Probably no one will read this post in full. I’m okay with that.
So I’ve been watching the Star Wars saga with my dear friends this week, and last night we watched Revenge of the Sith. The last time I watched all of the movies in succession was January of 2010, so this viewing has naturally caught me differently. I’ve become generally more analytical of people over the past few years and my knowledge of and experience with psychology and personality types (albeit limited) has combined to strike a more profound chord in me regarding the life of Anakin Skywalker as portrayed in the prequel trilogy.
At this point and throughout the following, the points I make may seem incredulous to some due to my lack of official education in the areas of psychological judgment/observation. Fair enough. (I’m definitely not interested in any discussion of a disorder like psychiatrist Eric Bui is [read about it here and here] - in the first place to avoid a misapplication of the intentions of the character within the story, and then to be mindful of specialist Randi Kreger’s submissions that negate Bui’s media-friendly findings [read about it here].)
Additionally, some might reduce these points to the irrelevant musings of a nerd who’s been in love with Star Wars since kindergarten. Again, fair enough. Regardless, here it is:
Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side of the Force due both to that which he could not control - his life circumstances and the teachings and influences of his mentors - and to that over which he had only some control - hispersonality and character. Thus, what follows is in agreement with and is simply an expansion of the following indisputable statement: Anakin was seduced by the dark side. Another presupposition is this: Anakin’s path to the dark side was made complete in the events stemming from his obsessive commitment to save Padmé.
Here’s the thing: Anakin was the Chosen One. He was to become the most powerful Jedi of all - to restore balance to the Force by defeating the Sith. But his path to awesomeness was in part obscured by his circumstances. For one, his training began much later than that of most Jedi (age 10, I think). While most Jedi were taken to be trained when they were infants, Anakin had nearly a decade to live and experience life altogether apart from the Jedi Order.
The most significant effect of this constitutes my main issue in this category of circumstances: his relationship with his mother, Shmi Skywalker, and the results thereof. A child his age would be highly emotionally connected to his mother, which was indubitably the case for Anakin. He wouldn’t have just forgotten about his mom after a couple of months, and the healthy emotional connections he naturally made with her would not be severed easily and not without trauma. The Council perceived his fear of losing his mother in Episode I, and this fear was made more evident when he diverged from his orders to stay on Naboo with Padmé in order to rescue his mom on Tatooine in Episode II. This fear of loss resulting from the traumatic experience of separation quickly evolved into his plaguing need to control the destinies of his loved ones, haunting him throughout the prequel trilogy. His prolonged experience of emotional attachment during his younger years made it extremely difficult for him to reject such feelings in the future. Due to this and other factors, he succumbed to the dark side.
Moving on to the second of the topics, I must consider Anakin’s mentors to be partially accountable for Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Let’s start with Mace Windu. I cannot blame him for much, and I could go on an on about Mace Windu’s awesomeness. However, I will say that, regardless of Windu’s opinions of and/or mindful intuitions about Anakin, his dealings with Anakin may have been taken negatively. All I assert here is that perhaps Windu might have looked for a way to relate with young Skywalker more appropriately.
