DAY 5 Good Friday
I’ve told you about the background of praise we’ve been going to sleep to each night. Pastor invited us to join them tonight for service. The church is white-washed stone like everything else in the Philadelphia compound. Simple wooden benches, seating for perhaps 300, also white-washed. Simple podium. Raised platform in front for choir. No decorations, pictures, crosses, stained glass, tapestries or banners. Only a bouquet of flowers on a table in front of the podium.
Esther and I sat behind Madam and two rows of elderly ladies similarly dressed in white long-sleeved blouses and dark skirts. As another matron would arrive, Madam reached in her bag and pulled out a white lace mantilla (head scarf) and a black strip of lace. I noticed that the other females of all ages, scattered throughout the pews, also wore various types of head coverings. I asked Madam for one, as did Esther – reminded me of Catholic mass as a girl. Esther and I styled ours after Madam’s, bandana style. The matrons in front of us all helped each other with the black lace strips which they wore like neck ties under their crisp white collars. (See Esther’s post for how they wash their clothes (river!) and iron these church outfits (cast iron filled with coals!) More and more white-clad females entered – younger 30s-40s who filled the choir benches. The orphanage children were in the front benches on the other side of the aisle – dressed in their clean church clothes, and many sporting their new Nike tennis shoes courtesy of Kevin and Tim – see their postings!
The choir started the singing with full force – the congregation, including the children, were as loud – at the TOP OF THEIR LUNGS! I’ve never heard such loud singing – it reverberated and bounced against the stone walls. The choir was rather stoic except for their volume. Then the matrons got up. In their lace neckties, mantillas and proper shoes with heels, they formed a half circle in front of the congregation, Madam leading them. With the first note, they proceeded to ROCK OUT; hand gestures, swaying, joyful expressions, hands slicing the air, up, down, swayng back and forth. They’d stand still for the chorus and then break again into animation. Very cool. 20 or so stanzas.
Next a young woman started reading something at the podium until the lights suddenly went out. A moment’s hesitation, Pastor jumped up to fix the problem and Madam burst out in song and the congregation immediately joined her – like it was planned. 10 or so stanzas, lights came back on – woman resumes reading.
8 young men – one of them Kenzie, a 15 yr old who seems to be always waiting outside the compound gate, eager to be our “tour helper” for Pignon – he’s walked with us every day – I’ll write about our walks later. Anyway…Kenzie and 7 other dashing young men, all dressed in white dress shirts and ties, form a line in front of us. Wow, they could really sing, and rocked the place almost as much as the matrons. Upbeat, rhymic beat, chanting with responses – all in Creole of course, but again the message was obviously one of joy and gratitude and praise. The choir took over and I recognized one tune, so could sing along without fear of being heard, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…”
Pastor’s son, Alden, preached on Jesus’ final words on the cross – Pastor, in a low voice, interpreted along with him for us. Suddenly…darkness again. Pastor disappeared out the door, Alden kept right on preaching! A few flashlights/cell phone lights blinked on around the church. Alden finished, choir sang another song in the dark. And the congregation joined in with gusto, as if thanking God for the faulty generator. Lights came back, choir didn’t miss a beat. When the song ended, Pastor grinned and boomed out, “Gramma, we are in Haiti, yes?” A running joke between him and me. I yelled back, “Yes we are in Haiti indeed!”
The service had now been going for over 2 hours. During this time, the children, both from the orphanage and from town, sang, talked quietly amongst themselves, and seemed to be on the lookout for malcontent babies. Every time a baby would fuss – the choirs’ babies were continually passed around the church – one of the children would run up, grab the baby and jostle or rock until baby was calmed.
The church had been slowly filling up – now all seats were taken, with standing room only. Word must have spread that Pastor was going to show a film, “The Passion of Christ” – definetly not the Mel Gibson version. This was an older movie, filmed in French. It started off silent because there was a problem with the audio. They are using a projector that Denny and Abby brought over from Doxology – a church in Corvallis. By the way, as I write this, Pastor and Mark and Tom from Missouri are on the roof working to install the solar panels that many of you contributed towards. Thank you! Will be WONDERFUL to not have to rely on the troublesome generator.
It didn’t bother the congregation that there was no audio – they already knew the story Pastor started the film at the raising of the Centurian’s daughter. The crowd moaned to see the girl lying dead, mother prostrate with grief. A close up of Jesus showed him telling her to “rise and live,” the girl opened her eyes, and the crowd erupted in cheers and applause! I laughed out loud – so awesome that the excitement and wonderment of Jesus’ healing touch is so fresh and so real to these folks.
The sound for the movie came on which didn’t help me and Esther, but helped rachet up the other folks’ enjoyment. They laughed when Jesus responded to the Pharisees challenging questions – they cheered and clapped at every miracle, buzzing with excitement when the scene was being set for the loaves and fishes. Pastor fast-forwarded to the Last Supper. Jesus breaking the bread and sharing the wine brought moans and “amens” and “mesi.” They jeered at Judas, cried with Peter when he denied Jesus. Some of the matrons in front of me sobbed at Jesus scrouging, and many had to hide their eyes because they couldn’t watch His torture. Throughout the crucifixtion, it seemed the entire congregation held its collective breath until we heard Jesus say, “…finis.”
Pastor stopped the film at this point, saving the resurrection scene for Easter Sunday service. The short walk from church to orphanage was in total darkness, but with a little one holding onto each of my and Esther’s hands.
They were, and are, guiding us.