Dave Gritters is the director of Operations in Haiti, currently living in Sylvain with his wife, Cindy, and working with our staff on the ground
Cindy and I have been in Haiti since February 25 while I am learning my new role as Director of Operations – Haiti, and Spiritual Development Director. This time has been a blessing, invaluable to my service with Many Hands. Before coming here, I set out to learn something new and different each day which was easily accomplished!
However, the most challenging by far has been trying to learn the local language of Haitian Creole. Haitian Creole is the primary language spoken and is both verbal and physical. The verbal part is hard for me to learn and I am slowly catching on to words and phrases. Listening to conversational creole at regular speed is very hard. However, the physical aspect of language is often easier to grasp. So, for this blog, I am going to share some examples of being able to understand body language when I cannot understand the verbal.
…would I get on my knees in church, especially if I get my clothes dirty?
I am learning that I don’t always need to speak the language to worship. Sure it would help a ton, but music and worship can often be a universal language. As I worship here I am always struck by the differences between a Haitian worship service and the service that I am more used to in the USA. A Haitian may experience our normal USA church service and exclaim “Wow, this is so quiet”, “Why is no one moving”, “Why is nobody dressed up?” And “Where are the chickens?”. Someone from the USA may attend a Haitian worship service and think “Why is it so loud?”, Wow, everyone moves with the songs”, Everyone is dressed so nice”, “Hey, there goes a hen and chicks across the floor”.
The differences between a worship service in the USA and Haiti may have stark differences – from the building, the language, the dress, and so on. Yet it does not take long to understand the similarities. Like when you hear a familiar tune – now you know the words and understand. An example I will share taught me that I don’t always need to understand the language but can understand the physical.
We were in a church a few weeks ago called Agape. This is a church where one of our pastor staff, Pastor Lumanès leads. During one of the songs, I just had this feeling of the Holy Spirit. It felt like the Holy Spirit was lifting me and being carried into His presence. I did not need to know the words of the song.
The next song became rather quiet and mournful as 3 older women got onto their knees on the dirt floor and in their nice dresses. They held this pose for about 10 minutes and as I looked around I could tell that people were confessing their sins and showing remorse, and then the next song became jubilant with much singing and clapping. I did not need to know Creole to understand that we just went through a confession of sin and the realization of forgiveness. In my church, we call that confession and assurance of pardon.
It was deeply moving for me to witness and at the same time I am asking myself “would I get on my knees in church, especially if I get my clothes dirty? How sorry for my sins am I really and how thankful for my forgiveness am I?”
…tension can be a place of great learning.
A weekly highlight is hosting a soccer game for young boys between the ages of 12-20. I am getting to know their names and even sometimes put the right name with the right face. Names are important everywhere and it’s important to try and get one’s name correct. But where I am going with this is how body language can communicate competition and fun.
While the boys are playing hard and really getting after it, I can always tell when the competition and will to win sets in. It’s written on the faces, the accurate footwork, and strong kicks. It’s expressed in a high five, a scowl or strong words, a huge smile, and the word GOOOAAAAALLLL while running with your hands up in the air!
When someone comes to you with a large smile saying “Mesi, mesi.” When I approach someone and convey to them that they are appreciated. The smile usually says it all.
Worry and Fear
When visiting with a young lady who is very sick the body language of her and her husband is telling. We are scared, we don’t know the future, I am afraid of losing my wife… In life’s hardest moments we don’t always have to use words. A kind touch, a prayer, a song, and a smile go a long way even when you don’t have the words to say.
So, while I understand that this blog isn’t as much about the day-to-day life in Haiti, I hope it brings some light to show how someone like me, a person who “pa pale Creole”, can still understand the hearts of those around me.
Thank you for your continued prayers for Many Hands!