Thursday, November 12, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 3

Going beyond nowhere with Pastor Woogy and Scott wouldn't have been complete without a hike in God's beautiful creation. If you want to catch up on what we were doing beyond nowhere check out the previous two parts: Part 1--Introduction and First Visit and Part 2--The Vision Trip.

We arrived at the village at 4. After eating the meal that had been prepared for  us, we put on our hiking gear and headed to La Selle, the highest mountain chain in Haiti, raising to an altitude of 8,786 feet. Pastor Benose had told us that it would take us three hours to get to the top--two and a half for someone who is used to climbing it.  It took us three hours to get just about halfway to the peak of the mountain. It was already after dark when we finally made it to a church station where we pitched our tent on the rocky ground and spent the night.

We were drained and worn out from the beginning of the hike. Pastor Benose and many other locals joined
us.  Some of them even carried our bags for us. We had to load up on water because there was no way to find water that our stomachs would be able to handle, which made the hike a lot heavier for us. The fact that we were told it would be only three hours to get to the mountain but it took us three hours to make it half way after dark made us wonder if we would ever reach our goal, which was getting to the top of La Selle.

Many questions were going through our minds as we contemplated whether or not to continue. Not having soft ground to sleep on made us wonder if we got enough rest to continue the hike.  Were we going to have enough water?

We got up in the morning and saw that the peak of the mountain was right in front of us but but how we were going to get to it was little more challenging. We already felt like we were beyond nowhere so getting further past nowhere didn’t seem to be a good idea with limited supplies. Once again, we were surrounded by people like us, who breathe like us, who are married and have kids and strive to live on a daily basis like us and, moreover, many of them were Christ followers and we camped in front of the church where they worship. They build houses like we do but with materials that we could never fathom. All the houses are made of palm tree strips with windows and doors and special architectural designs and decor. 

Many of the locals suggested that we would not try to go any further and many of them, including Pastor Benose had only made it as far as where we were. After consulting with each other, taking into consideration the resources we had with us, we decided to go on as far as we could. So, off we went.

We hiked and hiked and hiked. We got to a point where most of us decided that we would not make it any further but after catching our breath, we decided to continue. On three occasions, we decided we were done, but since we could see the top of the mountain closer and closer, we decided to follow the trail to its end. We finally made it to the top in three hours. 

Scott is a big fan of hiking. He has hiked snowy mountains up to over 6,ooo feet but hiking the tropical La Selle was a whole new experience for him. It cooled down quite a bit as the breeze was getting stronger the higher we were getting but it was still a little warm for the Northerners. The other remarkable thing was that, even though we felt like we were getting beyond nowhere, we were still surrounded by people-and their cattle. What for us seemed to be the wildest life on earth is the daily routine for many. For kids, young people, and adults.

We walked on a trail on the mountain ridge, just about a foot wide and had to use both our hands and feet to go through some sections of the trail and had to avoid looking down to avoid dizziness. The locals who were with us were telling us how they named the cliffs because of how dangerous and steep they were--some as steep as 80% grade. One of the many names I can remember is “so kabrit” and the explanation of the name is the following: A lot of times, farmers have to chase their goats to catch them. In this area, the mountains are so steep that even the goats can not run from the farmers. If they did, they would roll off and die.

As we were hiking, our motto was “Do not get hurt” and that was simply because we would not be able to be rescued. Not even a helicopter could reach us because we were so high and the wind current was super strong. There is a myth that claims that air crafts can not fly over La Selle and as we were on site we could conclude that the main reason why air crafts can not fly over it is because of the strong wind current that they can be exposed to up there.

It was interesting to hear the locals, who were hiking with us, share the superstitions surrounded this
mountain and area. Some of them were saying that, you could never make it to the top of the mountain if you say out loud that you are going. They believe that you would get lost and would not be able to find the trail that leads to the mountain. We proved that wrong. They were also saying that there is a great cave in which secret creatures live. They also said that they hear people’s voice coming from the caves from time to time. We were not able to see the caves but could see the banks of the mountain where many rivers are breaking from the mountain. From up there, we could hear many sounds like the noise of water bubbling from a huge pipe, but not human voices.  Seeing the mountain range behind us is not something that words can describe and seeing a places that no human hands have touched since the earth was created was worth the trip. 

As I was talking with Pastor Momplaisir--the partner pastor there--during our visit and a hike, I found out that he walks three hours every Sunday to lead the church service up on the mountain as opposed to having everyone come down to the main church station to worship. I started asking myself, who else do I know would walk six hours every Sunday, crossing river passes multiple times to lead a church service?

