Revival time in Haiti comes amidst much poverty

January 28, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

When Kentucky Baptist missionaries roll into Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, it is revival time. Hours after Barry Harmon, pastor of New Harmony Baptist Church in Mackville and local jailer, arrives in the city, he heads out with two of his church members, Deborah Derringer and Trish Claunch. They are the team assigned to Delmas 32.

The church is in a high-traffic area of the city. Vendors line every nook and cranny of the stoops and sides of the streets. They sell liquor, candy, fried birds and clothes out of wooden stands or baskets. There are also makeshift tables with a kind of gambling game. People walk the streets constantly.

Delmas 32's pastor, Previl Opont, asks the group to pray for the area. He said that it is full of people that are not saved. When he lets us out, some of the people yell out at the women, "Senorita." They think the women are Dominicans, who are white and speak Spanish. The women appear oblivous to the come-on, and continue down the dirt road to the church.


The building is behind a concrete wall on the street. There is a small dirt courtyard where the school children have recess. The two story building butts up against homes on all sides, so no sunlight can penetrate the classroom's concrete walls. The children attend classes in the dark because the city's electricity only comes on about twice a day. One of the Crusades for Christ projects is to buy a generator, so that there can be lights for the school. Common generators in Haiti are built out of a series of car batteries that store energy from the city's electric grid, when the power is on.

Opont has services upstairs in the church. He also uses the room as a school during the week. It is painted a pink like the inside of a watermelon. Plastic flowers in hanging red spray painted pots hang from exposed electrical wires in the ceiling. The members sit on benches made by Crusades for Christ missionaries, which have also helped build the church complex.

This church has a band with a guitar player, some tamborines and a unique Hatian instrument. It has metal funnels on either end of a cylinder tube, and there are holes punched in the tin. The musician rubs a metal stick up and down the tube to make a sound like a Cajun washboard.

The women sing along to the music with their whole bodies dancing and swaying. They look to be outfitted from a thrift store. Many of them wear mixed colors and patterns. Several have lace handkerchiefs on their heads, a throwback to an old Catholic tradition of covering their hair in church.

As the music ends they shout, "Alleluia," and "Merci Senior," which means thank you God. After prayer, Opont introduces Harmon. The pastor translates for him.

"Our skin may be a different color, but we are all made one body in Christ," he said. "We pray for Haiti, and we hope you pray for us in the U.S. I love coming to Haiti because I know that the people are hungry (here) and not just for food, but for the word of God."

After church, the sky is dark and Opont drives the group back to the guest house. The vendors on the streets have lit candles and there are so many people walking in the road that Opont has to honk his horn to get through. The people readily comply. Opont is patient, but many drivers in Haiti are not. In this country, when a car hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian is at fault and must pay to have the car repaired. If the person dies from their injuries, then the responsibility lies to the family.

It is the beginning of a two-week revival at churches that the missionaries will help. Each night, different members of the team go out to services like this one.

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