Now I’ll mention Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin’s first (albeit unofficial) master. Though short-lived, Qui-Gon’s influence on the forthcoming Padawan was indeed significant. Qui-Gon wittingly exhibited defiance toward authority without apology. Though Anakin’s youthful recollections of his benefactor were probably highly positive, I would say that Jinn’s noncompliance feature could have negatively affected an older Anakin. Obi-Wan Kenobi - much to say about him, I have. Obi-Wan was indeed like an older brother to Anakin, and such a relationship may have clashed with the Jedi Code’s prohibition of attachment (another example of this was his controversial relationship with fellow Jedi Siri Tachi in the time betweenPhantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). Additionally, Obi-Wan failed to correct Anakin sufficiently regarding numerous issues, such as his defiant attitude, his disrespect of authority, his impulsivity, and his unrestrained cockiness. Obi-Wan’s discipline of Anakin seemed lenient, often dangerously so. This could in large part have been due to Obi-Wan’s own lack of maturity (at least as showcased in Episode II). However, based on the very things I have said about Anakin above, I might say this regarding Master Kenobi: his circumstances were indeed exceptional. He promised Qui-Gon he would train “the boy” before he died despite only days prior questioning Qui-Gon’s giving Anakin so much attention. Perhaps this decision was based on the abnormal situation. Despite the Council’s lack of support for his decision to train Skywalker, he proceeded in Qui-Gon’s likeness. Obi-Wan could have been a finer master in many respects. But still, he’s great. The rest of this segment will focus on none other than Chancellor Palpatine. Quite plainly, Palpatine was by far the greatest negative influence on Anakin. It was his direction more than all other personal factors that pushed Anakin toward the dark side. (A drastic understatement, I know.) Palpatine’s misguidance poisoned Anakin against the Jedi Order and his most respectable elders. He magnified Anakin’s egotism by telling him he deserved power, he tempted him with and gave laud to the acquisition of unhealthy power, and he urged Skywalker’s consultation of his emotions, desires, and passions. He manipulated him and perverted his inner character. As another analyst puts it, Palpatine was to Anakin “someone who played on his ambitions and gave him the hope of making his mark on society” (read about it here). Palpatine, Anakin’s dangerously powerful and cunning benefactor, was obviously the most extreme of agents leading him to the dark side. My last topic of discussion is the biggest: Anakin’s personality and character. I’ll dive right in. Some of the traits I deal with can be directly tied to Anakin’s adolescence, but whether he might have grown out of them after his teen years is not within the scope of this deliberation. In addition, his character will have been inevitably affected by the traumatic circumstances in which he found himself (spoken of above). Nevertheless, he is held responsible based on the choices he made. Firstly, Anakin was very impulsive and capricious. He reacted to his emotions; his actions were fueled by them. This is evident when he slaughtered the Tuskens following his mother’s death in Episode II. A prime example of Anakin’s pride (addressed below) coupled equally with his impulsiveness can be seen in Episode III when he openly rejected the Council in its decision to withhold from him the status of Jedi Master. Anakin was uninterested in rationality: “You’re asking me to be rational. That is something I know I cannot do” (to Padmé in Episode II). His emotions controlled him, and his responses to his emotions were in most cases utterly irrational. His effusiveness partially led to his allegiance to the dark side. To continue, as I alluded to earlier, Anakin was immensely conceited - little Ani had a big head. He thought he deserved recognition and honor and disregarded the wisdom of his elders in light of his own self-proclaimed superior skill (admittedly, sometimes it was indeed superior, but overall he was blind to the realities of his mentors’ warnings regarding his negative characteristics). He was very full of himself. He knew he was talented and took it pridefully to his ego. Such self-focus would prove deadly. Even his desire to save Padmé was selfish, certainly given the context. Anakin could not bear the idea of life without Padmé, but his character was such that he could also not accept the idea of sacrificing himself to save her - his love for Padmé was not by any stretch of the imagination pure, selfless love. (Read about it here - really good observations.) Here are my conclusions: the tragic hero Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side of the Force was definitely shameful, but to blame him for everything leading to that demise is unfair. Given his unfortunate circumstances, was he not set up for failure? Given the guidance of the individuals who steered him through his vulnerable adolescence, how can Anakin be the only demonized faction? But sadly, Anakin himself ultimately chose feeling over understanding, self over selflessness, the dark side over the light side. Anakin’s personal failure was heightened by his tragic setting. Photos: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Now I’ll mention Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin’s first (albeit unofficial) master. Though short-lived, Qui-Gon’s influence on the forthcoming Padawan was indeed significant. Qui-Gon wittingly exhibited defiance toward authority without apology. Though Anakin’s youthful recollections of his benefactor were probably highly positive, I would say that Jinn’s noncompliance feature could have negatively affected an older Anakin.
Obi-Wan Kenobi - much to say about him, I have. Obi-Wan was indeed like an older brother to Anakin, and such a relationship may have clashed with the Jedi Code’s prohibition of attachment (another example of this was his controversial relationship with fellow Jedi Siri Tachi in the time betweenPhantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). Additionally, Obi-Wan failed to correct Anakin sufficiently regarding numerous issues, such as his defiant attitude, his disrespect of authority, his impulsivity, and his unrestrained cockiness. Obi-Wan’s discipline of Anakin seemed lenient, often dangerously so. This could in large part have been due to Obi-Wan’s own lack of maturity (at least as showcased in Episode II). However, based on the very things I have said about Anakin above, I might say this regarding Master Kenobi: his circumstances were indeed exceptional. He promised Qui-Gon he would train “the boy” before he died despite only days prior questioning Qui-Gon’s giving Anakin so much attention. Perhaps this decision was based on the abnormal situation. Despite the Council’s lack of support for his decision to train Skywalker, he proceeded in Qui-Gon’s likeness. Obi-Wan could have been a finer master in many respects. But still, he’s great.
