The Brand family and the Sorheim family are the first team back in Haiti since the COVID-19 Pandemic began. Read Jenny Sorheim and Nolan Brand’s reflections on their time in Haiti.
Many Hands for Haiti is a song. Maybe a worship set, maybe jazz, maybe a jam session. To me, MH4H is music.
Our short term team arrived last Sunday in the middle of the afternoon so we missed getting a chance to attend a Haitian Sunday morning service, so instead we were given the opportunity to go to a Sunday evening praise and worship service. I love worship music so I was excited to be immersed immediately into the Haitian culture in this way on their own terms. This was going to happen whether we were there or not.
The service started with some words and prayers and then the music started. When I say music I mean a guy on the keyboard using his index finger to hit a few notes here and there as two talented singers each with their own mic were leading a song while swaying in time together. Maybe there was a guy sitting at the drum set? Not sure if he was playing yet. The room was starting to fill mostly with kids and teens. What else is there to do on a Sunday night in this neighborhood? They all knew the lyrics. The jetlagged Americans sat off to the side and tried to sing along with our Kreyol songbook apps on our phones, mostly enjoying the chance to just watch. The singers led, taking turns, and one song connected to the next. More people came, more adults, more kids.
After a bit of time another person stepped onto the plywood platform and picked up the bass and started plucking away. Then another guy started messing with the sound board which was set up on the edge of the platform. I think the guy on the drums added some rhythm. I noticed a guy in the doorway next to the band standing there watching for a while. He was wearing a collared black shirt just like my 15-year-old son was wearing. After a while he walked onto the platform and sat on a stool next to the keyboard player and watched him play from that angle. We kept singing. In between a song I noticed the guy in the black shirt switched spots with the guy at the keyboard. The singers started the next song and the new keyboard guy jumped up and down the keyboard trying to find the key. Bingo, he found their key and joined right in with them. He started playing along and he was good! Now the worship band consisted of keyboard, bass, drums, a sound guy and maybe someone else, or was he just sitting up there? Not sure if he was just observing or playing, but the band sounded good.
The singers would start new songs and the keyboarder would find the key each song and once he found it he would add color to the music. (I later found out this talented keyboardist was Jean-Rubert, a MH4H evangelist for PET carts, who I would get to know later in the week.) By the end of the worship set we were all on our feet and were following the worship leaders waving our hands over our heads, full band, full volume, and there was joy in the air. We had hit our sweet spot together. We sounded good!
“This was a blessing to see when MANY HANDS come together,
united by God, those hands make MUSIC together.”
You may see where I am going with this. What I have learned the last 8 days after being on and off-campus with Many Hands is that this organization, this ministry, this community–whatever you want to call it–is very much like that worship set. There are the leaders swaying together, taking turns – the Haitians and the Americans. There are the “sound guys” helping everyone to be heard and at the right levels. There are the different musicians that add layer upon layer of beauty when joined together. There is a lot of individual practice and prep in a specialty, but improv is king when coming together. There are the starts and stops and pauses and awkward silences at times. There are the missed notes, but way more correct ones. There are the observers that watch and then decide when they jump in at the right time. There is finding “your key” at transition times. There are highs and lows. And most importantly like the lyrics guiding everyone together and the songbook as the guide, God is managing the whole endeavor through his Word and Spirit guiding and directing the many parts. The end result is beautiful music. So many roles. So many hands. This was a blessing to see when MANY HANDS come together, united by God, those hands make MUSIC together. So honored and privileged I had the opportunity to be one of those hands this week with my family.
Our last full day in Haiti was a great way to go out. Yesterday consisted of waiting and traveling, as we needed to pass covid tests in order to leave the country. The elevation got to a few of our team members and made for an exhausting day. So after a night of limited rest, we had an early wake up and made way towards Mount Pignon at 5:30am to avoid the heat. As much as I wanted to throw my phone straight out the window, I decided to make it a full day.
It took about an hour to reach mountain top, but the view was totally worth it. A distant stream of fog hovered above the city’s river. The buildings were short, roads crooked, and mountains outlined our image. Although I had seen the sight several years earlier, something else came to mind this time. I pictured Jesus walking through this city. Walking beside a donkey, down a dirt road. Everyone moving around their shack like houses, just doing something to make a living. Goats strolling and children staring in awe of what they see. There is a Bible like simplicity to how the people live here in Haiti. They don’t worry about what is coming, for they just need to make it through today. Families look out for each other, and the community supports each other. To outsiders like us it may seem chaotic or even complex, but as long as they are healthy it’s “Praise God.” Whenever we delivered a meal, an audio Bible, or a PET cart to a person in need they said this in a genuine statement.
Our group was sent by God to bless His inhabitants in this land. With a mindset that everything happens for a reason, and His presence is shown, the God sightings are ever potent. That is something I think we as Americans need to believe and do a better job at. When something good happens, without hesitation, it should be “Praise God”. He put us in that position, and holds life’s manuscript in His hands. This takes a mindset shift that may not be easy because we often stay worldly in our perceptions. Quick example… you can still thank your doctor for a successful surgery, but “Praise God!” for granting that doctor the mindset and abilities to complete his work.
“The organization is hitting the right spots and the community is beautiful because of it.”
I wanted to touch on one more thing, and will relate in back to a Haitian sweet fruit. Our group was fortunate enough to be here during one of the most prosperous seasons – Mango season. While taking a stroll through Many Hands “Goat land” today we decided to have a Mango Moment. Mango trees are literally everywhere so we rotated around a few, taste-testing in search of the best fruit. The mangos can just be grabbed and eaten directly from the tress, it just takes a few peels of the hide to reach the juicy inside.
This sweet goodness reminded me a lot of common perceptions when traveling to this country. When Haiti is mentioned, people often cringe because of the poor conditions and lack of development nationally. This may be true, but once you get here and indulge yourself in the culture and conditions, perceptions drastically change.
I have witnessed this in myself and the members of my group. People here in Pignon have been nothing but a blessing to us during the stay. They are kind, loving, generous, and fruitful. The only difference between them and us in America is how our lives started and the circumstances revolving around that. Haitians are born into a home where the “normal” is to not go to school, but instead work for food. The normal is to live in a two room house with a dirt floor. In fact, I cannot fully explain the philosophical change that has been going throughout my head these last few days. These people are the hardest workers I have ever witnessed, but lack the opportunities to advance.
Many Hands is giving them these chances, and trying to evoke a sense of leadership and belonging among the Haitian communities. They offer education, and programs for mothers. They offer medical assistance to promote sanitary habits and healthy children. They provide agricultural training and help to get the most out of the fertile land in the area. The organization is hitting the right spots and the community is beautiful because of it. I am so thankful for the opportunity to take this trip, and would push anyone who is able to get out of your comfort zone to experience the unexplainable.