Sunday, July 24, 2016 - Day Two - A Visit to Saint Jude Catholic Church, Église Shalom Tabernacle De Gloire, Atis Rezistans
Lizzie Ward reports:
Lizzie Ward reports:
Our second day in Haiti was full of complex and controversial emotions. It was Sunday, and due to the deep spirituality of Haitian culture, we went to church. Two churches to be exact. The first was Catholic, located in an upper middle class area (which looks completely different in Haiti than it does in the US). The service was beautiful, and though the priest was speaking in Haitian Creole, due to our familiarity with Catholic liturgies we understood the content and tone of the mass. The service also had a heavy component of music, the chorus sang earnestly and beautifully, with drums as accompaniment, speaking of Haiti’s connections to Africa. The church was packed, standing room only, and the people who filled it came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. The sense of community was in the air.
The second church that we attended was Église Shalom Tabernacle De Gloire (or, Shalom, for short), a Pentecostal Protestant megachurch that stared less than ten years ago. In the years of its existence, Shalom has grown from one man preaching in a small room to a massive open-air megachurch that can seat over a thousand people and has numerous pastors. The church was full of intense energy and emotion, and the air was filled with the sounds of singing and shouts. The congregation of Shalom is extremely earnest and kind, and when they sing their emotions saturate their voices. One of the songs that touched our group as a whole was repeated for almost the whole service.
The Creole lyrics were Bondye ou san parey Ou toujou la pou defann muien Si ou pa te pal Yo ta deja fini ave Kmwen Pote ba ou tout pwoblem yo Pote ba ou tout Kirye nou yo.
The song is a prayer to God for deliverance out of their suffering in the form of a miracle. The beautiful emotion conveyed in Shalom is somewhat tainted by the corruption of the original pastor. The people who attend Shalom are very, very poor, but they donate their last dollar to the church, which goes toward the lavish lifestyle of the pastor instead of back into the community. It is impossible to convince the congregation of the pastor’s immorality though, partly because it is not our place, and partly because, as Daniel, our guide, said in regards to Shalom: “When you have a health system that has failed and a government that provides no jobs and an education you cannot trust, this is what you know is real: hope, faith, and love, with a depth of conviction and resignation to the divine.” Despite the unjust sacrifice that the poor of Shalom believe they must make in order for God to grant them a miracle, they have found a beautiful community that they believe strongly and earnestly in, and though we may think it wrong we cannot deprive Haiti of that.
The other aspect of our day was a visit to Atis Rezistans, a project aimed at empowering at risk youth through the production of art. The art is made out of trash collected from the streets of Haiti and depicts mostly voodoo themes, such as snakes made out of rusty nails and human skulls covered in paint. Some in our group found it fascinating and some found it terrifying, but it was certainly unique.
After a very long and intense day, we headed back to the Eucalyptus Guest House tired. That didn’t stop us from discussing the complexity of Shalom and Haiti itself for over two hours though. We are not much closer to a definitive answer, but we are “wrestling with it” as Mr Palladino says.
Best wishes to all our friends and family at home.