The rest of this segment will focus on none other than Chancellor Palpatine. Quite plainly, Palpatine was by far the greatest negative influence on Anakin. It was his direction more than all other personal factors that pushed Anakin toward the dark side. (A drastic understatement, I know.) Palpatine’s misguidance poisoned Anakin against the Jedi Order and his most respectable elders. He magnified Anakin’s egotism by telling him he deserved power, he tempted him with and gave laud to the acquisition of unhealthy power, and he urged Skywalker’s consultation of his emotions, desires, and passions. He manipulated him and perverted his inner character. As another analyst puts it, Palpatine was to Anakin “someone who played on his ambitions and gave him the hope of making his mark on society” (read about it here). Palpatine, Anakin’s dangerously powerful and cunning benefactor, was obviously the most extreme of agents leading him to the dark side.
My last topic of discussion is the biggest: Anakin’s personality and character. I’ll dive right in. Some of the traits I deal with can be directly tied to Anakin’s adolescence, but whether he might have grown out of them after his teen years is not within the scope of this deliberation. In addition, his character will have been inevitably affected by the traumatic circumstances in which he found himself (spoken of above). Nevertheless, he is held responsible based on the choices he made. Firstly, Anakin was very impulsive and capricious. He reacted to his emotions; his actions were fueled by them. This is evident when he slaughtered the Tuskens following his mother’s death in Episode II. A prime example of Anakin’s pride (addressed below) coupled equally with his impulsiveness can be seen in Episode III when he openly rejected the Council in its decision to withhold from him the status of Jedi Master. Anakin was uninterested in rationality: “You’re asking me to be rational. That is something I know I cannot do” (to Padmé in Episode II). His emotions controlled him, and his responses to his emotions were in most cases utterly irrational. His effusiveness partially led to his allegiance to the dark side.
To continue, as I alluded to earlier, Anakin was immensely conceited - little Ani had a big head. He thought he deserved recognition and honor and disregarded the wisdom of his elders in light of his own self-proclaimed superior skill (admittedly, sometimes it was indeed superior, but overall he was blind to the realities of his mentors’ warnings regarding his negative characteristics). He was very full of himself. He knew he was talented and took it pridefully to his ego. Such self-focus would prove deadly. Even his desire to save Padmé was selfish, certainly given the context. Anakin could not bear the idea of life without Padmé, but his character was such that he could also not accept the idea of sacrificing himself to save her - his love for Padmé was not by any stretch of the imagination pure, selfless love. (Read about it here - really good observations.)
Here are my conclusions: the tragic hero Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side of the Force was definitely shameful, but to blame him for everything leading to that demise is unfair. Given his unfortunate circumstances, was he not set up for failure? Given the guidance of the individuals who steered him through his vulnerable adolescence, how can Anakin be the only demonized faction? But sadly, Anakin himself ultimately chose feeling over understanding, self over selflessness, the dark side over the light side. Anakin’s personal failure was heightened by his tragic setting.
Photos: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Marco, whose real name is Jean Mackel, was one of our translators. And he was absolutely brilliant.
Let me tell you about Marco. Marco, whose full name is Jean Mackel, was one of our translators. And he is absolutely brilliant.
Marco is pretty tall for a Haitian (probably six-one or so) and he’s very slim. He is in his early thirties, albeit he doesn’t look a day older than twenty. Marco’s home is currently in Port-au-Prince, but he was born and raised in Gonaïves, about halfway (at least as far as travel time is concerned) between the capital and Saint-Louis du Nord. However, because of his work ethic, integrity, and translation skills, the mission hires him literally all the time. Thus, he spends the majority of his days in the country’s Nord-Ouest department.
I was introduced to Marco on the first day of the trip, and as time went on, I got to know him quickly. One of the things that really lent itself to our fast friendship was our proficiency in Spanish. We spoke a great deal of Spanish during the trip, and it was completely awesome. He speaks English very well (he is a translator), but we spoke Spanish often because he speaks Spanish better than he speaks English.
