I have fallen in love with the Church of Hope.
Maybe it was last night's service.
I stood amongst a sea of dancing, clapping and waving singers as the bongo drums, guitars and keyboards played vivaciously on. Young mothers swayed back and forth as the heads of their newborn bobbled on their shoulders. Children and teens left their seats and moved to the aisles where they jumped and held hands. Seniors raised their arms and clapped to the rhythm. And I couldn't get the smile off my face.
The pace of the song in Creole was far too fast for me to catch onto, but it didn't matter. The sound and view from where I was standing was heavenly.
I crouched down to Senson who was standing beside me. I grinned at him and happy wrinkles formed around his soft eyes. My heart swelled.
Maybe it's Sunday morning kids church. The way that the attendance explodes every week causing kids to pack in like sardines on the picnic tables. They don't seem to mind. Volcy, Emanuel and Erta chant out jingles like 'Let me see your funky chicken' and 'Father Abraham' with an echo of hundreds of screaming kids. We sing, laugh and dance until the sweat kicks in, and then they sit like angels for the story. Lately we've been memorizing scripture as well, which the kids have blown me away. There is no chalkboard or enough bibles for everyone to follow along with, but they echo the verse from the leader and within a few repeats, they've got it nailed. It's exciting for me to witness these blessed children reciting promises from the bible that they will carry home with them.
Maybe it's the words of the songs that I've learned in Creole that have now become more than just different sound blends, but words that connect with my heart. I used to have to be so concentrated on singing the words in the right order and not losing my spot on the page, but now that I'm catching on, the songs that have been taught to me echo deep into my soul. Words like, Adoration is all that I have to give, My heart is yours, Surround me oh Lord, He is always there, He is my faithful God. These lines sound a lot different in creole. Usually, the first thing that I did was interpret them into english so I could understand. Lately I find that this hasn't been my priority. I'm realizing I like the words better just as they are.
Maybe it was the youth service on Sunday afternoon. Between sporadic bursts of music blaring from the speakers, the youth committee director led the group in the singing of some familiar classics including 'Deep and Wide' (in creole of course), followed by a round of Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah. The only issue was that the pair who led the song had some issues, and brought the second group of singers in on a completely different key than the first. I think this goes without saying that it creating some very wonky harmony. The youth sang their hearts out despite it. I sang along with a chuckle in my throat.
Maybe it's the familiar faces of Hope House kids and cooing babies that smile at me when they catch my eye, and the gardener and cook who work at the guesthouse who grab my hand and pull me into a hug at the end of a service.
Or maybe it's the chance to walk back up the hill in the dark when the service ends at night. Sometimes I get to hold the hands of my mountain kids and we stroll hand in hand down the path with the light of my cellphone guiding the way. I've often thought to myself that I should capture a photo of the shadows before us as we walk. The beam of the flashlight creates an outline of our bodies walking side by side... My tall silhouette surrounded by little bobbing heads as we climb the road. When we reach their footpath back to their tent, I kiss them all goodnight and then they scamper away into the darkness, whispering and giggling until they are out of sight.
I think part of the purpose of writing this blog is the fact that I haven't always had this feeling when I come to church. Often times since September 2008, I have showed up for a service and tried my best to be a part of the people, but felt a lingering emptiness inside. I would so often long for my Wainfleet congregation... A place full of 'my people'. It was easy to compare churches and usually I felt like a foreigner in Haiti.
But lately, these scenarios I've listed have meshed into my longings for a place of familiarity. More than just connecting to a sermon or a song, I connect with God's people. I connect with His presence. I connect with His love. And it's there that He whispers, I am home.
I am so grateful for this place to join with the Lord's people, His body. I know it's only through Him that I have a chance to belong.