Dawn comes at six prompt intimated by a chorus of cockerels, dogs  and motorcycles revving.  Breakfast is in the open bar downstairs a pleasant courtyard with the covering of leaves and a gentle wind flowing through. Eggs scrambled with tomatoes and chili, delicious bananas, stiff bread and good coffee. This is the time when we chat share and bond as a team, read the bible and pray together and …..wait. (Sometimes we wait for hours,  on Friday it was for seven) We wait for our escort, Pastor Rolex Poisson. He feels responsible for us and anxious that he does not lose his Scottish friends. This morning he is prompt and we climb into his 4×4 equipped with air con and a video screen that helps him reverse but at other times plays Christian music in Kompa style.

We turn right into the Main Street that runs from the border. Usually this a two way river of cars, motorcycles, wheel barrows, bicycles and people on foot intersecting  like ants cutting and swerving but somehow  never hitting each other. At the side of the road there are shops and stall selling biscuits, liquor, concrete blocks, metal gates, bags of rice, beans and cement. Today it is much quieter and the motorcyclists seem to be transporting well-dressed people to church clutching bibles. It is astonishing how people turn out in their smart trousers, dresses, shirts, ties and immaculate shining highly polished shoes. The contrast between the church goers and their surroundings is remarkable-especially when you see the almost non-existent washing facilities people have at home and the ever present dust which turns to mud after every thunderstorm.

IMG_3660When we arrive at the church there is a service in progress. The building is full and a couple hold a bar against the door to discourage anyone from entering at this point. We mingle with the people outside. Again this area is normally a hive of activity with stalls of all kinds and people coming and going. Today it is quieter, but at one stall a young man dressed in a blue football shirt and red cap is busy making pasta rolling it out and laying it on the table to dry in the sun. He is assisted by another young man in a bright orange top. The colours are sharp in the strong sun against the white walls of the courthouse, the rich green of the overhanging trees and a cloudless sky.

The church is full when we enter. 400 or so people on wooden benches. Some have brought their own seats, children on the front and people crowded to the side. There is a raised platform with a concrete balustrade where the elders the choir and band sit and we are ushered to a seat there. The worship is led by a strong woman swaying to the rhythms of the song. She is singing a psalm straight from the bible it does not seem to be a metric version. She leads and the band follows and there is a moment or two before the musicians can locate the key. It’s the bass player who gets it first and he hammers out the line with runs followed by the drummer and finally, after a hesitant start, the guitarist on his  “Starcaster” guitar with intricate decoration in a Kompa style. The leader does what was common years ago in the west of Scotland, she “puts out the line” by singing the line of the verse and the congregation follow. There are many verses (I could not see which psalm it was). When it ends it rises to a climax with a crescendo when the whole congregation joins in singing “Hallelujah!” which repeated several times, sores and finally softens like the waves of the sea.


The pastor comes forward to welcome everyone, give notices, introduces his friends from across the sea, some are well  known now and he seems to making an appeal for help with building of the new church (this is a rented building) The choir sing and Pastor Reme preaches. He takes The parable of the wheat and the weeds as his theme. I can only pick up a few words. I cannot follow the sermon but somehow sense that God is speaking through him by the power of the Spirit. Soon the service is over and we find ourselves outside chatting to David his god daughter, Atheline Pierre, Toussaint  and  Therese . David is eager to read the English bible and points to verses in the psalms, Jeremiah and  Isaiah where his namesake is mentioned. There is something special in that time.

IMG_9831Later we visit a home. The others know the family but this is my first time. I have always found these visits hard. There is something that always shocks me and I never quite get used to seeing just what little people have and how the means of living and surviving are achieved with astonishing grace and resilience and yes, dignity. This visit is unlike any of the others. The home is as poor as any I have seen but within the cramped and dark concrete interior and the most basic items of furniture, there was an immediate sense of God’s presence. The father is lying on a mattress on the floor his head propped by a cushion yet dressed in a dignified manner his hands shaking involuntarily. He is severely paralyzed perhaps with Parkinson’s or motor neuron disease. We are not told, but his eyes shine with something I can only describe as a deep joy and contentment. It is a look I will never forget as he lies there his face creasing into a smile, surrounded by his family, his five children and his caring wife. We have brought some food: a bag of rice, pinto beans, pasta, stock cubes, a tin of sardines and some cooking oil. The family is touched and grateful. We pray for them, thanking God, asking for his blessing and then leave. Back into the car and the winding bumping ride through the maze of lanes, block houses, goats, rubbish waste ground and naked children, we know that we were the ones who have received the blessing.