This is because he attended university in the Dominican Republic. He quickly became fluent in Spanish while he studied architecture there. He also worked his way through school in the Dominican, so he came to know the culture very well.
We enjoyed many conversations about Haitian culture, Dominican culture, American culture, the Creole language, the Spanish language, the English language, our travels and experiences, the taste of rum and beer, what a good Haitian house looks like (his knowledge of construction and architecture brought about this conversation), etc. One particularly amusing conversation was the one about his boss in the Dominican. He was a construction worker there, and he earned two thousand Dominican pesos weekly. His boss, however, earned 17 thousand pesos each week. Marco told me how he would spend maybe three or four hundred pesos over the weekend and save the rest. His boss, on the other hand, would come to work on Monday begging him for money because he would have spent all of his money on alcohol. I laughed aloud as he told me this story and as we partook in all the other conversations. He’s just a good storyteller.
However, the one conversation that I will not soon forget came in the form of the following story - Marco’s story:
Marco had been working in Gonaïves, and he was getting ready to head up to Cap Haïtien (or somewhere up there). However, he made a quick trip to the capital, Port-au-Prince, to spend eight days there. On the eighth and final day of his visit to Port-au-Prince, January 12, 2010, he boarded a tap-tap to head north. Screams from other passengers directed his attention to what was happening outside: buildings were crumbling to the ground in clouds of dust and people were scrambling. In a horrific moment of complete physical helplessness, he realized his personal weakness and the utter spiritual despondency a man suffers without the graceful touch of God, and he surrendered his life to Christ.
It is this surrender that led him to the mission, where he is serving his people and his God.
Thank you, Lord, for Marco.
Psalm 103 (NASB)
A Psalm of David.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
3 Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
4 Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
5 Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
6 The LORD performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
14 For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.
19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
22 Bless the LORD, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
This really made me cry. I have family with special needs and it’s awful how people treat them. This is worth every second, watch it.
Our silence = Our condoning
Next time you see injustice, or cruelty, or even racism though that’s not part of this particular video, speak out. What comes out of your mouth says more about who you are than who they are. And what doesn’t come out of your mouth isn’t helping anyone. <3
Oh how my heart hurts. I have known many people with disabilities and they are some of the most kind-hearted people and the HARDEST workers you’ll ever meet! This has just brought me to tears because I know how much Jesus loves them. They have a special place in his heart and it makes his heart sad when people treat them un-justly. Im really glad this show gave them a voice.
This broke my heart tonight; I’m not sure if what brought tears to my eyes was the initial treatment of Josh or the lack of onlookers’ defense for him.
A test of how we respond to injustice and how we respond to a child of the Creator.
As soon as I returned from a wonderful while in Haiti, I was thrown back into the busyness that embodies life in the States. I have scarcely had a moment to properly reflect, which is why this letter might seem delayed.
In short summary, this trip was magnificent—a perfect complement to the first and an altogether unsurpassable experience.
Our group arrived in Haiti on Tuesday morning, and we immediately boarded a tap-tap in order to reach our destination, Saint-Louis du Nord, eight hours later. I could spend a few minutes discussing this bus trip, but I will here simply make note of the fact that I actually slept for a full hour while in the tap-tap. I was very surprised to discover this when I awoke. After some breakdowns (of the tap-taps and maybe a few of the passengers) and some ‘gaz’ stops, we made it to Saint-Louis.
Now, if you were previously unaware, Jessica Rozmovits, my girlfriend of nearly six months, is completing her two-month internship with NWHCM this summer, so I had not seen her for a month at that point. Needless to say, we met with a long, warm embrace as soon as I anxiously danced off the tap-tap. It was almost as beautiful as she is. That night was very long—we travelers struggled through rules and orientation—but we finally went to sleep.
