Lyle Schober - Haiti, 2010

Dear Family and friends;

This is Sunday evening and I am sitting out on the deck of our cabin that we have used for the last six days. The convention is over here in Haiti and I cannot tell you what it is like. You have to experience it to know it and then when it is done you hardly believe it. I have often heard that you are never the same after you visit Haiti. I am seeing why that is day by day.

Where do I begin? The trip over the mountains and along the lake on the way here from Dominican Republic was nice in the modern bus we rode. It was 100% full and it happened that I had the prime seat on the bus. I asked one of our sisters if she would change with me but she wouldn't and the other sisters were all sharing a seat with a sister so they chose to remain where they were also. The nearer and nearer we came to the border of Haiti the more primitive the homes and everything else. For the most part the inner area of DR is quite modern and a comfortable living style. The area we were now crossing was made up of a lot of Haitians who crossed the border to find work yet not wanting to be far away from their homeland. And it was so much better there it may have been unimaginable that you would want it better yet so they saw what they dreamed of and settled down. When crossing the border we drove into a compound and the gate was closed behind us to DR and closed ahead to Haiti. Here we went through immigrations, getting off the bus and identifying ourselves. The bus stewardess (Yes, a stewardess who served meals and made us comfortable) took our passports when we got our tickets and we didn't get them back until we got to the end of the immigrations inside Haiti several miles.

Haiti is so very deprived of the most meager belongings. It simply isn't describable. The masses of people thronging the streets of the capital, Port au Prince is an eye opener. The streets, the garbage the electrical lines, the clothes hanging on anything off the ground. The road, washed-out in some places from the recent hurricane, were hurriedly patched up. So they were rough but our fine modern bus navigated it all running most everything off the road as it sped through the continuous villages. I can hardly imagine that not one dog, goat, sheep, horse, donkey, baby or woman with loads of fruit on her head was hit. I know I wouldn't survive on the streets without some coaching. We arrived at the bus station.

When we arrived there, we had to wait about ten minutes. Glen Richards arrived with a minibus and, following him, was Bobby and Roma Horton in a four door pickup. We all piled in and the luggage was placed in Horton's truck for the one hour trip to the Cabaret convention grounds. We drove along a river which had flooded the valley and raised havoc in banana plantations, sugar cane field and homes. Several families were perched on a narrow bank next to the road, wading through the water to their homes filled with water up to the bottom of windows. It made a very sick feeling come over me. My thought was,"Why doesn't someone help these people?"  The more I thought about that question the more ridiculous it seemed to be. How could you help? Where would you begin? If the place wasn't teeming with thousands of people with the same predicament it might not look so hopeless. I am not a fellow given to depression and heartlessness but I believe this is where my extremity would be surpassed. The road grew narrower and we turned down a little lane bordered by huts, (homes by their standards) and pulled up along a long cement wall. Soon we turned into a metal gate which opened by welcoming hands of friends and workers. We pulled in with our rigs and the gate slid shut behind us.

Suddenly we were in a convention setting that we could picture in the USA. Several tents and a few buildings all neatly painted and no trash on the ground. It was like we opened our eyes and the dream had ended. What a happy lot they were, and we too. We had a drink and went to rest in nice beds without mosquito nets hanging over them. What beautiful accommodations we had.

Later I surveyed the setting and walked out the gate and up on a hill behind the place. It is all enclosed with an eight foot fence one-half mile long. From the hill you could look out over the Caribbean Sea about two miles away. Below and surrounding the grounds were many partially finished homes.  Some were occupied but many just left where they were three or five years ago.

The convention home is a large two story home that houses the manufacturing business during the year. The man who owns the place operates a sewing business. One of the things they sew is the field of stars for the large Perkins Pancake House flag. All the sewing machines are rolled back and covered with canvas to make a large room for ladies sleeping. Most of the women sleep here. But there are two more buildings they also use. The men have two large tents. nearly everyone stays on the grounds. We visiting brothers slept on top of the women's rest room and the sisters slept upstairs of the house. Everything about this place looks like Iowa or Minnesota except the extensive use of cement for all the building, inside and out. One would never think this would be at the end of a ride like that.
    
