It's amazing what a little praise and worship does for the soul.
Sometimes people ask us what we miss about the States. Sometimes my answer is church. Or more specifically, worship. I miss standing in a huge auditorium with hundreds or thousands of people, arms raised and voices loud. I miss being in a body of people just as moved and in love with Jesus as I am and the way that makes me want to praise my Father even more. It puts a smile on my face and a peace on my heart just thinking about it.
I went to a fairly charismatic church back in Tucson. They sure did like to dance. The band would adapt songs by Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and Planetshakers (see even the name of the band tells you they were up to something). ;) Needless to say when I hear those songs it puts me back in a place where Jesus met me over and over again. We're headed to America in just a few days and we can't wait for the opportunity to sing familiar songs and to worship with other people who speak English!
Don't get me wrong, Haitian Christians love to sing. And there are plenty of aspects of the Haitian worship culture that I adore.
I love that almost all of Haiti uses the same song book. These books don't correspond with sheet music like you see in an English hymnal. This means that when you pick a song you also have to pick a tune... any tune. You'll here fast versions, slow versions, and many one-of-a-kind versions.
I love that when these songs come on the radio you'll find that 4 out of 5 people are singing along. This happens in waiting rooms, in grocery stories, in Tap-Taps, and on street corners.
I love that a Haitian church might not have a full stage of instruments but that people manage to raise the roof with their voices alone. No holding back.
I love that within churches and communities you find an unlimited number of devoted singing groups. The young and the old, the men and the women have all formed their cliques. Its a tradition so important that godmothers and godfathers are appointed over the groups and each are assigned special Sundays in which to perform their well-rehearsed songs.
I love that prayer is practically synonymous with singing, and that when asked to pray before a meal kids rise and sing a song of thanks before saying a few words of grace.
I loved what I experienced today at the hospital.
Kelinise, the 17 year old that stayed with us for a weekend about a month ago, has been going through some up and downs lately. On the upside of things she has settled into life at the orphanage where she also attends church and school. To our pleasant surprise she was enrolled in school even though the school year is coming to a close. On the downside, she's been having to battle some unfortunate, yet common, complications of diabetes: high blood pressure, damage to the blood vessels in her eyes, and skin infection. High blood pressure means she has to take extra medicine each day in addition to her insulin. Vision difficulties means she has to fight twice as hard with her school work. And her increased susceptibility to infection means she just spent three full days at the hospital due to a leg abscess.
On Wednesday Jenn randomly decided to take a little detour at the orphanage. She had gone in to check on Kelinise when she noticed the abscess. Thursday I took her to see her doctor at the diabetic clinic at the local hospital. She was referred to the hospital's best and only surgeon who decided to incise and drain the abscess in the operating room under general anesthesia. We stayed late into the evening. Jenn brought her in the next day to change the dressing (which we only wish could have also been done under general anesthesia). Our little friend was in excruciating pain aggravated by someone's unwelcome play by play description of gory details, and a glimpse of the gaping hole in her leg. Jenn filled me in when I came to switch places with her yesterday afternoon. Again Kelinise was held late into the evening because of high blood sugar and the unavailability of a physician to sign discharge orders.
I got to experience the agony of it myself when I was present for this morning's dressing change. While the doctor removed the bandages, flushed the wound, and shoved gauze through one giant whole in her leg an out another, our little friend yelled the Creole equivalent of "Help me, Oh God, I'm dying, and Doctor, you have no heart." Ouch.
In her defense, the leg looks brutal. :(
After her dressing change, they decided to admit her to the adult medical-surgical unit. Her blood sugar was 600 at the time despite having given herself insulin that morning. ...It makes us wonder whether the lack of 24/7 electricity at the orphanage has resulted in the deactivation of yet another bottle of insulin... Either way she was advised to stay in the hospital until it normalized. They prepared a bed for her which she almost refused to take. But again I don't exactly blame her. After the trauma of the dressing change and what with this being her 8th hospitalization... but we managed to talk her into staying.
Kelinise fell asleep almost the moment the IV fluids started flowing and Jenn had already left the hospital to meet with Dadou and check on the progress of our gate. I settled in to pass the time with some people watching. It was a hot day and the unit had virtually no air circulation. I had to drink about a liter of water an hour to avoid being admitted myself. But the heat didn't seem to keep the student nurses from hustling about their tasks and it definitely didn't stop the visitors from visiting.
One by one and three by three they came. Sometimes an occasional group of four or five would slip by the security guard and disappear into one of the unit's back rooms. For 5 hours I watched a steady stream of faithful church goers coming to pray for the sick.
Sometimes the groups knew the patients they were praying for personally. They marched directly to said patient's bed and prayed fervently. Others were just firm believers in God's healing power and had come the one place they'd be sure to find a few people who needed it. These visitors would stand in the center of the unit and sing comforting songs to the sick and those caring for them. They would then choose a handful of patients and head to their beds to pour out more requests for healing. The common denominator with every group was song. At one time I heard three separate prayer melodies coming from different corners of the unit.
Some sung from books, others sung with their eyes tightly shut, others sang in harmony, and others merely hummed but everyone used song to enter into the presence of God and bring the needs of the sick along with them. Would I see the same scenes in the States? I don't know that I would. I think I got to experience a special piece of Haitian culture on a hot but quiet Saturday.
Kelinise's blood sugar behaved itself for the most part. Later, Jenn arrived with Kelinise's mother-figure from the orphanage, and the doctor decided she was good enough to go. We could have been upset that that we'd been told to purchase enough medicine and IV fluids for a full 48 hours of hospitalization and now weren't going to have to use it, but we were just happy Kelinise was well enough to leave. To add to our already high spirits we heard probably my top two favorite Haitian praise songs coming from a radio in a nearby room. Naturally the four of us and 50% of the people in ear shot sang along.
Then the nurse ripped out Kelinise's IV in what promised to be her last painful experience of the day and we headed for home.
Here's hoping our next blog post speaks only of safe arrivals in America and nothing of further hospitalizations.