Blog is written by Charlie Koopman, member of Now Serving 7 band and Worship Leader at Third Church in Pella, IA. Charlie is traveling in Haiti this week, to our locations in Pignon and Gonaives.
I’m sitting on top of a rooftop in Gonaives, Haiti tonight, the cool breeze our only recompense for the exhaustive heat of today. You see, the sun was our nemesis on our five hour journey from Pignon to Gonaives, but more on that later. First we had to say goodbye to our new friends in Pignon. The concert at the Pella Christian school the night before had left me with my first real connection to the people in Haiti. They love to worship and sing…and so do I. Their love to sing and worship energized my bones and as they shouted one of our own songs, Great and Glorious, my soul seemed to ascend. Back to this morning; we said goodbye to young Fransley and Woodson, two boys that we shared nearly every moment of life with for our two days in Pignon and started to the infamous journey from Pignon to Gonaives.
Now Haiti is near the equator and needless to say is hot, but today, it was really hot. Tim Brand, our fearless leader, has a way of leaving some of the details out and this morning he dropped the subtle comment, “Today there will be three of us riding in the back of the truck…and these are the worst roads in Haiti”. I’m not sure what you can imagine when you hear “worst roads in Haiti” but trust me, you can’t imagine because none of what you’ve ever experienced in the states can even begin to prepare your imagination for how treacherous these roads were. So we packed up 5 suitcases, my guitars, Bob’s cajon (a hand percussion instrument you play with your hands), four handbags, six bottles of water, fifty pounds of green coffee beans, and 3 bottles of sunscreen and loaded into the back of the small pickup truck bed. Imagine driving from Pella to Des Moines and taking five hours to get there. The roads were so bumpy, rocky, washed out, riddled with a maze of ruts and submerged under rivers that we averaged no more than 15 miles per hour. My core, legs, and butt, I fear, may never be the same.
We finally entered Gonaives and reached the house where our host, Silentor and his family, greeted us with hugs and cold Coke made with real sugar. I was never so excited to get somewhere in my life. The Haitian people are extremely hospitable and we experienced that again today in Gonaives. We spent some time settling into our rooms and getting to know one another, changing guitar strings and catching inquisitive stares from our young hosts before we left for our concert at the school and church here in Gonaives.
We met Silentor’s brother, Leboise, the Principle of Etoile School, and Woody the Director of the Afterschool Program and Child Sponsorship Program. The Haitians, who call us Blancs (whites), don’t get a lot exposure to white people and their infatuation with our differences was evident as they followed us everywhere we went. They are a beautiful people and I am growing quite fond of them.
Martha, Tammy and Taylor spent time with the girl’s empowerment program, teaching the young women how God sees them as Bob and I sound checked at the church for the big talent show. Two hours later the show ended with me drenched in sweat playing a reggae song with the church band at ear splitting volumes. We shared the love of Christ tonight, loudly, boldly, with abundant joy through the universal language of music.
So here we are on the rooftop, the lights and sounds of the city are starting to give way to the brilliant night sky and of dogs barking. I am fading, but I am filled.