Blog post written by Dorene Palermo.
It has been a long, hot, but satisfying day. We started with breakfast at 6am.
Dressed in our Sunday best (men in dress shirts with ties, women in knee length dresses with shoulders covered), we climbed into the back of the two tap taps, avoiding the spare tire on the floor, to head to church. In each tap tap we squeezed three large suitcases of medications between our knees as we sat facing each other on board benches under the brightly painted metal roof. At least when the tap tap was moving some air flowed from front to back to relieve the heat. We commented on how much cleaner the streets were compared to last year, and guessed the amount of dust was less because everyone was in church instead of on the road.
We arrived at the Cite Soleil campus around 7am for church. (Yes, church starts at 7am and goes for 3 hours!) Before entering the sanctuary, we unloaded the medications into the clinic next door and stowed our backpacks with a change of clothes inside. We entered church from the side and took our customary seats in the first two rows in the back center section.
The sanctuary itself is an open building –a corrugated steel roofed building with white benches for pews, arranged in three sections from side to side, and easily holding 1500 to 2000 people. The raised platform at the front has a pulpit in the center, a 4-5 piece band to the right, a screen just to the left of center where words to the songs are projected, and several sets of microphones for the speakers, singers, and band. A young woman with an amazingly strong voice leads the congregation in singing praises and hymns. Every Haitian is an alto or a bass, and the beautifully harmonized music fills every square foot of space in the huge sanctuary and can be heard all over the neighborhood. It sounds like the music from the Lion King, and goes on song after song for over an hour.
We stayed at this church through the welcoming of the people who were attending church for the first time (we had several), the handing out Bibles to some church members, announcements, the sermon, communion, and the collection. As we filed out of our seats to return our communion cups and make an offering, we continued outside to head for our second church service for the morning.
The trip to this church was truly an experience. Tap taps have no shock absorbers to begin with, so this journey through one of the poorer sections of Port au Prince, roads unpaved and full of huge pot holes, little goats and big pigs browsing along the side of the road, people walking or driving randomly along was more than memorable. We were relieved to see the outside walls of Repatriot Church at last!
Our second church service began for us after most of the music had finished. As we headed for the back door to the church, Pastor Leon greeted us outside with open arms and lots of hugs! As we took our seats he returned to his seat a few rows ahead of us with his wife Jacky. A bit later in the service, Leon went to the front, make a short speech (in Creole), and then introduced his son who was visiting Haiti with his wife, his daughter Nadege, and of course his wife Jacky.
We stayed at this church through communion and the collection and by then it was nearly 11 am. After a quick climb to the roof of the school next to the church to gaze at the mountains and the town surrounding the HOM campus, we returned to Cite Soliel clinic to unpack the meds and set up the clinic for Monday. Our new team members were beginning to recognize what it is really like without air conditioning! The temperature was well into the 90s, but as they always say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” Our previous trips were in November and October and we can really feel the difference! Next year we should probably come a bit later than September.
We worked at the clinic until 1pm, setting up the triage rooms, the exam rooms, getting the new team members oriented to the equipment and supplies, unpacking the medications, and setting up the pharmacy. By that time it had been nearly 7 hours since breakfast and we were definitely hot and hungry.
Lunch was a buffet on a patio beside a pool at the Visa Lodge Hotel not far from our own Palm Inn Hotel and we did not linger long over lunch. But before we could seek respite from the heat, we had one more thing to do. We headed to the supermarket to buy the “fixin’s” for our lunches for the week. We did not spend much time there because the call of the air conditioning in our rooms and the pool just outside was irresistible and we were hot, hot, hot and tired.
Everyone just rested and relaxed until dinner, we had devotions, reminding ourselves that God is with us on this journey and will give us the strength when we need it. We then headed to bed before 8:30pm. Monday will come early and there will be much to do!