People started arriving by minivans, busses and on the backs of trucks by noon on Thursday. They continued arriving in quite large groups late in the day. The last large bus arrived at seven-thirty on Friday morning. You had to be here to see the reception of each subsequent arrival. Let me tell you about some who arrived on the last bus. One family with several small children walked six hours from their mountain home to a little town where they caught a minivan and rode three hours into the city of Jacqmail (?) There they met other friends who loaded up the bus about 1:00 AM and rode the rest of the night to get to Cabaret. They were all tired but so delighted to be at convention.

The first meeting of convention started at nine-thirty so they had two hours to eat and clean up a bit before meeting. But by nine-fifteen when I walked out to the meeting tent almost everyone was sitting quietly in their seats. There must have been two-hundred and seventy for the first meeting. The crowd grew to three hundred and forty today. The front three rows of benches were lined with little chocolate drops. Most of them were dark chocolate but a few were milk chocolate. I counted thirty-seven from the ages of about two to fourteen years old, I'd say. They were all neatly dressed, most of the sweeter variety in white, as white could be. (I wondered how the muddy water those dresses were washed in could make them so white. At least I would expect most were washed in water at the creek, river or canal. It seems that's where the laundry is wherever you found one outside the cement walls of this place.) I wondered how they all would do for the two hour meeting without the supervision of dad or mom. But amazingly they were generally quiet and sat with their big black eyes rimmed in white staring at these strange looking white people. We soon befriended several of them and though we could not understand a word of each other they would come running by and grab your hand for an instant on their way past. (Toward the end of the convention I glanced at one especially bright eyed boy about three. Our eyes met and his opened even bigger till one winked and the greatest grin baring the whitest row of teeth I believe I have ever seen was exposed. Maybe the whiteness was accented by the blackness surrounding them.) 

Could I have brought them back, yes, a hundred times, yes. Well, maybe there weren't quite that many little
chocolate drops but there must have been at least fifty. Among them sitting on the front row was three small children. It looked like two were twin boys about three and their sister a year of so older. These seemed to have more trouble keeping their hands out of each other's business so they caused a disturbance a few times. I found out they were from a family whose father and mother were swept away during the hurricane this fall. The children never saw them again. The family belonged to the Baptist church down the hill from the convention place. So the church would take them so at last he brought them home to his wife. She is professing and has been for a few years. So she is the new mom. Nothing legal, and no way to make it so with no birth certificates or records of their existence. So along with her own two or three she brings them to the meeting while her husband goes off to preach for the Baptists. Seeing this was the children's first exposure to convention they hadn't learned the proper protocol. However, they got better and better until today they were as good as any of those chocolate drops on the front row.

Oh, the stories go on and on. Tragic tales with happy endings. I couldn't repeat a fraction of them and none are insignificant. The report to the Queen of Sheba was only half the story. The reports from this land are far less than that. But getting on to the convention itself. Our days were most special. You all would know how the main part of the meetings would go. Just like back home. But the testimonies were enlightening. The first day I think in one meeting only five or six took part but a few more in the next one.

These friends have so much to tell about their coming to find the truth.  Over and over we heard accounts of disappointment and searching, punctuated by expressions of thankfulness. By the second day, Dan Henry got up and told them. "We are going to do your testimonies different today. Today you can speak as long as you want and take all the time and tell all the details and  read all the scriptures you want to. But do it between the meetings to your friends. Then in the meetings we will have short testimonies." This helped a lot.

