Hello, Gary again.
Today's blog is important because I wouldn't want anyone to think we don't have fun while we are here doing God's work. Just because the work is serious, and often taxes our spirits, doesn't mean we can't have fun at the same time. In truth we have had a great deal of fun everyday, singing and teasing each other constantly. Sometimes we would laugh until our sides hurt. (I am sure everyone was laughing with me not at me.) Still today was special. Today we took about 40 kids from the Grace village orphanage to the beach. We had a ball.
The outing began with about a 45 minute drive from Port au Prince to Grace Village in 2 top tops (I have also heard them called tap taps) which amounts to a small delivery truck with screened sides and back, benches, and overhead hand rails and straps, (these are needed to stay on your bench or to remain upright on some of the roads, true luxury travel in Haiti). Haitian roads have to be experienced to be believed. Some of the roads are reasonably decent, others are a mechanics dream. I am sure for those who live here, and drive on the roads everyday, it is a miserable experience, but for someone like me, here for a week, they are fascinating and even exciting, quite an adventure. It is fascinating to see the hustle and bustle whether on the road itself,with the multitude of different kinds of vehicles, many of them painted in vibrant colors, and all driving in a manner we would consider insane, or on the side of the road, with the myriad of market stands, the endless variety of people, the gritty city or the land, which varies from the mundane to the beautiful. The variety is endless.
Once at Grace village, we found the kids dutifully listening to the rules and instructions for the trip. Once done, most of them piled into a colorful bus, with the remainder riding in the top tops with us. In true Haiti fashion, the bus had a tire problem that took some time to fix. Unlike American kids, the Haitian kids sat patiently until we finally departed. They did the same when we arrived at a beach 45 minutes to an hour later, and sat while we went through unsuccessful negotiations on the price of swimming. In truth, we American adults lost patience with the process and demanded we move on. They showed the same patience again when it was lunch time at the beach, and each sat patiently until each had received their meal and a prayer was said. They are really amazing and we could learn a lot from them, but I am getting ahead of myself. As I said, the trip from Grace Village to the beach was 45 minutes to an hour. All along the way we played with the kids, teasing and having fun, though I think they were teasing us more than we were them. A few times I thought my face would crack from smiling. The scenery was beautiful most of the way. We also passed through a village and again were treated to the markets and wonderful variety of people and vehicles. We finally arrived at the beach we wanted and disembarked.
The beach and surrounding mountains were stunning, a true Caribbean paradise. After a bit of time getting everyone ready, we moved into the water and the fun began. For the most part, Haitians are not swimmers, but that did not stop them from endless frolicking and general mayhem, balls and Frisbees flying though the air and all to a background of Bob Marley blaring from some one's speakers. In the water there was constant laughter, on the beaches people swaying to the music. One highlight was one of the staff members who had never learned to swim, finally got it. He jumped up at the end of his short swim with a loud exclamation of triumph. The joy on his face was priceless. All during this time we each had kids hanging on to us, splashing us and throwing things at us as kids anywhere will do. This outing is something Grace Village tries to make happen about once every month or two and the kids were absolutely maximizing every moment. At times I am sure they were running on pure adrenalin, but even so, when time for lunch the came in dutifully and patiently, as mentioned above for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese puffs, cookies and juice. It is amazing to watch. At this point I cheated a little.
As I was passing out lunches, I noticed one of the staff members eating what looked like an interesting local meal. I asked him where he got it and he said up the beach. I asked him to take me there after he finished his meal which he did. When we arrived we found several others from the staff there as well. They became very animated and excited that I wanted to try the local food. They helped me select what turned out to be an excellent meal of fish (whole) in creole sauce (mostly butter of course) topped with a mix of julienned onions and carrots with a spicy clear sauce, rice and beans and fried plantains. It was awesome but the best part was when they pronounced me a Haitian. They are such a wonderful people.
The time at the beach finally came to an end and we headed home. The trip back was very different in that it was very quiet, not from any sadness at departure but from having used up all available energy having more fun than we could ask for.
Once back at the Healing Haiti guest house we did our word of the day. As always everyone had a different experience and as always the range of emotions was broad. For myself, and this is really the point of my blog tonight, it is as I said earlier, we don't need to always be so serious. The gospels don't record Jesus telling any jokes, or pulling any pranks on his disciples, but given his message that we have nothing to worry about, I find it hard to believe that he wanted us walking through life with dour faces as though the work we are doing in his name is some kind of burden. I believe he wants us to be joyful while completing our tasks so that we, and those we are serving in his name, will enjoy the awesome gift of life he has given us. We will carry that joy into the next life.
Don't worry, be happy!
Thank you Lord Jesus for taking away the only real worry we have in life and freeing to be joyful.