IMG_3772It has been said that the Haitian people carry a deep seated sense of abandonment.

In the Voodou story,  God created the world but was so disgusted with his creatures behaviour that he abandoned it to the demons, good and bad, who are now in control. Typically western commentators and travellers, in their arrogance and ignorance see this simply as a colourful and harmless expression of ancient cultural tradition. As Kim Wall and Caterina Clerici  “Voodou is the soul of Haitian people.” The Guardian (2015)  “ The religion was born with institutional slavery. Ripped from homelands and heritage, thousands of those who would become Haitians were shipped across the Atlantic to an island, where the indigenous population had already been wiped out, for backbreaking labour in cane plantations. They were treated as cattle. As animals to be bought and sold; worth nothing more than a cow. Often less Voodou is the response to that. Voodou says ‘no, I’m not a cow. Cows cannot dance, cows do not sing. Cows cannot become God. Not only am I a human being – I’m considerably more human than you. Watch me create divinity in this world you have given me that is so ugly and so hard. Watch me become God in front of your eyes.’ or Mark Husdon reporting on Leah Gordon in the Telegraph (2012)  “Voodoo is a set of ceremonies that bring down spirits. The spirits indicate they’re present by possessing the celebrants. An animal is sacrificed to feed the spirits, and there’s a lot of dancing and drumming that goes with that. I can’t see anything intrinsically threatening in that. And it’s a lot more entertaining than any church service I’ve been to.”

It is an all too common view which betrays a gross arrogance looking down, as it were, from the high intellectual ground and seeing religions as either dangerous or just quant. In this narrative, it was the Christian missionaries who created all the problems in Haiti. They ought, apparently,  to have left the people to their own beliefs and not interfered.  It is the worst sort of patronizing racism with more than a hint of colonialism in the lust not for the natural resources of materials and labour but  for the colour and distraction needed for a jaded over consumerist  lifestyle;  leaving these pitiful people to their poverty and despair because they seem colourful to us.  Mercifully, the Haitian Christians see it all so differently. The Church resists voodoo in all its manifestations and denounces it unequivocally.  The pastor has to deal with incidents of demon possession almost every day (we witnessed one such) and he doesn’t pussy foot about the issue.  This is a real battle and great care is given to warn the people to have nothing to do with these sinister and evil practices.

IMG_3767The sense of abandonment is played out too through the people’s history. Robbed of their homes, transported across the sea, condemned as slaves and when winning their freedom forced to pay for it, They were massacred by their neighbours, ruled over by corrupt leaders  and suffered a series of natural disastrous culminating in the cataclysmic earthquake of 2010. The world rallied to help in so many ways and, in just so many ways, left a situation much worse that when they had come. This is most graphically illustrated by the appalling cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake and devastated the islands population. Cholera was unknown on the island before and brought by UN soldiers who contaminated the water supply in an act of gross negligence, which they then tried to cover up. This story is told through Jonathan Katz’ vivid first-hand account  of the disasterThe Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster”

The most recent scandal involving Oxfam was just another example of the continuing cycle of despair adding to the overwhelming sense of hopeless abandonment.  Maybe I imagined it, but thought I could detect that sense of resignation in the faces of the people.

It is against this bleak backcloth that what Mission International is doing here is so encouraging and so relevant. The first contact was made with the church in Ounaminthe in 2009 and a team went out from Scotland in the following year.  Every year, and sometimes twice a year, teams have come to visit bringing gifts, words of encouragement, greetings and the promise to pray. This steady and unassuming commitment is beginning to break through the understandable cloud of suspicion, with the knowledge that the God who we serve has not abandoned his people and neither has his church.

Haiti mother and childMaybe it was fancy, but I thought I saw that in the smiles.

