This written by Josh and Paige Konoza, of Pittsburg, PA. They were married in August and decided to go serve with MH4H in Haiti for their belated Honeymoon. This is both of there first time traveling to Haiti.
Sunday was a special treat beginning with the fact that our schedule allowed for an extra hour of sleep. Given the near pitch black nature of the house when the wooden shutters are closed, it was easy to take advantage of the opportunity. An extra hour of rest on the Sabbath… the “irony” was not lost on us! Fransly had invited us to attend service at his church, L’eglise Baptiste de Philadelphie. We assume the name is an allusion to “Brotherly Love” and not the city in PA. The church itself is whitewashed concrete inside and out with windows in square patterns made from negative space in the walls. It was DEFINITELY decorated for Christmas. The sanctuary reminded me of a child’s birthday party and Christmas all at once, which seems more than fitting for the occasion: balloons in every color you can think of, red white and green streams of paper decorations, tinsel, and garland all hung from the exposed beams of the roof throughout the church. There was also a Christmas tree complete with lights and ornaments.
The wooden pews are seemingly packed as tightly as possible while still allowing for a center aisle and juuust enough space to inch along the walls when needed. Think of flying economy, and that’s about as much leg room and personal space as you get, except there’s no armrest between you and your neighbor. Not bad at 5’4”, but much taller and things get a little cramped; just ask Josh. It makes me think that the priority is definitely on seating as many people as possible to hear the Word as opposed to individual comfort. I’d say that’s a pretty good priority for sure. Many of you will probably be just as surprised as I was when I say that the service was actually a lot like home. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I find a bit of comfort in the fact that even with a small sea between us, Christ’s church has a lot of consistency, at least in my experience. Having spent many years attending Baptist services, the innumerable number of times we stood and sat down only to stand again didn’t make for much of a nuisance. In fact, I rather appreciate that we all stood together to read aloud from our Bibles in unison. There was plenty of singing, of which we had no idea what was being sung, but I enjoyed that the keyboard had been set to “organ mode”, another common denominator with my Baptist experience.
We were lucky enough to have the lead pastor translating the message into English for us. There were a couple of other native English speakers, but I know their kreyòl to be lightyears beyond our own. Combined with our knowledge of French numbers, we were able to look up scripture and follow along fairly easily as the congregation was called upon to read prophecy from Isaiah and its fulfillment in Luke. The teacher presented a sermon on Christ as the light of the world as well as a story relating the darkness and foolishness of voodoo. The overall message being that despite the different forms of darkness we face, Christ is the sole light of the world, and as Christmas quickly approaches, we celebrate his birth and the reassuring light only he can shine on all our troubles and darkness.
Later on in the evening as we sat with Fransly for dinner, we couldn’t help but overhear children singing. He explained that it was the children’s Christmas program that we’d heard them practicing for all week. We quickly finished our meal so that we could go to the church and see what it was all about. At LEAST 50 kids were dressed in their best singing what I imagine to be the entire Haitian repertoire of Christmas songs for the next two hours. The church had been only about half-full when we arrived, but was maxed out to standing room only by the end of the night. What a great celebration of Christ, as the voices of children singing his praises and announcing his birth rang out to draw such a large part of the community to His Father’s house! In the words of the kids, “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, WAAAY!