With the wake of the Saturday sun comes the wildest cultural experience I think one can absorb in the Central Plateau. Each day, hundreds of people flock from town to town in pursuit of the daily market. It’s on a rotation, each town having its market on a different day of the week, and Saturday is Pignon’s day. From sunrise to sundown, thousands of Haitians pack in the middle of town in an American farmer’s market fashion. That is, if the farmer’s market was a department store, goodwill, hardware, as well as grocery and they were all only available one day of the week.
Shoulder to shoulder we shuffle our way from the butchers, around the bakers, through the appliances, and past the fresh fruit. This all takes place within a couple square blocks under the cloudless sky, where temperatures touch the triple digits. John and I had a small list of things to gather, but it’s never a simple task to get anything. Before long, we ran into a cluster of my friends and they helped lead us around to the different vendors to help us barter and translate our transactions.
One of the boys that was with us, Jimmy, I have known since I first came to Haiti and have gotten to know his family well. We bought his family a small gift then went to see his mom, two sisters, and three brothers that all live within a small, one room, stick hut. Despite their cramped accommodations and skinny bodies, they all share Jimmy’s bright smile. There we sat and shared some laughs for an hour or so. Jimmy’s sister, dismayed at my shaved head, insisted on braiding John’s hair.
Many have come before us to Haiti, and many will come after, but there has always been discussion as to how to do ministry well in this country. A question I know I don’t hold a simple answer to, but John and I have been studying much of how Jesus and his disciples walked. Anywhere Jesus went, there were crowds of people in need, and he did whatever he could to help them. Many times this was extremely frustrating for his followers, they would surely remind him they had places to get to, things to do, but Jesus knew the crowds were important. I couldn’t stop thinking about those crowds, 2000 years ago, as we made our way through an equally needy crowd this morning.
But I’m not an almighty healer, I can’t heal the sick or feed all the hungry, and that carries a weight. But it also reminds me of how great Jesus truly was and keeps me grounded as to how much I need him, how much we all need him. One day of the week, we gather as many neighbors as possible into the yard and listen to a Haitian pastor give a message then sing praises to God.
To Haitians and Americans both, this one day of the week is where Christianity is practiced and where God resides. But today is Saturday, and I saw God in a little stick hut on the edge of town where two white kids sat and shared life with a family from a different part of the world. And I saw God on Friday when we walked from house to house with Jean Robert and talked about how the hurricane was for their family. I felt God in a tobacco farming witch doctor’s hut, with whom we discussed his beliefs and showed him what love was like. We see God every day in the most unexpected places. Ministry is letting those moments unfold, bringing them to life, and sharing them with those around us. And in that way we can do ministry just like Jesus did, because even when he healed crowds, he did it one person at a time.