Crawford Mackenzie



target africaTARGET AFRICA  ideological neo-colonialism in the twenty first century  Obianuju Ekeocha

I am in Haiti with Mission International trying to help our partners in the local church in Ouanaminthe set up a new school for this community. And in the long waiting times reading again this astounding book.

As a trustee and, for the moment, chairman of Mission International, which also works with partners in more than  40 different countries, the Oxfam scandal  left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. It was especially disturbing as this was happening in Haiti where we, at this moment, are in the process of helping with a new school.    I couldn’t, however, take any comfort in the thought  “but .. Of course, we are not like them…”  Somehow we are part of the whole and in the minds of the public and prospective donors tainted with the scandal. It is understandable that people who give freely and generously to a cause are disgusted and quite turned off when they learn that their money has been used to buy prostitutes and abuse the people it was meant to help.

For a long time now there has been serious questions over whether aid does actually work, that it was a means where rich countries could keep poor countries in poverty, and given with less than altruist motives.  These discussions have been around for a long time, but what Obianuju Ekeocha brings to the debate in “Target Africa” is a devastating critique  on how western nations  have adopted a new and sinister  colonisation, tying aid to western post Christian ideologies. With breath-taking arrogance and hypocrisy they are  imposing a destructive agenda that African leaders, seduced by the offer of money, are complicit in accepting.

Obianuju Ekeocha is a specialist biomedical scientists with particular expertise in pathogens, a Nigerian and founder of “Culture of Life Africa” an organisation dedicated to defending the sanctity and dignity of human life through research, information and education. She is a courageous woman and in this book with intelligence, compassion and unflinching dedication makes the point crystal clear. She is willing to take on and challenge governments, UN organisations and powerful philanthropists in the cause of defending the most vulnerable.

It is a shocking read.  She clearly sets out from a historical perspectives as well as her own personal experience of growing up in Africa and shows that while the old colonial order was ushered to a close with the Atlantic Charter in 1941, a new form of colonialism has subtly taken its place which, she believes, will bring an even more disastrous blight on the continent.

It is refreshing to hear her speak so movingly and lovingly of her Africa ” endowed with treasures” telling  a different story from the jaundiced one told by the western media. Taking just one example, on the emancipation of women: the perceived narrative is that African women are oppressed and enslaved by the chains of patriarchy. But  in her own country there have been seven female presidents, and twelve female vice presidents. She points out that Rwanda has the highest proportion of female parliamentarians in the world. (64 % when the UK has only 29%).

She describes the beauty of the land the wealth of its resources and the treasure of its people.

” What I have just described is the real but unrecognisable Africa. It is unrecognisable because the western media rarely shows any good news out of Africa. Instead they show every parameter of failure: low life expectancy, much poverty, poor healthcare quality, high maternal and infant mortality, low food security, little government transparency and so on.  ……….. Yet such images make us vulnerable to the wiles of those who seek to colonise us and to the many African leaders who will readily let them do so in exchange for funds from the west……….In many ways it seems as if African nations have gone into a mental condition of “protected dependency” and have thereby put themselves at risk of becoming once again protectorate states of western stake holders. This is the path to the past and the path to perdition.”

The case she posits is scrupulously researched, detailed and hard to refute. She examines the issues of Population control, the hyper sexualisation of the youth, radical feminism, abortion rights, the normalisation of homosexuality and the curse of aid addiction. All of which bear the same marks of Western Nations using aid to impose a morality alien to African  culture. It’s as if the west  don’t see what they are doing

“They undermine African life to reduce African fertility, yet they (the donors themselves) became prosperous and powerful when their laws and policies encouraged the formation of stable traditional families: Their economic booms coincided with population growth.”

She castigated the supremacist  attitude of the west taking the high moral ground;  defending the poor of the world while destroying their culture and beliefs. She instances Sweden’s reaction to the reinstatement of the US “Mexico City Policy” in 2017. They wanted it withdrawn and “ Yet” she asks ” by what means do they defend the poor?  By helping them to kill their children.”

She doesn’t pull her punishes and it is so refreshing to hear this level of honesty and straight talking in a subject so often clouded in nuances and  double speak. She doesn’t mince her words and calls a spade a spade. If you are shy of controversy and squeamish about the bare truth, you should avoid reading this book or any more of this review, for that matter.

