My Sketch Book Connected Me to My Brothers and Sisters in Haiti
by Sandy Parsons
My experience in Haiti was most incredible. Our unique collection of team members included two cancer survivors, a victim of corporate downsizing, a recent corporate dropout, three fairly "normal" individuals and a wild and crazy young woman. None of us (except our team leader) had any construction experience. As it turns out, we had the perfect mix!
I had not been to a third-world country, so the Port-au-Prince welcome was overwhelming--an assault on mind and body. It was difficult to process all the strange sights, sounds, and odors. Our drive to the Methodist Guest House introduced us to the driving habits of the Haitians. Two-lane roads became five-lane roads. Traffic resembled bumper-car gridlocks, with vehicles heading in all different directions, all but touching each other. In the USA, there would have been shouting, cursing, hand gestures, and possibly tire irons! In Haiti, there was a slow, patient inching, nudging, and integrating to achieve a peaceful resolution of the gridlock. The driving amazed me over and over throughout the stay.
We did not know until shortly before our departure if we would be working in Port-au-Prince or a smaller community north of PAP, Arcahaie. The Guest House offered running water and electricity; Arcahaie offered neither of these amenities. I prayed for the Guest House! It turns out we were destined to go to Arcahaie. This was one of God's great blessings. We stayed with a local family in a small, walled compound in which we shared with their extended family. Ultimately, this allowed us to interact with the local people on a much more intimate level.
At one point, early on the first day, there was a lull in the work. I had my sketch pad and colored pencils. I asked the interpreter, Joseph, if he would ask two Haitian children if they would sit for me so I could sketch them. Immediately I had a crowd around me observing. As soon as I finished the drawing, a young man sat in their spot and indicated that I should draw him! We were so surprised by the response! It was a perfect way to reach out to the local men, women, and children. For the remainder of the stay, I sketched! Occasionally I felt guilty because my teammates were doing hard labor on a bucket brigade. When I complained of writer's cramp, no one listened!
Before going to Haiti, I worried about my age and having enough stamina in the heat. But God equipped me with the tools I needed to connect. Kris Campbell, our designated photographer, took photos of the Haitians with their portraits. We will send these photos back to Arcahaie with another team later this summer.
There is such a gap between our lifestyle and the Haitians'. And yet our membership in the family of God reminds us that we are much more alike than different. In God's great wisdom, God makes it possible for us to see pain in an injured Haitian's eyes and know what that is. God makes it possible for us to understand that God's artistic gift executed through my hands enabled the Haitians in Arcahaie to experience a feeling of being special. God created laughter and music and art for us to share. It does not matter that we don't share the same language.
My most memorable moments in Haiti were the ones we spent in community worship with the Haitians. We met in a small, dirt-floor church with a borrowed lightbulb. There were partial walls, a breeze, and a wonderful Haitian vocalist. The service was the most spirit-filled I have ever experienced. The Haitians are a passionate people. This is most evident in the worship of our God.
Sandy Parsons was part of a UMVIM team from Church of the Resurrection who served in June, 2010 in Arcahaie.
Date posted: Jul 15, 2010