West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Wade in the Water

Today is Easter Sunday, and I am back in my comfortable Memphis home, with a refrigerator full of food, internet 24/7, and clean water right out of the tap.  A hot shower is available,  anytime I choose.     I have been quite fatigued this week, returning to work after spending last week in Haiti.  I finally unpacked my suitcases yesterday, with paintings and earrings made by Haitians, many memories of our trip.   I was inclined to stay home and rest last evening, but I remembered that  Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgy of the entire church year, so I went.  One of the hymns we sang was “Wade in the Water”, which reminded me of an amazing experience I had on our last day in Haiti.  We saw a baptism, right in the ocean!

We had hired a driver to take us to Jacmel for the day. If you look at a map of Haiti, Jacmel is due south of Port au Prince, on the southern coast of Haiti.  It is a beautiful seaside town, with buildings that remind me of New Orleans architecture.  We had lunch at the Hotel Florita, and met an expatriate American named Joe, who was drinking rum sours and scowling into his laptop at the back of the hotel lobby.  I felt like I was in the movie set of Casa Blanca, and had found Rick at Cafe Americain (with apologies to Humphrey Bogart).  Joe gave us a tour of his lovely house-turned-hotel since the earthquake, and Sherye and I found our suite on the third floor.  Lovely old wooden furniture, plenty of Haitian voodoo art on the walls, wild hibiscus and clematis growing on the balcony, and 2 wooden rocking chairs waiting just for us. 

A little while later, while we were shopping in the hotel gift shop, a funeral procession went by on the street outside our door, complete with uniformed jazz musicians following the hearse, just like the photos I have seen in New Orleans.  We drove a mile or two to another hotel, and paid the manager for permission to use their swimming pool and obtain beach access, about $4 per person.  Such a deal.  Most of the team was wiped out and used the swimming pool, but Sienna, Robby and I hiked down the (many) stairs to get to the beach.  Of course we attracted attention from the Haitians who were already at the beach, 2 or 3 families with their kids enjoying the warm ocean waters.    In Kreyol, Sienna greeted the kids, who erupted in laughter, “GADE BLAN KI PALE KREYOL!” (LOOK AT THE BLAN WHO SPEAKS KREYOL) they chattered.   Their mother smiled a friendly smile at us and told the kids not to be rude.  It does help to understand the language a little bit!

As we were laughing and jumping around the kelp in the water, we heard a beautiful male voice singing Kreyol.  A group of people was standing about 100 yards away from us, at the shore line, and the man singing was standing in the water up to his thighs.  He was singing and calling to the people on the shore.  One by one they came in their white clothes, the women with white veils and dresses, the men in white pants and shirts.  His song carried over the water to us and up to the people at the top of the staircase; Drew and John told me later they heard it as well.  I could not make out all the words, but I  recognized the cadence of a prayer.  A woman in a white veil went backwards into the water and came up dripping.  Then a man, then another man. It was fascinating, like our own precious glimpse into another world. 

Bishop Johnson preached today at St Mary’s Cathedral, about God calling us to “get our feet wet”, to jump with both feet into this Christian life.  He said we should come up “dripping” from the waters of baptism.  A week ago, I witnessed Haitians come up dripping from their own baptism.   I am forever grateful for the gift of Haiti in my life, the gift of jumping in with both feet into the work we do in the country I have come to love.

Susan Nelson
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