The following day, Wednesday, was spent at the mission, where we were free to participate in any of the ministries at the Saint-Louis du Nord campus. I was also very glad to hear that Jessica and my friend Brooklyn, also an intern, would be traveling with our group all week! Our group spent about six hours in the pharmacy dumping expired pills, cleaning the bottles, and relabeling them in order that they be recycled. (The mission was threatened to be shut down by the government if expired pills were being prescribed, even though pills can last up to two or three years when kept in proper conditions.) At this point, I’ll brag a little about our group. For the second time in a row, our group has been the only one to volunteer to do the menial tasks of maintaining the pharmacy. The work is tedious and boring, but it helps the pharmacy tremendously and allows them to attend to more of the people it is designed to serve. With service in mind, this will be a good time to introduce my very close friend Kory Henke. A member of Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri, he traveled with our group to Haiti, and I am really glad he did. I was truly excited to watch him as he went on his first overseas mission trip, and he really impressed me. As Jessica noted, “it seemed so natural for him.” His compassion, his smile, and his heart of servanthood are astounding and I have full confidence that each of these aforementioned facets will be used for God in remarkable ways in the future. Wednesday afternoon, I also had the opportunity to go to the college to have conversations with the students learning English. The test they were supposed to have taken that day was postponed due to a printer malfunction, so it worked out well that I went over. Just like last time, the student with whom I happened to be speaking (whose name I cannot remember) spoke Spanish, so it served well as a bridge between his elementary English and my even more elementary Creole and French. It was a good time! Our focused and in-depth conversation was cut short, however; unfortunately, the printer had been fixed.
The next day, Thursday, was to be the day of departure for Tortuga (for which I was very excited!). That morning, though, something happened that was the answer to many prayers and the yearnings of many hearts: Rodney and I were reunited. (I know that sounds dramatic…) Rodney is the little six-year-old boy who I met last time, and since I left Haiti, I had been trying to find his family and contact whomever in order to sponsor Rodney—to send him to school. Finally, two years later, an eight-year-old Rodney ran and jumped into my arms. I think we were both elated. Up until I left for Tortuga, he was on my lap, his arms tight around my neck. As I talked to his mother (through an interpreter, of course) I found out that the interpreter who had promised to keep us connected had been lying to us both. Finally, after two years of waiting and praying on his family’s part and mine, Rodney will be able to go to school. The event of our reunion certainly remains to be a high spot of this trip.
After lunch, we left for Tortuga. I had earlier downed two Dramamine (last time I got unexpectedly seasick) so I was confident that the boat ride would be nothing short of splendid. Well, my stomach again felt like expelling its last entry, but I ended up making it without resorting to such an end. As I previously remember, the water is a sight to behold—even when far from the beach, one can see straight to the bottom, about fifteen feet. It is the most beautiful turquoise imaginable, and its clarity is like a window to the world of under-the-sea. The greeting at Carenage, the community on Tortuga with whom we are working, was absolutely wonderful. We set up camp, which consisted of tents on the roof of our hosts’ house, tents in the soft, puffy grass in their yard, and a plethora of hammocks strung between their coconut palms. (I had decided last time that I should invest in a hammock specifically for my future visits to Tortuga. It was very well worth it.)
Of course, our greeting consisted of smiling adult faces and hysterical children hugs and handholding. As I was walking to the house where we would be staying, a little five-or-six-year-old boy chased after me, ready to meet the tall ‘blan’ that was walking ahead of him. From the moment I had seen him on the beach, I could tell he was one of the community’s poorer residents—he was wearing a very small shirt and some heavily ripped shorts without underwear. As he neared me, a few of my teammates laughingly warned, “Watch out, Damon! His hands were just in his dirty place!” I laughed and replied, “Front or back?” to be answered with, “Maybe both!” I took his hand anyway, and I’m glad I did. This boy, Rodnickson, turned out to be the goofiest and coolest character I’ve met. His personality seemed highly developed for his young age. He was laidback and comical, and his skinny little body accompanied his cute awkwardness. The other kid with whom I spent a great deal of time was Delo. I actually remembered him from the last time I was there. He did not remember me, because he only would have been four at the time. That night we went to the revival that was taking place, and, as usual, it was breathtaking to participate in and experience Haitian worship. Seeing people of diverse languages and cultures singing Alleluia! to the Lord as one remains to be the single most joy-bringing event I have ever witnessed—I cannot imagine how uplifting it must be to our Creator. Consider that Jessica, Brooklyn, and Kory were with me, and suffice it to say that this day proved that my time in the community of Carenage would be nothing short of spectacular.
