Monday, October 18, 2010

If you build it, they won't come?

Usually I attend the local Baptist church here in Haut Limbe every Sunday. It's a fairly large church in structure and attendance. I have a really hard time estimating numbers of people, but I would say there are regularly 5-600 people that attend and fill the whole church. It's not a fancy church by any means. It's full of very uncomfortable, falling-apart, squished together wooden benches the fit 8 or 9 Haitians comfortably, (maybe 5 North Americans comfortably). Usually, I bring my own plastic patio chair to sit on in a aisle at the back. I do this for a couple of reasons - so my butt won't fall asleep, so I can limit the sweat that I create, and so I can change positions more than once during the 2.5 hour service. All in all, it works well.

The church has 2 main pastors as well as many visiting pastors who come to preach. There are many choirs and singing groups. There is a worship team and there is a "sound system" that somewhat works. As my Kreyol improves, I'm beginning to enjoy the service more and I'm getting a bit more out of it.

Yesterday however, I wanted to experience another church. I had met a pastor of a nearby church and I thought it be interesting to check it out. So, my friend and I took a motorcycle to this little church about 5 minutes away. It was a very small building in comparison to ours, and probably had about 50 people inside worshiping. When we got there, we found out the pastor wasn't there yet. We weren't sure if he was still coming or wasn't coming at all, so we decided to drive a little farther down the road to another church.

We drive up to this church which is in a compound with a school and medical clinic. The service had already started when we walked in. As we walked in, I felt like I was in a North American church (except for the metal roof above). It had ceramic tile on the floor, a sound booth at the back of the church, tons of very nicely stained, comfortable benches (I might even dare to call them pews), the platform was raised at the front with beautiful flowers on it, a worship team with drums, guitars and a keyboard, a communion table, and the kicker - a power point projector!

I was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least. But as I looked around, the pews were over half empty and the service was already started. I thought of how crowded things were in Haut Limbe. Very interesting.

Obviously this church and compound were heavily supported by a North American church. And I learned later, that really this church didn't really exist before the N.A. church built it. It wasn't it a partnership between a Haitian church and a N.A. church, it was basically a N.A. church plopped down in the middle of Haiti. It's been there for 10 years, and it's still only half full on a Sunday morning.

When we left after the service, I could say that I enjoyed it - it was familiar to me and I was physically comfortable (lots of ceiling fans). We walked around the grounds a bit and saw the Pastor's very new looking white, shiny extended cab truck which he will get in and drive back to his comfortable house in Cap Haitien. You see, he just planted a church where there was some land. The people didn't ask for a church, someone in North America thought it would be a good idea to build a church in Haiti.

It made me sad and made me appreciate our over crowded church in Haut Limbe all the more. It may not have a lot, it's certainly not perfect, but it definitely is an integral part of this community's life, which is what every church should be - in my opinion.


Tammi said...

Janelle, thank you so much for your reflection! I would say you are right on in your thinking. My prayer is that we continue to be able to shed light on issues like this in order to further strengthen the Kingdom here on earth and create lasting, healthy partnerships between the local church and the churches of the US and Canada.

Tara said...

That was really interesting to read...thanks for writing it!