Our friend Charl, who has also come to be known as the “pastor” in the group of young lights leaders, was up and ready to go at 7:00 as we piled into the car to surprise Olivia (Compassion Corp student) with a place she had not been to yet. Behind market in Cabaret – that is sometimes a daily visit – there are roads, walls, schools, and homes…it’s hot and dusty. However when you keep driving where the pavement stops and the dirt road starts, there are hidden treasures as you’ll start to see more trees, motos packed with plantains on both sides on the way to sell in market, and eventually “gardens” (which we Americans would call fields) on both sides packed with Caribbean riches. Follow this road long enough on a Thursday morning and you’ll reach an empty water front – the only people are off shore catching fish.
After a morning here and exploring around, we intentionally went to local businesses and merchants, just interacting with those walking and selling as we went. This is one of my favorite parts of Haiti – everyone is a potential friend, especially on quieter roads and crossing paths with farmers and mothers selling roadside coffee as they go between house chores and responding to those passing by. We got fresh caught fish by the beach with loud African dance music blasting and then enjoyed the quiet kompa on the radio as we drove back towards Cabaret with windows down. Stopping to see if we could buy some breadfruit from the large bags waiting to be taken to market, the sweet woman turned down our 50 gourde and gave them for free instead, saying, “I see you need them since you are asking before you get to market!”. Another spontaneous stop included bread with local peanut butter and that sweet coffee that tastes best sitting under a tree in a wicker chair surrounded by your friends.
As we sat here, a group of teenage boys passed and waved – we started a conversation (it began with a few minutes of “You speak Creole? You don’t think you’re too good to talk to us?”). These boys were dressed in the latest styles, with cool hair and just an atmosphere that popular young adults seem to exude – you know what I mean? Which is why I was so surprised, and then excited – for where our conversation went.
Frustratingly, this style usually means that you can’t go into church. The guy doing most of the talking showed this off best, with a Jamaican style necklace and hair that was dope but too long on top for a traditional church goer. So imagine how fun it was when this same guy said that his dad preached at the church next door, and then our conversation covered everything from invitations between churches to what God looks at (the heart, not the cool hair).
I asked how long he had lived around Cabaret and he replied he was born and raised where he was. He’s my age, 26, and he responded honestly to my questions about liking where he lived or not. He talked about how there is a lot of hate and fighting in Cabaret…and then he talked about the difference. “But things are changing”, he said, “you see the guys I’m walking with? [There were 5 of them together] You didn’t used to see groups like us walking around together and getting along”.
He talked about how things are transforming, how youth going to schools is changing how people think, how the school and church that his father is a part of as he pastors it is one of the places that thinks that way – and it is not the only one. He talks about a new Haiti, little by little as education transforms. As people come together. As unity is pursued. As new thought patterns are instilled deeper.
I triple check – “So you can go to church? So you actually GO to church – you?” – and he does. We talk about Young Lights and I point to Charl, saying that he is the one who usually gives the message. We talk about his love for music and he asks if he can sing or play keyboard if he visits.
And as beautiful as the ocean was while fishermen gathered their catches, as delicious as a fresh meal on the beach or some local coffee and peanut butter is, as amazing as the views are with all of the GREEN that happens in rainy season….this was the most amazing part of the morning. In pockets all over, I continue to meet more people who think different. People who “get it”. Churches who are over the old practices of putting tradition over an inviting environment. Young adults who are dreaming.
And again I see it – spaces are being redeemed and people are being transformed.
It’s a beautiful morning to be working to breathe life in Haiti