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.

The Bus to Lima (previously posted on facebook)

IMG_3952We opted for the daytime bus back to Lima with seats on the top deck right at the front which gave us a wonderful 180 deg view. At times we were seeing a bit too much when it seemed as if our driver was playing with our lives. Taking blind corners on the wrong side of the road at speed was his particular style. We left the scramble of Ayacucho and were soon in the wild grandeur of the Andes: rocky crags like saw teeth in the sky and light sandy coloured hills dotted with green. The proud eucalyptus, sometimes in clusters at other times standing sentinel in the hillside and cactus of many varieties in stupendous shapes rising stubbornly from the dry earth. In one particular variety, a cluster of sharp spikey leave-like forms with a strange tree like growth coming up from the centre, as if from a Doctor Zeus book. The fruit bearing cactus “Tuna” or “prickly pear” delicious and refreshing to taste, was also in abundance. Sometimes a small field with terraces would be carved out of the ridiculous steep mountainside, growing potatoes and alfalfa. We were zigzagging up and zigzagging down to small villages and towns and always in the rugged landscape a single or a group of figures in bright deep colours and black hats carrying enormous loads making their way here and there, sometimes with a donkey in toe, a group of grazing alpacas, goats, cows or a wandering dog. Finally, after six hours of this exhausting landscape and at the point when it was beginning to lose its allure, we settled down to the bank of a river with large swathes or fertile land: vineyards and orchards, olives and dates in an almost industrial scale. The river took us on to Pisco to the coasta (the great plain by the sea). With a welcome break from the aircon-less coach, and a stop for food and refreshment we found ourselves in a different world. All around was desert, smooth hills of clear sand where you would expect to see the odd camel caravan, all the way to the sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean. Now we were in dual carriageway and our driver had had his fun for the day and we continue the further three and half hours through this strange landscape to Lima. It has been such an awe inspiring journey; you wonder why you would ever choose to travel by night.

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Crawford Mackenzie