To give just a glimpse into the Haitian culture that resides on Tortuga, this story must be told: when walking from the boat to the shore, one of my flip-flops broke due to the suctioning sand on the sea floor. When I arrived on shore, I temporarily fixed it. Soon afterward, though, it broke again. Two Haitian men saw me walking awkwardly, noticed the damaged flip-flop, and spoke a few words between themselves. The one man came up to me and took my sandal. A few minutes later, the other came out of his house with a needle and a thick string—the man who took my sandal mended my broken flip-flop for me. I could not give him anything in return other than my sincere thanks. He spent at least fifteen minutes working on it, and the mend was thorough and lasting. These humble acts are typical of the folks at Carenage, and I was myself humbled.
After a glorious night’s sleep in my relaxing hammock (in which I was rocked by a refreshing island breeze and sent to sleep by the song of the sea), I was ready for Friday. Friday was to be the day we completed more census work, and, like last time, we split into groups to carry out a short interview with the families. I was in Ryan’s group along with Kory, Sue, Jeff, and our comic interpreter Henry. (I was with Ryan last time, and our path was the same one we had walked two years ago; thus, I would be seeing many of the same families!) Our census work was much more abbreviated and forthright than last time, and once again, the answers to our questions were uniform among each family. Fresh water, sufficient nourishment, medical help, education, and work were their biggest needs, in that basic order. The answers were unchanged. However, we were met with some unnerving and heartbreaking words this time around: the last two families we interviewed said something along the lines of “We keep doing these interviews and nothing’s changing.” When asked the final question, “What do you see in the community of Carenage?” both families answered, “There is no hope. We are hopeless, and so is Carenage.”
That afternoon, we hosted a VBS. The kids loved it (well, at least the snack). The interns were very impressed with the group’s organization and know-how, but enough bragging. After supper, a few of us again went to the revival. I sat with Jessica and Kory, and each of us had at least two Haitians on either side of us. Delo sat on my lap and Rodnickson would run around and occasionally come back to the side room to squeeze next to me. The kids were being a little noisy and were getting a little more rambunctious as Jessica, Kory, and I observed the revival and apparently entertained the kids. Before I knew it, Delo was making faces and was creating crazy knots with his fingers. The music was loud so I was not worried about the ensuing noise. Then the music stopped. In that very moment, Delo made an incredibly realistic and obnoxiously loud fart noise on his arm. Immediately, kids burst into laughter (and I did too) until being sternly silenced by the adults, all of who instantaneously turned and glared at the whites (okay, maybe it was just me). I laughed until I was soaked in embarrassment sweat, which caused Jessica and Kory to laugh as well. The kids proceeded to silence us, probably wondering why it was so hilarious. That made my night.
Saturday was a great day, too. We went to the beach to see nine young people get baptized. It was beautiful and deeply symbolic. They would make their way out about fifty yards into the ocean, which took a few minutes. When they finally made it to where Pastor Alex and Elder Wilson were standing, they prayed and were baptized. They would walk back to shore to be greeted by a family member who would cover them with a white cloth. Prior to the VBS, we played with the kids and chilled with the interpreters. I was responsible for teaching the Bible lesson for the VBS, so I organized my thoughts. I talked about the grand story of the human situation and its Main Character—how all the events and characters found throughout the ‘Sant Bib’ point to one overarching series of events: it started out with Creation, where God created us imago Dei; it deviated with the Fall, where we turned our backs on our Creator; it progressed with Christ and his atoning death; it vivified with his hope-bringing and glorious resurrection; it was actualized with the birth of the Church and the gift of the Holy Spirit; and it will be brought to a spectacular end, where He will make all things new. Apart from the initial idea, I did this spontaneously, which would have generally freaked me out. However, I felt unusually comfortable and confident upon going up to talk. I have not quite figured out why just yet. This experience remains to be one from which I’m hoping to learn.
Okay, another Rodnickson story. The snack for VBS was saltines and peanut butter. Rodnickson stuck around at the end to see if he could get his hands on some extras. I am not sure exactly what happened, but a few minutes later, after I had left the military tent in which VBS was held, I saw him running around screaming and laughing and waving his hand in the air—his hands were covered in peanut butter. He ran up to me and my only defense was, ‘Pa jwe—ou manje sa!’ (Creole for “Don’t play—eat it!”). He entertained us for a while, and he returned later without a single trace of peanut butter on his hands. Rodnickson, oh Rodnickson.