We met many school students hiking home from school and many of them were barefoot and some had rubber flip flops on. I started thinking that shoes were needed, so I asked the pastor if that was a great need in that community and he replied that the kids do have shoes but they only put them on when they arrive to school in order to make them last longer. "Well...that is a smart move," I thought to myself. Sometimes things we think are actually different than they seem.

After celebrating our arrival to the top, we realized that we had a six hour hike down in front of us and that did not sound fun at all. Pastor Momplaisir received an exciting call about his daughter having her baby. He was very excited to be a new grandpa and was cruising down the hills. We told him to go ahead as our knees started getting weaker and weaker. We were getting hungry as we ran out of cliff bars and were very low on water.
When we got halfway down, back to the church station we camped at, we inhaled some coffee, bananas, and bread that the pastor and the church members brought for us. Most of the church members were there and expected us to say something to them before we headed down to the main church. Scott and I shared some words with them and encouraged them to keep faith in the One who created that beauty that surrounded us and thanked them for their hospitality. 

 I remember asking Pastor Woogy after the trip if he sees any value in taking a team to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the good news of the Gospel. We are not the ones who are going to bring the gospel there because His love has already reached them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 2

Woogy still expressed the desire to go to the mountain community. I told him that unless he comes with me and sees it for himself, I would not feel comfortable to take a group there. After chatting with his senior pastor, Woogy scheduled to come on a scouting trip along with his friend Scott, on the 29 of September through October 3. (This is where we left off at the end of His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 1)

This time, I decided not to take the truck back up the mountain, so we rented a couple of four wheelers and used a motorcycle that is owned by my co-worker, Maico. We drove to Jacmel and picked up a four wheeler and a 125cc bike and started out to the village by 11:30 am. Pastor Benose and I were the ones who knew what to expect as we had been there before, but for the rest of our crew it was a whole new experience.  I could see the astonishment on their faces as we were driving--not on roads but on rocks and through deep river passes.

I was driving a four wheeler this time and I kept asking myself how in the world I drove my truck the whole
way. It must have gotten worse after the rainy season. It took us about three hours to get to the village from our starting point because our vehicles were not as tough as we thought they would be. On several occasions, the engines quit after going through some deep river passes.

We arrived at the church station safely, but later than we expected. The church has been in the community since 1986. The building itself looks like a little shack made out of palm tree strips and a tin roof. It's roughly a 20 by 15 foot building. Pastor Benose's heart is to restructure the building and make it a bigger more sturdy building because termites are attacking the current materials, which causes maintenance issues from time to time. The church has been growing over the years and there is not enough room to seat everybody. They have a conference every year and about six hundred people show up. 

I already told Woogy about the need but seeing it with his own eyes gave him a better grasp on the needs in the area and how his church could encourage Pastor Benose. We only spent about 40 minutes at the church after which we packed up to hike three hours up the mountain to a sister church. We spent the night up there and came back to the main church after our hike the next day. 

The evening we were supposed to head back to Jacmel, we were debating rather we should get back on our vehicles or stay at the church for the night. If we broke down in the dark, in the middle of a river it would not be a good thing. We all agreed to spend the night so we pitched our tent on a cement floor.

The sky started to get really cloudy and we could hear thunder rolling over the mountains. We started being really skeptical about staying overnight because the rain could make the river rise so we couldn't cross to Jacmel in the morning. The locals were not so afraid of the rain because it was coming from the South-typically, the rains that come from the East are the ones that cause flooding. 

Early the next morning, we packed up for the adventure back through the rivers to Jacmel. It was a much more slippery ride out of the village due to the rainy night, but thanks to God we were able to do the river crossings without having to swim. We could tell that the river had risen about 20% but not enough for us to turn back. One of our motorcycles broke down completely a mile from the city and had to be towed the rest of the way, but the most important thing is that we made it back. That brought us peace.

I remember asking Pastor Woogy after the trip if he sees any value in taking a team to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the good news of the Gospel. We are not the ones who are going to bring the gospel there because His love has already reached them. We are planning to go back there in February of 2016--when we don't get much rain--to serve as a reminder to the church that the church of God is not the little shack they worship in every Sunday. It is people from all over the world who believe in the sacrifice of the Holy Lamb of God, who wash their robes in His blood. We hope to do some needed physical work on the church building as we build relationships with the church members.

Going beyond nowhere with Pastor Woogy and Scott wouldn't have been complete without a hike in God's beautiful creation. There is one more post coming!