As the priest here in Hinche, Pere Noe is in charge of not just one church but a whole parish of them. He lives and works at St. Andre’s, but spends a lot of time traveling to the other churches he’s established in the surrounding villages – some Sundays, he gives the sermon in three different places, which may be hours apart from each other.
In addition to taking care of these communities spiritually, Pere Noe works wonders in order to support them financially. He travels to fundraise money from American churches in order to construct church buildings, schools, and even resources like clean drinking water.
Today, we went and visited one of his churches/schools in a village called LaBeg that is just outside of Hinche. I was grateful for the chance to get away from the city – the majority of Haiti’s population still lives in small rural areas like this one, and if I don’t understand the culture and context there I’m missing out on a big part of the country.
Even little things can be important – when Pere Noe entered the yard, he called out “One!” (Honor), a traditional Haitian greeting. You rarely hear things like that in the city. Standing on the hill, we heard voodoo drums and flutes playing below – I was worried that as a Christian Pere Noe wouldn’t be happy to hear them, but he just commented that it’s the reality of the culture here.
Big things come up here too, of course. Access to drinking water is an issue, even in rainy season. The road is terrible, and most people are forced to walk anyway because a motorcycle would be too expensive. It wasn’t until we got to a place like this that I heard people start talking about aid and the issues surrounding it – how do you take a place like this, that’s literally dirt-poor, and build it up? Pere Noe kept on emphasizing the government and education, and commented that 10 years ago the road to Hinche itself wasn’t so good: that 2-hour drive is proof that things can change over time with a little investment. But as we got back into the car, I was still thinking myself about how far we still have to go, and how complicated it’ll be: right behind this one mountain village that’s fortunate enough to find Pere Noe recruiting support for it (an American church has pledged the money for a school and church building at this site), there’s another that has yet to receive anything.