In February, I got to return to Haiti for a week to teach on worship leading! Here are some stories and photos. For those of you who are skimmers, there are plenty of photos and highlights. For you readers, I just about wrote you a novel. Enjoy!
This trip, like the last one, was with Christian World Outreach, an organization that’s been serving Haiti for 34 years. Almost annually the leadership at eight churches associated with CWO, mostly in northeast Haiti, gather together for training and support at a leadership training conference. This year, they invited me to come and teach on worship leading at the conference! So I joined my friend Greg Yoder, our fearless leader from CWO, and Pastor Harlan Betz from Castle Rock, CO and headed to Haiti.
Jason, Greg, Me and Pastor Harlan
Port au Prince:
We spent two nights in Port au Prince, one on our way to Pignon and one on our way back to the States. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in Port au Prince!
We stayed in the same guest house I had stayed in before, run by a warm, hospitable, funny man named Jude. The rooms were just as well-kept and the food just as good. In fact, I credit Jude with serving me the first cup of black coffee I have ever enjoyed! We had time to catch up with him over a couple meals and laughed a lot, especially when he told us about the time he went snow-shoeing with a friend in Canada. Just the thought of a Haitian man freezing to death walking on “rackets”, as he called them, is enough to bring a chuckle, but it was the reenactment that just about brought me to tears. And Jude laughed hardest of all.
While we were in town we also stopped by the CWO facility where my team worked in September. School was in session at the Feminine Training Center and we got to peek in on several classes including sewing, cooking and cosmetology. I ran into a couple teachers I had met before who asked about several of my former team mates by name! I also got to see my friend Sadrackson, who pulled out his iPod to show me who he was listening to: Megan Isaacson! We had just a few minutes to play some music together, so he grabbed the guitar I left for the school last time and we sang and played “Hungry (Grangou)” and “Everlasting God (Bondye Eténél)” with a couple other guys.
Jamming with the guys at the CWO building!
On Friday morning we met our 4th team member Jason (a missionary in Port au Prince) at the airport where we piled into a tiny MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) plane and flew to Pignon. First observation about our flight: our pilot was wearing a helmet. Yep. And he was the only one wearing a helmet. I’m still not quite sure what to make of that. Seeing Haiti from above was wonderful. I could see many new housing developments in Port au Prince built since the earthquake. Once clear of the city, we saw lots of mountainside farmland where people grow crops on the steep slopes, and the tiny white footpaths they take over the mountain ridges to the market or the river or wherever they need to go. Twenty-five minutes later, we landed on the runway (field) in Pignon.
Me in the back of our tiny plane
Coming in for a landing in Pignon. Can you see the runway?
We were the first ones at the camp where the pastors conference would be held, so we settled into our rooms, did a little exploring and made friends with a couple kids on the grounds. Soon people started to trickle in, some walking or riding bikes, one on a horse, one with a donkey, several in cars and a bunch of people crammed into a huge truck. That night we had our opening session with everyone together – around 160 people!
The entrance to the camp where the conference was held
Welcome to the pastors conference!
Everyone was split up into three general groups for the teaching sessions for the week: pastors (taught by Pastor Harlan), children’s ministers (taught by Greg and Pastor Cantor from Port au Prince) and worship leaders (taught by yours truly and Pastor Rigaud from Port au Prince). Everyone came ready to learn and from what I heard and saw, each group received not only encouragement and affirmation in their ministry roles, but also many solid, practical tools to help them in their ongoing ministries!
Pastor Harlan’s session
Greg getting the children’s ministers involved in the story of David and Goliath!
I was pretty nervous about my teaching sessions for the week. After all, I’m not normally in a teaching role, unless of course it comes in two-minute chunks between songs in a worship set… But these were 90-minute sessions! Despite my nerves, I followed the advice of several very wise friends: Relax, share your heart and trust God to do the rest. I’m so glad I did! My sessions were great. With the help of my rock-star translator Amos, I shared a little about my story, talked about the importance of pursuing being a true worshipper and not just a great worship leader, shared stories from Scripture about the importance of our role as worship leaders, and shared some practical ways to help people worship that I’ve learned along the way. I also came armed with 9 worship songs in English and Creole, so we also sang a LOT in my sessions! By the end of the week, they had most of the songs DOWN, in both languages!! I, on the other hand… Well, I asked the worship leaders to teach me one of their songs part-way through the week. I asked for a specific tune I had heard them sing in worship – the melody was beautiful and I’d had it in my head ever since I heard it! In seconds, my friend and co-worship leader Edeline put the lyrics in front of me and that’s when I realized: it’s in French. I took a deep breath and tried my best to sing with everyone, fumbling through the unfamiliar sounds and pronunciations. After a few times, Edeline turned the page to reveal the rest of the song – it was about three times longer than I thought it was! I gasped and said, “Oh wow.” That made the entire room burst out laughing! So while they learned 5 or 6 new songs in two languages, I’ve got one chorus in French. 🙂
Me and all the worship leaders!
Talking about worship with Amos translating
Me with my worship leader friends from Port au Prince
It was wonderful to watch the Lord encourage, affirm and equip everyone through the different sessions, games, worship times and relationships. I feel incredibly honored to have been a part of it.
I’ll wrap up with one more story: the guitar. In the whirlwind that was the couple weeks before the trip, I forgot to find a guitar that I could take with me and leave in Haiti. So 5 or so days before we were to leave I was praying! A couple days later a friend of mine walked up to me after a worship service and out of the blue asked, “Do you need a guitar for your trip to Haiti?” I love it when the Lord answers prayers like that. When I met her to pick up the guitar, we prayed together that God would get it into the hands of someone who needed it and that it would be used to bring Him glory. During the conference in Pignon, I learned one of the smaller country churches there had a specific need for musical instruments in their church. So at the end of the week I had the honor of giving the guitar to them and telling them it came “with lots of love from brothers and sisters in the U.S.” They were blown away and very, very grateful.
Pastor Rigaud double-fisting the mics for me during a general session!
My sweet little friend watching herself on video.