Friday, November 19, 2010

My first Haitian church the U.S.A.

I met a Haitian woman at work who invited me to go to church with her because I told her I thought it would help me with my Creole. So, I went last Sunday. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a Haitian service like I knew in Haiti or if it was going to be more of an American service in Creole. I arrived right on time at 10:30, but when the service didn’t start until 11:00, I knew it was definitely going to be a Haitian service. I tried to be comfortable, knowing I was in the presence of a people group God has placed on my heart. But when you know you’re the only white girl and you stick out like a sore thumb, it’s a little hard to relax. I enjoyed the worship and tried to move enough that I wouldn’t stick out as being super uncomfortable, but not too much that I would draw attention to myself. It took a few songs, but when they began singing a song that I recognized from “Chants d’Esperance,” a popular Haitian hymnal, I started dancing more and became more comfortable. It was a song that became very common to me after this summer.

We sat down for announcements, and I thought to myself, “You know, in Haiti at church services, when there is a visitor, they have the visitor stand up in front of everyone and introduce themselves. I wonder if they will do that today. And if they do, do I speak in English, or attempt Creole? Don’t panic; don’t think about it,” I told myself. A woman I recognized from work was ushering up and down the isles monitoring the scene- common Haitian church practice. I caught her eye, and she came over to me and was sure to tell me that when they ask for visitors, I needed to stand up and present myself. “Okay, what do I know in Creole and how fast can I come up with an introduction on the spot?!”

The time came. Everyone in my pew turned their heads toward me, and along with the three other people there, I proudly stood up (trembling inside) waiting for my turn. I wanted to listen to what the other Haitian visitors were saying, but let’s be honest, I was just practicing my introduction over in my head. Then, the pastor looked at me. I took a breath, saw everyone staring at me, and said in my best Creole, hoping my voice wouldn’t crack, “Hello. My name is Sarah, and I just moved to Orlando, and a friend invited me to come to church today.” I think everyone was staring at this white girl in joyful surprise, but I was focused on the pastor. Then he cut me off from the rest of my rehearsed lines and went off on this little tangent. I have absolutely no idea what he said. He was talking too fast, and I was too flustered to understand. I then just saw my whole pew motioning and telling me to sit down. So I plopped down quickly.

I tried to listen to the sermon, but like Haiti, the Pastor spoke with such power, that the speakers were bursting with loudness. Unlike Haiti, the church was inside, enclosed (and air-conditioned) so there was no place for the sound to travel except to pierce my ears. I’m pretty sure I had temporary hearing loss after the service. This kind of distracted me from trying to understand what the Pastor was actually saying, but the nice man next to me tried to translate parts here and there. He was shouting in my ear so I could hear him over the pastor, but it was thoughtful nonetheless. Bless his heart. I’d like to go back sometime, but with my hair down to hide the earplugs that will be in my ears =)

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