The clouds hovered over Akadyen altering the color of the ocean who usually wears turquoise. A lady smeared oil on a young teenager´s freshly braided weave, while children ran stomping their bare feet in the dirt under the single tree, a woman paced by balancing a basin of fish covered with a banana leaf to protect it from the sun as she walked to the market to sell them. Past the weave, the tree, the children, the woman, and the fish stood the crumbling chapel.
“We´re missing Jesus, the girl who represents the people who come from the west and the lady who represents the people from the south,” Vincent explained, with a hint of disappointment, “There´s a Madame in the South who is sick, they went to visit her.” “Do you think you can remember Jesus´ lines?” I asked filled with tenderness witnessing his concern. “Bat pou nou antre nan pót ki jis la, paske m ap di nou, gen anpil moun k ap chéche pou yo antre, men yo p pap kapab.” He memorized all the lines.
Mondays I travel about an hour with a doctor, Geralda (whom you already know), to Akadyen. She tends to the sick and I head to the chapel to tend to the hungry of spirit with theater. They come, from all ages to listen to the stories of the gospel of the following Sunday. None can read, and all ask me to reread the story at least three times. After the numerous reading I ask them what sense the story made to them, what they got out of it. Some stare back with blank faces, others smile, and suddenly one breaks the ice. “I don´t understand Jesus, he says the last shall be first, but I don´t see that.” The discussion starts. The blank faces come to life, the smiles open up to express what lies beneath them. I sit elated in the utter presence of the Divine.
Following the discussion we begin to bring the story to life with our bodies. One decides to be Jesus, the other the questioner, the other the one who knocks at the door, the other who eats at the table. I reread the story and we go acting it out, their reality as a people isolated and forgotten by most three hours away by foot from the market where they make their living shines through their portrayal of the stories. Jesus´ parables come to life in Kreyol, in the Haitian people in 2010.
Vincent must have been repeating the gospel story in his head all week in order to remember the gospel, “Luke 13: 22-30” he remembered. We walked into the chapel and with the children, women, and men who already gathered for the service, we read the gospel and practiced acting out the gospel with new people. Slowly the humble chapel filled with life, the uneven, cracked benches wobbled as people smushed to sit.
The winds took the clouds, the people sang and listened. At the time of the gospel reading, their eyes opened with curiosity, they leaned in and became part of the story. The homily was a discussion between us; what we understood, what Jesus´ told us with the story. A man asked a question and a woman would answer, even a young girl added her thoughts. “And you Se Luisely, what do you think?” they asked.
The crumbling chapel, the exhausted lady carrying the fish, the barefoot children- the illiterate, the hungry, the “last”- looking slightly beyond the surface of that picture richness exists-the cultured with their songs, those full of faith, the “first.”