Saturday evening was great as well. We had the privilege of attending a wedding, in which three Haitian couples would be wed. The wedding was very long and we heard the word ‘fònikasyon’, but it was a wonderful time. The reaction of all the Haitians—kids and adults—to the couples’ kissing was absolutely hilarious. I will not soon forget the wedding on Carenage. Everyone in our group was very tired, so only a few of us went to the revival: Russ, Nancy, Brooklyn, Jessica, and I. Of course, Delo sat by me, this time in between Jessica and me. Apparently we Americans weren’t the only tired ones—within ten minutes, Delo had fallen asleep, and I was literally holding his head up with my hand. He eventually woke up and smiled in embarrassment, whether it was due to the fact that he had fallen asleep on my hand or because he had slobbered all over it… I found his mom and left him with her, and Jessica and I went back to the camp, sat in the soft, pillowy grass, and talked about how we felt alive when we loved the people on Tortuga and how our hearts had broken for them. And we talked about other things. I will leave it at that.
Sunday morning would comprise our last moments on Tortuga. Most everyone in my group was ready to leave, but I would have stayed another week without hesitation. We went to the school building to attend the church service, and we were blessed to find out that we were there for the congregation’s first anniversary. I was glad to soak in the Tortugan smiles one last time during the three-hour worship service. Toward the end Magdalla pointed to me. Dan, Brooklyn, and I played another round of “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and then she wanted me to speak to the church on our group’s behalf. I was honored. Through Henry, I told the congregation that we would be back soon. I told them that we were looking forward to partnering with them, that they have impacted us deeply, and that we love them. We left Tortuga, and I had the feeling I did last time—that I would definitely be back. I thought I had told Delo goodbye already, but lo and behold, as we were making our way to the sailboat via the small fishing boat, I saw Delo and Wigi’s naked bodies swimming around with us.
A short note on Delo: I had noticed both last time and this time that his father was not living with him—it was only Delo, his sister Christophia, and his mom. I asked him where his dad was, and he said that he was in Nassau. I spoke with his mother, and it turns out that his father has been working there in order to support his family. I was touched and somewhat saddened. That’s life on Tortuga. A happy note on which I will end is Delo’s mother’s reply to my statement, ‘Mwen pral manke pitit ou!’ She said, ‘Ouh, li renmen ou!’ That made my day. And perhaps my trip to Tortuga.
About two weeks after I had returned from Haiti, Jessica and some other interns went back to Carenage for the day. She tweeted the following: “So overjoyed to be at Tortuga today. The kids were asking for Damon and when he would come back. That made me very happy.” I literally almost cried! I found out that Delo and Rodnickson were the ones asking about me. I remember thinking, “Hmmm, I hope it was Christ’s love they saw and not just Damon,” as if there cannot be any part of me in an exhibition of Christ’s love. (I suppose it was just overkill in making sure that my love is humble and selfless.) In response to that thought, Jessica said, “I really believe that they did see Christ’s love in you and not just Damon. They remember you, they know you because you loved them in such a way that has stuck with them, that is imprinted in their hearts. That’s Christ’s love. They don’t just remember things about you, they remember the love that you radiate that is deep, and that could only come from Him.”
We returned to the mission, and Sunday afternoons mostly mean rest and togetherness at the mission. I spent some time reading the Creole Bible to the oldies (but goodies!) at the Gran Moun (basically, Gran Moun is a ministry on NWHCM’s main campus in Saint-Louis that provides a home and care for elderly people who would otherwise have no family to take care of them). Little did I know—but soon found out—that the Bible from which I was reading was essentially the Haitian version of the King James Bible. As I have studied Creole over the past couple of years, I have come to memorize its phonology (sounds) by way of its very concrete orthography (the way it is written), much like I naturally did with Spanish. This “older” Creole I was trying to read was starkly diverse from the way it is written currently. I’m sure my intent listeners were able to figure it out, and I ended up going back another day to continue. I pray that it was a blessing for them, as most of them grew up in a time when reading was unessential and were quite likely illiterate. During the two “sessions”, I read from Matthew, chapters six through 14.