On Population control: “The insistence on reducing the population of Africa, no matter what the cost to Africans themselves, is racism, imperialism, and colonialism disguised as philanthropy”

On the hyper sexualisation of youth: “In spite of the failure rate of condom programs for teenagers, the UNFPA continues to promote its multimillion dollar campaign across Africa known as CONDOMIZE !”

On the legalisation of prostitution: “Given the unspeakable abuse that women and girls endure in the sex industry, given the level of drug abuse to keep them silent and compliant, it is disconcerting that anyone would try and legitimise prostitution in the name of public health.”

On radical feminism: “..Instead of authentic feminism, a selfish and radical strain of feminism has risen in the west and has gained an international platform and a pace of prominence in this century.”

On the push for abortion rights, over which reserves her strongest words: “At the core of my people’s value system is the profound recognition that human life is precious, paramount, and supreme. For us, abortion, which is the deliberate killing of little ones in the womb, is a direct attack on innocent human life. It is a serious injustice, which no one should have the right to commit……I agree with pro-abortion activists that illegal abortion is a real problem in Africa, but I completely disagree with their proffered solution – to legalise abortion on demand….If the solution to all of Africa’s illegal practices was legalise them, then we are a doomed continent.”

On the normalisation of Homosexuality: “To convince Africans that marriage and sex are even possible between two women or two men, would require destroying their language and their culture. Such an undertaking is exactly what homosexual activists are attempting in Africa.”  And this activism is sponsored by western governments. “In 2011 President Obama threatened to cut off foreign aid to Nigeria because its senate passed a law unfavourable towards homosexuality

On Aid addiction where she recognises that the wound is in many ways self-inflicted:       ” Africans cannot take charge of their own future until aid, as we know it, is brought to an end, and the African leaders unleash the economic potential of their people……..For Africa to have a promising future, it needs to push back on this flawed paradigm and on the western influence that is spreading it.”

With President Obama she pleads: ” No child (in any part of the world) deserves to be raised in a motherless or fatherless home, because it is almost always a vicious vortex of emotional trauma and turmoil. Africans know and understand this and as such will stand in defiance of your new design of marriage and family. For us to comply with the draconian demands of your “Modern” design will entail completely demolishing our society, which is already inflicted with so many problems.

With Melinda Gates:“I see this $4.6 billion dollars buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

For anyone who is at all interested in Africa, and in the future for health, peace and prosperity, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Crawford Mackenzie


Postcards from Haiti 9


It was the school that brought me here and, as always, it’s great to have a specific job to do. The site has been purchased and significant funds raised. The design has been finalised and it’s now a question of resolving constructional issues and procurement. This,for me, is uncharted territory.  The architecture in the town of Ounaminthe does not inspire. Buildings are almost exclusively in concrete reinforced and in blocks, generally haphazard and incomplete with a tendency towards kitsch which becomes extreme in the larger houses and hotels. Concrete allows any amount of hideous frivolity. The streets however form a grid and there are parks and squares to give relief and the whole,  saved by the furious growth of all kinds of trees which makes the city breath with a Caribbean lushness set against the craggy tree lined mountains. The media impression is that Haiti unlike the Dominican Republic is a deforested desert wilderness. This is not the case as almost 1/3rd of the land mass is forest and the mountains are covered in trees. Where there has been deforestation this has been blamed on charcoal production but again the situation is more complex.

We visit some buildings and to see how they are constructed. One was an active building site. Formerly a house,now a school. A roof is being finished on the first floor with classrooms underneath These have bare block wall with vents, tight bench rows, and a blackboard (actually green).  There are no children as this is Saturday and the school is closed for the weekend. The only resource I see are mathematic text books in French and Creole and a computer room. The building is three storeys and, with the exception of the roof, built entirely of concrete. On the building site health and safety is given no quarter. The top floor is very high off the ground and a home made ladder bends it’s way to the ground at a terrifying angle. What terrifies me more however is how this building will cope in an earthquake. A tremor could cause it all to cave in on itself and the prospect of these concrete floors descending on packed classrooms below is too awful to think about. This is not how we will build the school.

