Saturday is the longest day of the year but it feels even longer when I get up at 3:20 a.m. to fly to another world. I soar through that sky that embraces us all and on the summer solstice my feet land on foreign soil for the first time in this small life of mine. When the mountains appear through a filmy mist, I can't stop staring. Is it rude to fill your eyes this way? To gorge oneself on the horizon? How can such a rugged beauty speak such sweet invitation?
I am going to meet the people of Haiti this week.
There is a terrible mosquito-borne virus going around the country, and the poverty is heartbreaking, and I've heard the stories of darkness in what's left of the tent cities erected after the earthquake. But I'm not thinking about any of these things.
I'm thinking about a story. A story of how a husband and wife had a dream to help a people in need. A story of loving God's people well. That's what Dr. David Walmer and his wife Kathy, a nurse practioner, do at Family Health Ministries. They've dedicated their lives to providing quality medical care to the Haitian people. Especially Haitian women.
"In Haiti, 49.2% of cancer deaths are related to cervical cancer as compared to 2.5% in North America. As a Haitian woman, you are six times more likely to die of cervical cancer than your American counterpart." ~from the Family Health Ministries website
I think about this story in the ministry van as I am jostled through the winding, rocky streets of Port au Prince. We pass throngs of people ... selling goods, washing laundry on the streetside, balancing burdens on their heads.
There is still damage from the earthquake, though my new mission partners tell me things are much improved, much cleaner. There are piles of trash, some on fire--massive dumps in seemingly random places. Goats and and pigs and dogs pause to nose through the trash; chickens roam about cautiously. But the people are constantly moving--waves of color spilling down the streets.
Emily said it best during our devotional that first night. "I saw a people so resilient," she said. "They are busy living their lives, making a living, doing what they must do."
That first night, I don't sleep. Even though I've been up since 3:20 a.m., I lie sweating on my bed, eyes open in the dark. I listen to dogs fighting in the night, a pounding bass line from a passing vehicle, and the occasional rooster crow. It is hot. And my mind won't rest from all that I have seen.
How can I close my eyes on fresh sheets, with a full belly, and clean water within arms reach? I am restless. And we haven't even begun.
I drift off in the night, sleep fitfully, wondering what I am doing here in this strange, beautiful country. Before sunrise, I awaken to singing. It is Sunday and the Haitian people have started their worship. Our team gets ready and loads in the van to drive to Cite Soleil Church. I don't understand a word of the service but we worship for over two hours. And there is singing, such beautiful songs.
The ladies wear long skirts and white lace coverings on their heads, and the men? Crisp white shirts and ties. The men sing from their bellies in Haiti--loud and strong and full of love. They do not fear to be heard or glance about self-consiously.
We take communion together, a small kernal of deep fried bread and a tiny cup of juice. As the elders of the church--men and women, file past with the communion elements, a voice whispers in my heart, "This is the Body of Christ, this is the body of Christ..."
And the sky is above us embracing our worship and I think of my family back home lifting their voices to The Lord and my heart swells.
This is the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ. This is why I am here, in this strange, beautiful country. Because we are one, meant to touch hands and hearts.
And I know these people will give more to me than I could ever give to them. And the second night?
I close my eyes on clean sheets and fall asleep to singing. These people who worship with their voices all day long--they sing me to sleep.
A Haitian lullaby.