to learn from them. But I think it is romanticizing “the poor” to say that they always know God better than us. It puts us in a risky situation where we ignore their spiritual lives and become overly self-focused. We must acknowledge that all people have a great need to be catechized and evangelized, regardless of where they live or how much they do or do not have.
There is not yet a complete approved Catholic translation of the Bible in Creole. And even if there were, many of the Haitians don’t know how to read. These are our brothers and sisters who are in need of the Gospel. “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” Romans 10:14
I am very thankful to be here, and for the gift of being able to serve God’s young Church here. I am so excited to see how God continues moving as we learn the language and the culture more and are able to reach out in new ways to the youth. Please continue praying for us on this journey.