IMG_9885IMG_9875IMG_9877IMG_9861IMG_9826Later in the week we returned to see the school in action and stayed there for three hours. It was an amazing spectacle seeing hundreds of children in smart uniforms lining up for their classes and rounded up by stern teachers in immaculate grey uniforms with a belt in the hand which they used without hesitation, giving a child a smack across the ankles to get them moving. It reminded me of sheep being herded into pens but it didn’t make a lot of difference to the children who just took it in their stride and it clearly didn’t hurt. The playground was supervised by a man in a blue uniform also welding a belt. This time it looked more serious. It was made of leather like the Scottish tause and if there was any doubt about how serious he was, a rifle was under his arm and hand cuffs hung from his side. Security in and out of the playground was tight and parents had to demonstrate their authenticity before being allowed in to collect the children. The younger children were dressed in pink, the older pupils in grey and blue while seniors wore grey skirts and trousers and white blouses emblazoned with the emblem of the school “Institute Academique de Saint Israel”.

IMG_9954IMG_9944IMG_9955IMG_9931The school has over 1,100 pupils and 25 teaching staff. I did wonder, if, in the longer term these children may have greater prospects than the children brought through the system in the UK. I just wondered. Haitians who can, and who have opportunity to, often leave for the Dominican Republic , the USA and most recently Canada, but the prospect of an educated population remaining to live and work in their own country could transform the nation economically, socially and culturally beyond all recognition. That is the hope and that is the main driver behind the project.


Postcards from Haiti 8


Today* I met Dàvid. (I can’t show his picture). The others have been speaking of him and I got my first chance to speak with and hear his story. We chatted as we made our way back to the centre of town. He lost both his arms in a horrific accident. He was working with high voltage cables and received a severe shock which set his arms on fire. At the hospital without knowing or with out been asked, the surgeon removed both arms at the elbow. That was two or three years ago now, but he still feels pain. He says “My arms are dancing” which might be what we describe as pins and needles. He was particular distressed that his favourite uncle had died the previous day in Port O Prince. He just heard. Dàvid. speaks four languages English, Spanish, French and Creole and is clearly very intelligent but won’t be able to work. No one is likely to offer him a job as he would be considered cursed. People have told him, with his obvious disability, he should beg on the street and make some money that way, but he refuses. “I will not beg” he says, “I trust in God and I know that he will supply my every need” 

When I practice my creole and ask how he is ” Kooman ou yè” he replies “M’ bien avek Jesus”


Postcards from Haiti 7

IMG_9780The Church

The church meets in a rented building outside the courthouse. Like everything else it is built of concrete and tin and has a bombed-out look with vent holes, which, for all the world, could have been made by shells. It is filled with wooden benches, a dais at the front with fabric drapes, a lectern and a band section with drums and massive speakers. At the rear is a small room with a toilet and here a homeless family live. From the outside it looks grim, all misshapen concrete with holes as windows and two ill fitting metal doors opening out wards onto sand. At the top is an attempt at a church like pediment unfinished. These are all things you notice at first, but strangely with every visit it becomes familiar even homely and invested with a sense of peace and blessing. It is open every day and people come to pray or sit or lay out on the benches while prayer and praise services happen in the middle of the day.

The service begins at 8am but we get there at half past and mingle with the crowd outside. The pastor leads us in, through the narrow aisle between swaying sweaty bodies up to the front . The band is in full swing and the congregation with raised arms are dancing in praise. The noise is incredible, as the silence is remarkable when the bible is being read and the sermon preached punctuated only by a chorus of “Amen” and “Hallelujah” . Various elders take turns to lead in praise and we are welcomed. Richard brings greetings from the church in Scotland.

Later he preaches with the Pastor translating, but before that, the proposal for the new school and church building is presented and discussed. This was particularly useful as we now have a much clearer picture of what the people want and need and not so much what we or the architect, think they should have. Despite my initial misgivings (my design was effectively binned) I am heartened, as it represented an act of genuine consultation. The service continues, with the sermon, more praise and prayer and closes with the blessing. A Sunday school starts followed by a second service and, six hours later, we make our way back to the hotel in the ferocious heat. It was hard to take in. There were 400-500 at each service and 300plus at the Sunday school. The congregation is exploding. There were 6 new communicants admitted that day. The irrepressible joy expressed in worship seems contagious and we need time to think.

