Haiti night of Worship – My reflections

Worship night of Haiti.

It is impossible to accurately share the experience we had while worshipping with 100k Haitians in the streets the night before the new president was inaugurated. But I need to try. I have been a Christian my whole life, and have been a part of some very extraordinary and powerful events. But nothing comes within a solar system of what that night was like.

Originally our Haiti trip was booked for April. But because of some scheduling issues with the people we worked with while in Haiti, our trip got bumped back. It just so happened to be the week that the new president was being inaugurated. If you have followed Haiti, there has been 200 years of different leaders, several being dictators. Haiti has been dubbed the poorest country in the western Hemisphere for a long, trying time.

This new president is claiming to bring a new hope to Haiti. He is not a Christian. But he has a heart and hope for a better Haiti. He is mostly known for his time as an RnB artist. He was quite popular in his musical days. He was also quite strange. Many a time, he would be found naked on stage during his shows. This may sound absurd, but remember, it is Haiti, the land of no law. At some point in his career, he became troubled with the fact that he never was punished or imprisoned for his crude acts. Out of this birthed the desire to cause change.

Although he is not a Christian, he called for a night of worship with 1000 worship leaders from across Haiti. It was to take place the night before his inauguration. He wanted an event to be the spark that will bring up a new hope of Haiti.

It was standing room only in the streets just outside the palace, as far as the eye could see. Thankfully we came a little late so that we could be near the edge of the masses. There was a tremendous amount of energy, and at times, became a little hostile. You have to understand that the majority of the 6 million+ Haitians in Port au Prince despise white people. To them, all white people have lots of money and live a better live. I had a conversation that night with a local who was born in Haiti, but lived in Boston for some time. He moved back to Haiti due to some child-support issues in the states. He has lived in Haiti for the past ten years. I asked how it was re-adapting to living there. I will never forget his response. “Ten years of total Hell.”. He went on the tell me that all Haitians want to live in America and have a better life. There isn’t a single person in that country that is content with living in Haiti. Imagine waking up every single day wishing on your life that you lived somewhere else. The US embassy was close to our base camp, and every single day, there were hundreds, if not thousands of people lined up hoping to get approved for a Visa. Most of them never do.

The praises and clapping and jumping and dancing and singing lasted from 6pm-6am. I don’t know any worship event that was that large and lasted that long. I have yet to mention that this is the FIRST time in the history of Haiti that anything like this has happen. We were a part of an incredibly important event in not only Haitian history, but of the world.

There was about 28 of us white folk in the midst the sea of Haitians. To say we stuck out like two sore thumbs would be an understatement. At one point, a group of about 6 locals surrounded the back of our group and were becoming very hostile; asking for money, threatening to steal our cameras, pushing and shoving our translators. One of the hostiles held his arms up as if holding a shotgun, yelled some racial slurs and profanity and fired the imaginary weapon; because we didn’t give him a dollar. We brought 8 translators with us to kind of help protect the group. That was a good move. One of them actually paid off a couple of the hostile men to prevent them from stealing our cameras. I am not sure that actually made anything better, but eventually we decided to just pull out of there.

The neighborhood we traveled thru to get to the event and back was one of the hardest hit areas from the earthquake. It is on a hillside so many of the buildings were built with weak supports and many of them more than two stories. It is also one of the most dangerous, where many kidnappings of white people happen. Those people are then sold for ransom, or killed. Many times, both. It is very densely populated, and the streets are totally packed with people and vendors. We drove thru that area as quickly as possible, but even then there was a lot of traffic that put us into many stand-stills. At the same time, the sun was setting, and it was one of the most beautiful evenings I have seen in a while. On the way home, we passed thru there again around 9pm. There is no place in all of America that is similar to that area after dark. During the duration of our time in Haiti, we had to be on guard at all times, but in that particular moment, we all were a little in shock of fear from the environment we were in. Just like anywhere else we traveled while in Haiti, I was standing in the back of the truck. My only comfort other than the peace of the Spirit, was the 6 foot 5, 240 pound Haitian translator riding in the back with me. I will never forget those two hours in the back of the truck. I have never seen anything like it. Not in person, not in movies. To me, it felt like an accurate depiction of what Hell is like after dark.

Haiti is roughly 90% voodoo, 8% catholic, 1% Christian and 1% other. Part of the voodoo cultures believes that cameras take part of one’s soul when pointed in their direction. The hostility began when a member of our group got on the shoulders of one of the leaders to snap a photo of the crowd. I will be sharing a time-lapse video in a week that I took as we traveled thru the heart of the city. My camera was attached to the windshield. We pulled up behind a tap-tap, their equivalent to a city bus and the haitian on the very back realized that the camera was pointed right at him, and blinking red. At that point, all of us in the truck prepared ourselves for some time of altercation. He was screaming and motioning threats and others around him started to join in. Thankfully after the longest 90 seconds of my life, the traffic and we parted ways. At that moment I realized the severity of their cultural strongholds.

God protected us in so many ways on the trip. It is impossible to ignore His presence when in a place like Port au Prince.

worship in the streets – haiti from Jeff Marsh on Vimeo.

One Comment

  1. julie c wrote:

    hey jeff…this was bone chilling to read, much less to actually imagine what you saw/felt first hand. i’m sure it is nothing that can even be grasped if not there. so glad that God watched over you all in the midst of your experience. thank you for sharing stories and photos…both are necessary to describe times like this.