(Ecuze’ this posting is tardy, but “We are in Haiti, Yes?”)
Pastor Francois woke us at 3am this morning because when Haitians do an Easter Sunrise service, they do the service first, then greet the sunrise! I discovered a HUGE advantage to 3am in Haiti – it’s cool outside!
There was an almost full moon as Pastor, Mark and I left the compound. Music filled the air from every direction it seemed: singing, organ, drums. Pastor explained that this Easter service has been a tradition for a very long time and that many of Pignon’s churches would be joining together for it. We walked slowly, the Americanos needing flashlight help over the rough parts. At each intersection, dark, silent figures in twos or threes approached and joined our group. Pastor led us left, right, through it seemed, most of the town. Our numbers swelled as we neared the music source. Another stone church, half the size of Philadelphia, was quickly filling. Hands reached out to greet Pastor, and because the town loves and respects him so much, we are accepted with smiles and handshakes as well. Mark and I sit behind our Philadelphia choir who today are dressed even more fancily with cream pants/skirts and maroon dress shirts. The women all wear black felt berets – not me, I had a feeling this building was going to get hot. Ushers kept motioning for everyone to squeeze in closer together on the benches – 10-12 adults crowded together on benches designed for 6-8. More and more people stream in, filling the center and side aisles and front of church until I could see no empty spots. But still they came in, chairs getting passed into the church through the windows!
Finally they seemed satisfied in the over-crowding (I thought briefly about fire marshals). Heads started appearing in all the windows – I noticed they kept changing – they were taking turns. The choirs stood one at a time. They gave their all, as I have seen they always do in Haiti – each song is like a gift that fills, not just the senses, but the soul.
Each church displayed a slightly different style in dress and music, just like any town full of churches- but they were all in formal wear. Until the Pete Kelley of Pignon stood up with his church – they were all in t-shirts! The shirts declared a bible verse in Haitian: Daniel 2:21 “He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings… “ (rather political I thought!) The pastor had a suit jacket over his t-shirt as he led the young choir in a rocking, joyful beat.
I said in an earlier post that Philadelphia was the loudest singing I had ever heard – but add to that a horn section in this church which probably held the same # of people in half the space! In the middle of the service Mark and I finally recognized a familiar tune: Doxology! Mark drowned out everybody else on that one. Each choir got their time, as did each pastor to preach a sermon. And yes, the building got sweltering – I had sweat dripping down my face. But I have figured out that when my clothes get drenched, it ends up cooling me down.
The deacons started to pass out bits of bread and juice to everyone – this in itself took a half hour – they even passed the trays out to folks at the windows. Sharing communion with these devout believers was an honor. My heart burned with the reality of the Lord’s daily presence in each of our lives, whether we feel it or not, He is with us.
The service went on for about 3 hours – now it was actually sunrise. Everyone started filing out and I noticed there were hundreds more people packed around the church and in the street. The horns led a procession down the street, followed by the various choirs in their distinct outfits. The parade stretched as far as I could see in either direction, lined up in two rows on either side of the street. Pastor called to Mark and I and another “Blon” couple to join him and the other pastors who strolled down the middle of the lane. The choirs started singing and dancing as we walked. It seemed the whole town was in line, but no, as we paraded the streets, the townspeople were lined up as well, watching us, many joining in the singing. The joyful exuberance is so uplifting – it is difficult to not grin, and sway and sing praise.
Our procession danced/walked/marched through the streets to the city plaz’. The park is beautiful, and has been years in the making, but it is padlocked, waiting for the grass to “grow strong.” We proceeded to encircle the park which encompasses an entire city block – a square acre maybe? There must have been over a thousand of us holding hands because we had to keep enlarging the circle. Music got louder, stopped and one of the pastors prayed using a bullhorn. Lots of Amens and Allejuias from the circle, then lots of laughter and handshaking as the line broke up.
We arrived back at the compound around 7am. Sista Este and I tag-teamed: I crawled back into bed and she got up for breakfast and the 8:30 Easter service at Philadelphia. Mark, who never tires, didn’t skip a beat, and made all 3 services. I missed seeing the children in their Easter best, complete with Nike tennis shoes.
The evening service culminated with the finale of the Passion of Christ cinema, which began on Good Friday. OH MY GOODNESS– the reaction of the congregation to Jesus’ resurrection was resounding! Cheers, applause and shouts of Alleluia!
He is risen indeed!!!