A boy was playing with his two friends one day, and he decided to give them each a gift before they went home. He reached under a clucking mama chicken and brought out two slightly warm eggs, one for each friend.
One boy went home and proudly showed the egg to his little brothers and sisters. They watched eagerly as he boiled it, then held out their hands as he carefully divided it, a piece for everyone, with a bit of salt. It seemed like the best egg they had ever tasted. What a nice gift!
The other boy went home and found his family’s own mama chicken. He gave her the egg to take care of, even though it would have been a good snack, and soon he had a baby chick. That baby chick grew into a mama chicken, which laid many eggs in her life. He ate a few of them, but most of them he let the mama chicken hatch into even more baby chicks. He sold them and finally ended up with enough money to buy a cow. By the time he was grown, he was the richest man in the area.
Years later, he was telling his story, about the gift of a single egg, and how it had turned him into a wealthy man, to a group of children. His old childhood friend, the one who had eaten his egg, heard him. “Really?” he asked. “Do you mean to say that all the wealth you have comes from that one egg you were given? I was given an egg too, but I’m not rich. This isn’t fair!”
After much thought, he decided to sue the man who had gotten rich from the single egg. This was just not right. He and his old friend had been given the exact same thing, yet he was poor and the rich man had way more than his share. He gathered attorneys and witnesses before the judge and told his story. He waited impatiently for the rich man to show up so this could be decided. He was sure he’d go home with half of his old friend’s wealth.
Finally the rich man arrived, a bit breathless, apologizing and shaking hands all around. “Excuse me, judge,” he said. “I know I’m late. I was boiling some beans so that I could plant them this afternoon after the case is decided.
Everyone looked at each other, then started laughing. The poor man said, “Are you serious? Boiling beans to plant? How could a grown man like you believe that boiled beans could actually grow?”
The judge turned to the poor man. “Well, I think you have your answer,” he said. “If you know that boiled beans don’t grow, how did you think that a boiled egg could hatch into a chick?”
The men all threw back their heads and laughed, shook the rich man’s hand, and slapped him on the back. What a good one! There was nothing for the poor man to do but walk home, reflecting on his poor choices. The rich man got in his car and drove home to his wife and children and a nice meal of white rice with bean sauce.
This story was a part of our sermon last Sunday morning, the ordination service for Joseph and Esther. Pastor Elder preached on the story of the talents, and I've thought about it all week. He preached very directly about saving and investing money, and some of it seemed a bit harsh to me because of how hard or close to impossible it is to do that over here. He said that money is always looking to leave you and go to find someone who is richer than you, and that lots of times we just don't value the little money that we do have. So instead of making it multiply, we spend it. "Money is meant to be invested, not spent. Even if you just save it somewhere and don't make it work for you, it will lose value." (The last part is so true in Haiti. Money loses value here by the month instead of by the year due to inflation.) I told Zèzè in the evening that what I've never understood about that parable is how that both the people that invested their money had such good luck. They both doubled their investment. I feel like that parable needs the poor Haitian man who says, "I took your talents and bought a motorcycle. It was doing good and I was able take care of my wife and child by being a taxi driver. Then one day I had a wreck. I walked the motorcycle home because I couldn't drive it, and then took all the money I had saved and spent it at the hospital to get my injuries treated. I cannot give you anything at all. My investment is now a pile of metal underneath a tarp." What would the King say to that? I've always wondered that. My husband says the King would have still been satisfied, and even trusted the man with more responsibility, because he was looking for effort. I hope so.
Maybe reading that gives you a bit more of a picture of what it would be like to be a deacon in Haiti. Seems like a nightmarish job to me. Money is a touchy subject anywhere in the world, and here even more so, because there is never enough. Then you would have the job of trying to help these people who are doing their best find solutions where it seems there are none.
The ordination crowd filled our church to overflowing. I don't think the Cazeau congregation even had church. We got there at 9:30 and managed to find seats, but some were standing outside when the first song began... "There is nothing greater than love." Joseph's siblings sang it, as the couple walked in, slowly, pausing at intervals, so they ended up sitting down on their plastic chairs on the rostrum just as the song ended. They had matching clothes, a butter yellow dress, and yellow shirt with gray suit. Even little 6 month old Jayden was spiffed up to match his parents in a yellow and blue plaid shirt and gray shorts.