There was a baptism on Saturday morning at 6:30 on the grounds. They dug a fair sized hole and filled it with water from a canal ¼ mile away. (They pump water up for use at the convention with a pump so the line was in place before.) They asked those who wanted to be baptized to stand up on Friday evening and there were about twenty who stood. By the time Dan came to our room before we went to bed the number had swelled to 27. The next morning there were 29 baptized. Two more squeezed in. What a sight. All of them were mature people.The youngest were maybe about sixteen and the oldest about seventy, I'd say. That morning those who were baptized were given the chance to give their testimony. Twenty eight spoke and they were rich words stating great thankfulness and purposes. They were as wholesome a group of people I've seen baptized and so sincere.

Saturday the meeting was tested and twenty stood up. This morning Glen said there were a couple who hadn't been in a tested meeting before so didn't understand what was happening. So he gave them a chance while we sung the
first verse of a hymn at the end of the meeting. Five more stood. Later a young woman came to Dan and said, "I thought they would sing another verse. I wanted to make my choice."  So the meeting was tested again this afternoon and three more stood. I believe it was a total of 28 that professed in the three meetings. There were many other outsiders who were there but those who made their choice have been in many meetings and seem to be committed.

While the meeting was going on I heard a horn honk. A couple men left the meeting and opened the doors. In backed a couple of buses. These were ready to carry the friends back home again. That was another sight I'll remember a
long time. All telling each other good bye for another year. Many of them are in lonely places so these days are like days of heaven to them.
 
We heard about a man taking some workers out to his apple orchard. Duane asked him about the apples on the ground and if they would pick them up and use them. No they wouldn't because they were all moldy inside. Then he explained that the apples which fell before harvest time all had mold in them. From the outside you couldn't tell a thing but at the center was mold destroying its usefulness. At the time of the time of blossom a little fly lays an egg in the core and that starts the mold. Somehow the mold in the center makes its stem weak so it falls before harvest. He spoke about this being the way of those who have something wrong injected in the beginning. It  will come out in time and the fruit will fall before the time of harvest. Secret things are brought to the light sooner or later.

Monday AM: This morning Dan took a couple of us visitors around the community and visited some homes of our friend. First we stopped by the home of the preacher and his wife who took in the six orphans. A year ago she was baptized. The workers were not very eager to baptize her but late the evening before the baptism her husband, the Baptist preacher came to the grounds and begged the workers to baptize his wife. She is so distressed I can't stand it. So they did and she has done very well. Next we stopped at another home where the husband is a Baptist preacher. His wife professes. He pastors in a church across the mountain.
    
Next on to a man whose wife we met on the road going to the grounds to help clean up.He took us to his home for a visit with he and his four children one of whom is crippled. Later he took us to his 'garden.' Actually it was his many gardens of bananas, sugar cane, another plant that they make tapioca out of. Coconut grove and melons. He is an ambitious farmer and Dan says he cultivates this all with a large hoe and harvests with a machete. I would guess he has several acres under irrigation. No doubt his family helps him.

Another home we visited a woman and her children briefly. We saw a single man's pad and that was about all he had. We arrived back at the grounds at eight-thirty AM so you know it was a brief visit but an early one. 

We go to the city and catch a flight to Miami, FL at 1:30. We wait there for a flight to Jamaica and arrive there by 7:30 this evening. I guess flying to Miami is the cheapest route so we get back on US soil or concrete, at least. I want to send this out while we have wireless here. Did I tell you that here in this poverty we have wireless internet connection? One of the reasons this parcel of land looked good to the friends buying it for convention purposes is that the telephone company has a large satellite receiver across the road several hundred feet. They knew the road would be kept open for the communications. Also the satellite has a power generator. It supplies the power to the area as well as offering power to the phone system. However the grounds has its own source. They have multiple solar panels that generate power and they store it in a battery of about 36 golf cart batteries. That is enough to run all the manufacturing business through the year. But for convention with the evening and night use they needed an alternate source so have a large generator.

I'm sorry this is so long and if you have endured this long you're more patient than I am.

Best wishes again,
Yours in Him,
Lyle