“I hope the sights and sounds of Haiti will long linger in my heart and mind: early morning roosters crowing, late-night drums beating, dogs barking, men, women and children chattering, motorcycles revving, cars, trucks and Tap-Taps beeping, marketeers calling, goats bleating, children laughing, singing, jumping, running, men embracing, joking, back-slapping, melodic greetings of ‘Bonjour,’ ‘Bonswa,’ ‘Kijan ou rele?’ These are beautiful memories of a beautiful place and people to not be forgotten.
The return home demands attention to different sights and sounds so that over time, the fresh memories made may require a photo to recall. If I had but one memory to imprint permanently and never forget, it would be the gift of words, gently spoken in Creole by a Catholic priest during an evening team devotion. We were the first United Methodist Volunteer in Mission (UMVIM) team assigned to the Leon circuit for hurricane Matthew recovery efforts. Our lodging was arranged at a nearby Catholic Caritas compound, and we were the first guests at the newly constructed guest house there. Bill, a fellow team member gifted with an inquiring mind, suggested we invite our host priest, Father St. Alfronz, to join us one evening so that we could learn more about the mission of Caritas and the history of the compound where we were staying. We enjoyed a lovely interpreter supported exchange, peppered with Creole, French and English expression, lots of questions, information sharing, head nods, smiles and laughter. As the conversation drew to an end, we asked our interpreters to communicate our heartfelt thanks for the tremendous effort invested to assure the accommodations were ready for use by our arrival date, especially since we were Methodist, not Catholic. Father St. Alfronz bore a puzzled expression and sought clarification from the interpreter, who repeated our thanks, and denominational difference. Father St. Alfronz nodded his head indicating he understood, then lifted his eyes to look directly at his English speaking guests and said, ‘This is God’s work. This door is always open to those who come in faith to share love from God. There is no signature on love and kindness.’
Father St. Alfronz’s words simply, yet eloquently paraphrased these messages from Scripture:
John 17: 21-23 Jesus’ prayer for his disciples on the night on which he was betrayed:
21 I ask that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, [a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’
Ephesians 4: 4-6 Paul’s teaching to the church at Ephesus:
“4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Thank you, Father St. Alfronz for reminding us of our common unity (community) in Christ. May we never forget that there is “no signature on sharing God’s love.'”