The service lasted from 9:30 to almost 12:00. There were lots of special songs... 3 total by the men's group, 2 by the ladies group, and one by the church choir.
I want to tell you a bit about these groups. Group D'homme, the men's group, is made up of about 20 or so men from the central congregations: Fonds Michelle, Fonds Parisien, Ganthier, Cazeau, and Blanchard. It is run with what sometimes feels like extreme strictness to me. You have to make a formal request to join, which the group approves. Anytime you are in a problem with the church, you're obviously kicked out, but you can also be kicked out, or "fall under discipline" if you miss 3 monthly practices in a row. There are dues to pay, and you must be available to go on weekend trips (usually without your family because of transportation shortages), to sing at funerals, weddings, or just for mission work. They said Sunday they had been going for 18 years, and the men that started the group were in their early 20s when they started it. It's a group for the "serious Mennonite man," a way of working together and building strong friendships and giving and thinking forward and bringing new ideas and progress to the church. We are proud of our Group D'homme. Like Joseph told them after their little speech on Sunday, "You are my blood." I know my husband feels the same way about those men.
Group Damme Legliz Blanchard, the ladies group of Blanchard, is a younger group, but with mostly older members. This ordination party marked their 5 year anniversary. Instead of monthly meetings, these ladies, most of who have children to take care of and at least a part time business or job, meet for services every Tuesday. Sometimes they are at the church, but usually they go to someone's house who is sick or in need, or just kind of take turns throughout the congregation. They came to our house once, and it's a long service: singing, a small "words of encouragement" or actually mini-sermon, a long prayer of blessing for the house, and Bible memory work. Last week they did something bigger that I would have loved to be a part of. (Their meetings are on Tuesday when I have language class, so I can't ever participate.) They went clear to Fonds Parisien to a widow's house to help her with laundry, cleaning, etc and take some groceries.
I can't really express how hard it is to maintain these church programs here, because plans are so uncertain day by day, and very few people have reliable transportation. You truly don't have as much energy to just have social life either. Sometimes I'm frankly glad when the sky clouds over for an afternoon thunderstorm and church is cancelled. So I definitely could rejoice with these ladies on their 5 year anniversary. They truly are making a "beautiful effort," to keep it alive.
For the "grand finale" of the ordination program, Group Dame had prepared questions and prizes! This is very common here at church programs and parties. The speaker asks for a volunteer, and only after someone stands up does he ask the question. Then, if possible, the volunteer gets a mike to answer. Usually bysitters are whispering and telling the person what to say by now. If it's not correct someone else can try. If it is deemed satisfactory, they come to the front to accept the gift. I've seen every kind of gift from deodorant and toothpaste to Bible Story books, but Sunday they were wrapped so I'm not sure what they were. All went well until the speaker started really pushing one of the men to volunteer. Someone said, "You have to ask the question before I get up!" (laughter everywhere) But he reluctantly got up anyway. The question was, "What are the 7 things that Jesus said while on the cross?"
The reluctant volunteer started naming sentences and got about 3, then threw up his hands! "Actually I don't know anything else!" He sat down amid laughter and cheering. That question went through several people, and one lady finally got about 6 of them right and claimed the prize.
The last prize was for an impromptu question, which turned into a series of rapid fire questions followed by wrong answers, chaos, and laughter: What was the very first song we sang this morning? What was the message text? What year did Group D'Homme begin? How many ministers and deacons have been ordained from Group D'homme? What are their names?
The speaker finally said, "It looks like no one can answer these questions. I'm claiming the last gift for myself!"
And then, after one last song from Group Dame, and announcements, we prayed. We sat in our seats as instructed, the children with hungry, expectant eyes, and waited for bottles of Fanta and syrofoam boxes filled with rice and beans, chicken legs, chicken meatballs, pastry cornocopias filled with meat, macaroni salad, lasagna, gratine, beet salad, sliced tomatoes, and napkin wrapped slices of white sheet cake (with "ti grèn sime sou li:" little grains sown on top, aka sprinkles). Not every box has the same assortment because there's not enough of everything. You just open to reveal your luck. And it's all good food!
Afterward there were cousins and friends and visitors to talk to. The church was loud and full of bear hugs and side cheek kisses, fist bumps and back slaps and "how's your family doing." I hardly wanted to leave. They "gave recreation," or cancelled the evening service. And my husband and I went home to talk and sleep.