Nicole Eastwood recently traveled with HTF to Haiti. Her trip has inspired a series of blog posts about the work of HTF and her experience in Haiti. We’ll be posting her blogs here on our tumblr. You can also access the original blog at https://familyandfaith.wordpress.com/category/haiti/.
Today’s post is a 3rd installment in my blogs chronicling my recent trip to Haiti through the Haitian Timoun Foundation. To start at the beginning, begin here.
In my last post I told you about our visit to Wings of Hope. I also mentioned that Wings of Hope is a member of the St. Joseph Family. It was our incredible honor to join the St. Joseph Family for Sunday morning worship and the 30th Anniversary celebration.
As we gathered outside, in the shade of a USAID tarp, it certainly didn’t look like any worship space I’d experienced before. However, the liturgy for the day had a layout any of us would recognize. Some of the songs were in English, and some of the songs were sung in Creole. (The Creole songs had a better drum accompaniment, just saying…) We had 5 Pastors on our trip and Pastor Shelley joined the 30th Anniversary celebration, making 6 Pastors present. Each Pastor took part in worship as well as many of the members of the St. Joseph Family. Bill Nathan was our interpreter for the day, and a leader in the St. Joseph family. His personal story of survival, first as a child slave in Haiti and then surviving a 7 story fall during the earthquake, is incredible. Have you ever met someone and realized you were in the presence of someone with so many gifts, such leadership, and such potential? That was my small encounter with Bill Nathan – an incredible leader for the St. Joseph Family and for Haiti!
There was a blessing for the children (and we were blessed as well!)
At one point an energetic man named Gesner was getting excited. So he started getting up and pacing the floor, stopping to visit different folks. Finally, he stopped with Pastor Tim. Pastor Tim just enveloped Gesner in his arms and held him there for the duration of the service. And Gesner was at peace with Pastor Tim. His contentedness was apparent to us all. After a while, it became Pastor Tim’s turn to read scriptures. As he read from the Bible with Gesner wrapped close, I was left speechless, and the tears started to flow…
Worship also included a dance by the boys, and special song selections offered by family members wanting to share their gifts to praise God. Art is a big part of the St. Joseph family, and there was a special art selection of which many members offered reflections.The entire worship service left me speechless. In fact, I kept crying during the service (good thing you don’t need to wear mascara in Haiti!). The reality is that I felt this celebration, this worship, WAS THE HOLIEST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. My tears started at the beginning of the service, and the leaky faucet dripped on and off for the 3 hour celebration. When worship started little did I know that the most incredible part was yet to come.
Holy Communion is meaningful in any worship setting. It is the tangible way in which we remember that we are:
United with Christ.
United with Christ’s Church throughout time and space.
I’ll admit, I had high expectations for sharing the body and blood of Christ with our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Then they set the table…and woah…
First, the table was processed in by 2 members of the St. Joseph Family, and the boys reverently bowed.
The table is processed in… altar cloths, flowers, plate and cup, bread and wine. (Side note: this is all happening to the backdrop of U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. So I was already excited!) The final note of the worship procession is when Josephine, a young teenager from Wings of Hope, is rolled in her wheelchair to place the cross on the table. Cue: tears!
Josephine Placing the Cross on the Table
You think that would be enough, right? You think I would be an emotional mess with Christ clearly present in our midst, but worship wasn’t done yet. Communion wasn’t even done yet. As Pastor Jay led us in the Words of Institution (and Bill led us in Creole), I was so struck by the holiness of it all. The family dog laying in the middle of worship…the blancs (Creole for white)…the Haitians…the family…the wheelchairs…the tarps…and in the middle of it all, Jesus. As it was time for communion distribution, it was immediately realized that many of the children from Wings of Hope didn’t have proper use of their arms. I wept again as Pastor Jay and the Assisting Ministers gently placed the body and blood in the mouths of these young people.
So there you have the story of the most holy worship I have had the privilege of sharing. This was a glimpse into the Kingdom of God. A place where are all welcome. A place of FAMILY. And dancing. Steve really likes to dance :)