Most churches in America run a pretty tight 60 minutes. The crazier churches go a little over an hour or so, and if it runs any longer you’ll begin to hear people shifting around in their seats.
In Haiti, things are different. VERY different.
I traveled to Haiti last weekend to begin production on an original Faithwire video series, Mission Haiti, which aims to give you an up close, personal look at the people, their culture, faith, and determination in the face of incredibly difficult life challenges.
Each day (beginning TODAY) we’ll post a short story leading up to the launch of the series.
I want to kick things off by giving you a sneak peek at some people with incredibly strong and inspiring faith. I found them all over the country, but especially on a remote mountainside in Jérémie, located on the very southwestern tip of the country.
Back in October, the small town suffered a direct hit from hurricane Matthew. Over 1,000 people were killed, nearly every home was damaged or destroyed, and the beautiful landscape was utterly ravaged.
Four months later the damage is still evident.
Despite the insane amount of damage and huge hurdles these people face on a day to day basis, I was blown away when it came time for church on Sunday. Ok, actually it starts on Saturday night with a multiple hour service. But then it begins again (soft start) between 6am-7am Sunday morning.
Sure enough, around 6:30am people came slowly rolling into the church, which was the building I stayed at. Yeah, it was a little awkward sleeping in a room adjacent to the sanctuary with only a thin, sheer curtain separating me from the congregation as they arrived. But this is their normal. No biggie at all.
Here is a picture of the front door.
The people of the mountainside kept trickling in, and before long it was a packed house. The singing was vibrant, and there was an inherent joy present that, quite frankly, you don’t always (often?) see in American churches. I watched the service for an hour or so before going off to do some other reporting and interviewing.
We came back around noon. They were STILL GOING strong. Singing, dancing, clapping. We’re talking about six hours of just getting after it.
Just a reminder: These people on this little mountainside community have nothing. Their children walk up and down a steep hill just to retrieve jugs of fresh (ish) water so they can wash dishes, clothes, or take a sponge bath. There is trash everywhere. Small kids wander about, many are naked.
A common sight during church services around Haiti is cell phones piled up outside the building, charging. A generator runs during the service, and many of the locals do not have easy access to electricity – so they make sure their phones get some juice.
Yet, despite all of these harsh circumstances, there they were faithfully on Sunday. Praising God with everything they had — for over six hours! But it didn’t stop there.
The choir then practiced most of the afternoon, because there was another service coming — Sunday evening. It began around 6:00pm eastern and went well into night. Hymns and shouts to the Lord could be heard throughout the hillside.
I came away from the experience feeling inspired but also a little ashamed. My faith felt so small, so weak.
Yes, as Americans we have physical needs we can offer. But wow, could we use some of their contentment and joy, strong faith and reliance on God. It’s hard to describe the feeling – heartbreaking yet awe inspiring. Tragic yet beautiful.
We’re mistaken to simply look at Haiti with pity. They have needs – but there’s much we can learn from them.
I’ll leave you with part of a song they sang — one of countless songs — which roughly translated means, God has Satan under his feet. So good!
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