Postcards from Haiti 6


IMG_9838Morning is the best time. With no street lamps, when light does starts to come through the windows, you know that dawn is on its way and it moves quickly. There is a stillness in the air broken only by the birds singing as they scavenge in the undergrowth, the sound of water being poured from a bucket,the rumble of a motorbike, cockerels in competition and a dog barking in the distance. From the balcony we see across the yard, the cluttered houses beyond, framed with luscious palms and giant Stingingtoes, the mountains in the distance, before a perfect cloudless sky. We know it will be hot soon, unbearably so, but for the moment this a time to enjoy. We can be thankful for this special moment when we can be refreshed with a delicious breakfast of banana, papaya, egg and some fine coffee and sit around the table in the bar to talk about the day ahead, share experiences, discuss and plan, fired by laughter and soaked in prayer.

Postcards from Haiti 4

IMG_9769We finally crossed the border at about 5 in the afternoon. But it was not without incident. The form filling and checks at the Dominican Border were relatively smooth and things were trundling along ok at the Haitian border until a big row blow up. There was a lot of shouting and gesticulation and the official behind the desk refused to hand over the passports. He decided he wasn’t being given the proper respect and this was the time to take a break. He walked out of the office, sat down in a seat in the yard, plugged his earphones in and stared ahead in protest. There was nothing we could do. There was more raised voices with others now joining in and tension rising by the minute. Then, just as suddenly, everything calmed down, we picked up our passports and moved off to our accommodation in Hotel Ideal.

The hotel was well known to most of the team and I had stayed here once before, so there was a comforting quaintness about it with it’s eccentric services, and intermittent electricity supply and Aircon. There was a hint of wifi but not enough to be of any use to me. Somehow the others seem to be texting and whatsapping. I seem to have technological dark cloud following me. Still we had finally arrived, we could relax and get ourselves settled in for the week ahead. The journey itself is a big part of being here and so it was good to get that over.

Postcards from Haiti 3

The Bus to Dajabon

IMG_1734The bus left the Caribe station in Santo Domingo at 6.30 am, but by 6.00 most passengers were already in their seats patiently waiting. There were bags everywhere. A guy was helping his half paralysed brother into a seat with a loving tenderness that was touching. It was noisy with loud animated conversations but above the melee was one woman who was standing at the front speaking very loudly. She was standing under the reading light and the spotlight effect illuminated her gesturing hands. I couldn’t see who she was talking too but it sounded very passionate and urgent.  It took some time before I realised that she was praying. Praying for our journey and giving praise to God with a “Gloria a Jesus, Hallelujah!” It was the point in my trip when I truly relaxed.

Postcards from Haiti 2

IMG_1767The Shoe-shine boys of Dajabon

Leaving the bus I was met with the furnace like midday heat of Dajabon. Suddenly my case was heavy and steps were slow as I made my way out of the marshalling yard past the money dealers and motorcycle taxis offering lifts to Haiti. I was not sure if my memory of this part of the city was clear in my brain but I didn’t give any sign of being unsure or even lost and walked on purposefully. After a few directional errors I found my way past the basket ball yard through the garage and found the amenable Cafe Beller with a group of shoeshine boys following. I so wanted to have my shoes done but just could not work out what was an appropriate charge and only held big currency. 20 US$ seemed a bit over the top.

I met one of the boys on my return journey and tried to get from him what a reasonable charge would be. He said anything, so I made my own stab at it, gave him 50pesos (equal to 1$) and hoped that would help and encourage him. I have never had my shoes done before and felt there was something mildly humiliating about it until I heard how Romulo Quicano Suane (Return to Ayacucho) would use the shoe shine boys whenever he could. As a boy growing up in Ayacucho, he was one of them.

At the cafe I found a seat at a table under a fan and ordered a lemon drink,perfectly chilled though a bit on the sharp side. It was such a great feeling to get here for my rendezvous with the rest of the team. I could relax and simply enjoy the ambience and take in my surroundings. When they all arrived a half hour later, it was a joyous reunion. This was going to be good.