Where did you smell Jesus today?
It was the provocatively phrased question that Marc Porpilia asked almost every evening during our sensory-filled days in Bassin Caiman. And the aroma of Christ permeated the week in relationships formed and re-established, in team work and team play, in problems overcome and avoided, and in ways many of us are probably still realizing.
Often referred to as Friendship Community Church’s fourth Haiti trip, by the time the April 2 departure date rolled around, only eight of the 23 people on the team were from Friendship. Not that it mattered. By the week’s end, bonds had been formed that transcended church membership or even state residency. And the â€œteamâ€ expanded beyond those of us who were American to include Haitian co-laborers in deed and spirit.
And labor we did. While the work did not involve constructing new buildings, as had been the case in previous years, plenty of sweat equity was invested in erecting concrete pillars to ensure the stability of the two-story school; in painting the interior and exterior of the local church and a portion of the room used as our group’s mess hall; and in designing (thanks to Marc Porpilia’s artistic talents) and painting a mural on a storage building’s exterior wall. That piece was based on pictures community children drew during the vacation Bible school our team provided and now serves as a colorful greeting to those traveling the nearby road. Members of the team also built a table for the meal-preparation room and installed shelves at the bread oven site and in the showers, all of which made life a little easier for individuals using those community-based facilities.
The children were a constant fixture during the week, jumping in to help wherever they could. But the two-day vacation Bible school was their time. They localized the story of Jesus encounter with the woman at the well by drawing scenes, later incorporated into the mural, of what they observe on the way to their community water pump. As part of another lesson, they dramatized the account of Jesus meeting the short tax collector Zacchaeus, who had to climb a tree to see Christ in the crowd, though in our version, Zacchaeus sold lottery tickets and climbed a tall ladder set up in the church. They also had the chance to burn off some energy by playing different outdoor games.
As probably anyone on the trip will attest, however, the relationship-building was as important as the physical labor. Whether the relationships were with some of the children, the women who prepared our food, the men who worked on the school building, the families we met the community, the translators who smoothed over the communication gaps or even other team members we got to know better or for the first time, those new or renewed connections made the time in Bassin Caiman special. Our schedule allowed for those relationships to blossom by providing opportunities to go to the beach, to visit local families and to attend church services. Meeting every evening to reflect on the day’s activities and on passages from meditation journals Jeff VanderMolen prepared for the team also helped to foster a sense of community that grew as the week progressed.
Holding it all together was Jeff’s able and inspired leadership and that of Sarah VanderMolen back in Pittsburgh and the support, assistance and prayers of many in the United States and Haiti.
So where did we smell Jesus in Bassin Caiman? I would suggest that we got at least a whiff of Him everywhere.
-Carmen Lee (2009 Friendship Team Member)