I was thrilled that the teachers and many of the children remembered me. The team had made a point of learning some basic Creole phrases, which helped everyone engage with us more easily. Also, it was summer camp, not school, and so the kids were relaxed and happy like kids everywhere!
We taught the kids how to sing “This Little Light of Mine” – all week long, different children came up to me, saying “chante anko” –Creole for “sing again”, and we would sing it again, together. The teachers and camp animators were just as enthusiastic about this little song in English, and we heard it sung by different groups throughout the week.
I had hoped to be able to reconnect with people I had met in November. It was wonderful seeing Odilene –13 years old, and very shy, it had taken a week for her to finally tell me her name on my first visit. This time, she responded immediately to me, and even helped me organize younger kids for pictures.
Judith, one of the teachers, had been pretty reserved with us in the fall. Now, she joined in the singing of “Little Light”, and, using our phrasebook, told me how happy she was that I had come back to visit.
There is so much obvious need in this rugged, impoverished country. But there is also hope: the warm, gracious welcome we received in Labrande; the high energy of the marketplaces; the fact that the people in the tent cities near the airport have been moved to permanent housing. While driving south through the country back to Port-au-Prince, I happened to look up and saw a plain white cross near the top of a mountain. In that moment, it was clear to me that while this country may be forgotten by much of the world, God is there, and "with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
The lunch program is crucial to the health of these children. But, just being with the people of Labrande, and taking another small step in the growing relationship between our two parishes, is also vitally important. As we pray to discern our next steps in this friendship, I know that God is the one who has brought our two communities together. Fr. Wilner told me many times before and during our trip how important our presence is to him and his parish. When I got home, I received an email from him that said, “I will never forget your visit. With your visit we built our relationship forever and ever. Thank you to God." And to that I say “Amen.”