Traveled up, up, up the mountains thanks to Ones’ amazing driving skills. I have seen the photos of the schools on LaGonave, but nothing could prepare me for the ride. It’s a journey consisting of three hours on a board bench in the back of Ones’ truck, which, by the way, has more than 300,000 miles on the odometer and is held together by prayer. The roads were once dirt, but now that has washed out to sea, leaving jagged hunks of coral sticking out. There are as many switch backs as there are straight stretches and a few times, I close my eyes to keep from seeing the bluffs below. Ones prays his way up the mountains, saying “Mesi Jezi” at the top of each one…Thank you Jesus.
We pass through several villages, including D’umerle’s hometown of Nan Cafe which means “in the coffee.” It’s a pretty village with coffee trees growing all around. After three hours of bouncing along, we hike the last two miles to La Pye (Lah PeaYay) because the old truck just can’t make it anymore. The elevation change leaves me breathless by the end of the hike.
Hope for LaGonave began after the death of Matt Baugh. Matt spent a good portion of his childhood in Haiti and while I never formally met the man, I know that he must have been a very interesting person. He and his wife Shannon and their children were missionaries to LaGonave. He traveled around to tiny churches on this island and shared Jesus and his life with the precious people here. Matt was loved. His legacy lives on in nearly every interaction we have….a good price for the mama of Pastor Matt, Pastor Matt loved us, too, Pastor Matt was good to me. When he died in a motorcycle accident, his family found evidence in his writing and in a video of what he had hoped for these little children. He wanted HOPE for them. The kind of hope given by Jesus, the kind of hope that is only given when they know about Jesus, when they have been taught and when they have learned.
Hope for LaGonave was formed, four schools were opened and more than 70 children are now sponsored each month by families in the US. There are about 400 children in the schools and the unsponsored children get to go to school on scholarship. The purpose of our trip is to visit the schools, check on the sponsored children and get updates on them, give out gifts sent to the sponsored kids from their sponsors, and give vitamins to all.
La Pye is a sweet little school. The mountain children are SO removed from the rest of the world that there is a special naiveté and innocence about them. When we arrive, the children are all seated in the biggest shelter awaiting our arrival. They sing us a few songs, including Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia Praise Ye the Lord! It is a joyful time! The preschool teacher’s classroom is well sheltered, allowing her to hang up the materials provided from the curriculum “Mwen Capab” (I Can). One of the posters shows Psalm 139:17-18: How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. I also notice one of the class rules: “Treat the school and the furniture with respect.” Wow. The simple plywood building and board benches, with a higher board that serves as a desk when facing forward and a back rest when turned around, are to be treated with respect. This sign may need to go in my home, along with a picture of this building.
After the assembly, I share Ann Voskamp’s Easter activity, “Trail to the Tree” with the teachers. It is a type of advent calendar that shows great works of art and scripture and walks the children through the story of redemption from Creation and the Fall to Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. My children helped put a set together for each school and we hope it is an encouragement to the teachers.
Our family has been sponsoring a little boy, Jean Donald, for a few years now. We have enjoyed getting pictures and updates from him, and Mr. Ben even took him a gift and a picture of our family more than a year ago. Today…we got to meet Jean Donald, finally! He met us along the side of the road near Plenn Mapou and he took us to his home among the coffee trees. Honestly, I don’t have a clue what the house looked like because I was too busy watching him. He recognized John right off the bat, from the picture we’d sent with Ben. His mother, grandmother, big sister, aunt and cousin all gathered for the occasion. His mama, in her bright yellow headscarf hugged us so tight and said, “Stand with your white brothers for a picture!” Will, Sam and Jean ARE immediately brothers, holding arms in Ones’ truck as we make our way to the school. He is a tall, handsome young man. He is smart, well respected and has rich ebony skin, huge eyes and a quiet countenance.
The wonderful classroom at Plenn Mapou is busting at the seams with children and put together by the simplest means, but with care and love.
All day long, God gave us beautifully cool weather. So cool the weather made Haitian little ones shiver. To the Arkies, it was springtime! On the way down the mountain, we picked up a boy who hitchhiked with us to Anse a Galet. I kept asking our guides if it was OK, imagining a mama not knowing to where her son ran off, but they assure me that it’s fine, that he has family in town. He rides over an hour with us. My boys are SO overprotected.
Met Ones’ wife and sweet chunky baby girl….
Bought sour sop (called something else…coursol, I think) from a young lady and old lady on the side of the road. Old lady’s cheap shower shoes were coming apart on the mountain rocks. Jesus would tenderly wash those feet. I complain about my $100 sandals rubbing my own….
Exhausted beyond belief….
Barbara Freeman and Susan Bently are flat out amazing. My butt is numb and I can barely move….

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