Sunday, September 26, 2010

Haiti Q & A: What is church like?

This was taken during Sunday school back in April
Q. What is church like in Haiti?
A. The church service in Gramothe is very similar to traditional services in the States. The service opens with a welcome from either the pastor (Willem) or an elder. That's followed by a prayer--typically passionate and lengthy. Then we sing 3 or 4 songs that must have six verses each. I'm not joking; we sing for a long time. Sometimes I recognize the tune, but the past two Sundays I haven't recognized any of the songs.

After one song (or maybe before we start singing) there is a part of the service that is not something I've seen in the States. Each Sunday school class is called on to stand and recite their memory verse. They work on it during Sunday school and presumably practice at home as well. Today it sounded like each class had a different verse they were working on. Then after each of the 4 or 5 classes has said their verses some banners are given out as awards. Last week one lady received all the awards, but this week it seemed that someone from each class received one. The banners must be returned at some point because the same ones are used each week.

After the classes recite their verses we sing some more songs. There is a band that plays the music. Today we had three guitars, a piano, a drummer on the standard drum set, and a conga drum player. For some reason the music is always turned up to the top volume level, so the sound is not always pleasant. Today it seemed especially loud. Anyway, after the singing there is another prayer and the offering is taken. Today during the offering, one of the students from the high school gave her testimony. She will be the first student to go all the way through the Gramothe school and graduate. She hopes to go to medical school to become a doctor after she finishes her last year of high school.

Because there were teams here this week, Willem asked one of them to speak. Pastor Steve is on the construction team from Illinois and did a fine job preaching. He spoke and Willem translated for him. When there aren't any teams here, Willem just preaches. Those Sundays are hard for me because I don't understand anything during the service. It can be a very lonely time for me because church is supposed to be a time when believers come together. On the Sundays when everything is in Creole I feel very isolated. Today I was very thankful for at least part of the service being translated into English!

Generally the service comes to a close shortly after the sermon is finished. Willem either prays for us or has one of the parishioners pray. Then as everyone leaves they shake hands and greet one another. The older people often make a beeline to me or any Americans in attendance. They shake our hands and the women kiss us on the cheek. Last Sunday I sat near the door and after church I felt like I was in a receiving line because every single person who passed me shook my hand. It made me feel very welcomed. Today with the big group at church I didn't feel like I was in a receiving line, but there were still some elderly Haitians who made a point to come and find me.

1 comment:

  1. The kids like how the classes compete to win the banner each week. Timmy and Ellie thought it's kind of like our Bible Quizzing program.

    Timmy thought he'd like the loud music but Ellie didn't. I'm with Ellie on this one! I think I'd sit towards the back, too!

    I'm so glad you've had some interaction with the American teams. Hearing and speaking English must be a relief to your ears and mouth!