We spent more time at the mission on Monday morning, and after lunch we headed to La Baie des Moustiques. I was excited about going to La Baie. However, something that really put a sock in excitement’s mouth was the loss of my Detroit hat. I stood up to stretch my legs about ten minutes away from La Baie. And I was sure to keep my head positioned in a way that would keep it from flying off. Then I looked up a few minutes later, and, lo and behold, it flew off. And there was no stopping. And I was surprised. Then I was sad. Then I was mad because some people thought it was just hilarious. Well, no one else had just lost his or her only form of head protection and gift from his or her brother. I was not happy. Another reason for my frustration was the fact that this was the third item that had been lost, so it had been building, I suppose. A pair of khaki shorts that I have had since freshman year and my sunglasses were stolen at the mission earlier in the trip. I eventually got over it, and Kory was nice to loan me his Cardinals hat for the rest of the trip, as he had not been wearing it. Thanks Korbear.
Upon arrival, after everything was unloaded, I was talking to Kory. Jessica came up and whispered something into Kory’s ear and they both laughed. I then said, “I’m glad everyone thinks it’s so funny [referring to the hat]. This is ridiculous.” Jessica said, “Ummm, we weren’t talking about that.” Oh God, this is embarrassing, I thought. (I knew a lesson of some sort was in the works.) She awkwardly smiled and excused herself. I looked at Kory apologetically.
That evening we went to the orphanage and I recognized Presley, Djuvinsky, the twins, and the Beast (I mean this endearingly – she was simply large and in-charge) from the nursery in Saint-Louis two years ago. That was awesome. And so was talking with Jessica on the step of the orphanage. We talked about my hat and why I was mad. I love her so much, even and definitely when I am upset with her. It’s like being upset with a six-week-old German shepherd puppy that accidentally peed on the floor, so I always feel bad for being upset with her.
Really though, it was fantastic to see the kids with whom I had spent so much time during my 2009 trip. They had been moved to La Baie for preschool, kind of like a middle ground between the mission’s nursery and the big orphanage at Saline Mayette. They’re really being loved there, and it’s wonderful to see it.
The next day, we had the opportunity to go fishing with some of the locals. It was a very neat experience. The clear-to-the-bottom water was breathtakingly captivating; in some places, it was a deep jade with brown, vegetated rocks and white sand. In other places, the ocean water danced from cerulean to ultramarine with each peak of every wave. It was humbling. We serve a God whose creation is unimaginably beautiful. If we were at any one point to understand in full the immenseness, beauty, matchlessness, and age-old splendor of God’s creation—even for a split second—we experience an unbearable flood of emotion. And then there’s the Creator of such beauty—I am speechless.
The fishermen would go out about a mile from shore, where their nets had been cast. They would drop anchor and dive down and check the nets (with goggles and a snorkel of course). It was neat to watch them, albeit a little disappointing that we could not participate.
While we were on the boats, the rest of the group organized a VBS for the kids. Upon their return, the group had a few hours to swim. Kory and I stayed back and talked to Marco. We talked about our differing cultures (one of our items of discussion was the treatment of alcoholic drinks in both cultures—this proved very interesting!) and he told us many stories. He is truly a great asset to the mission’s ministry and an intelligent man of integrity.
One thing that truly annoyed me was the fact that there was scheduled beach time. Why the heck are we not playing with the kids or building something or doing something constructive? It seems like a huge waste of time to play at the beach while there’s ample work to be done here. I had been dealing with this frustration during our time on the main campus as well. I really appreciate the lax treatment of the temporal in Haiti—I thrive in it and I love it—but the fact that we were sitting around with nothing to do or we were scheduled to have recreational time really made me restless—and for this I think only the mission is to blame. I definitely understand and tried to embrace the response that waits on God and what He will show us in those times of restlessness due to recreation and relaxation, and Jessica did a good job of reminding me of that. Still, I think there was far too great an amount of nothingness in our schedule.
We left La Baie after lunch. I do not remember much of what happened that evening upon our return to the mission. The next day, our last full day in Haiti, was spent at Ansefoleur and at the mission. Our trip to Ansefoleur was purely a prayer endeavor. We went in order to pray around the cross and in the temple. I have heard many stories about the temple in Ansefoleur and the cross on the mountain. I went into it without much emotion—I did not want to add anything to what I would be seeing and experiencing. We made the steep hike up the mountain and to the cross. It was much bigger than I had expected—the base itself stood about five feet tall, and the cross, even being broken, added another six or seven feet. There were handmade candles and incenses burning in the natural holes of the otherworldly rock that led up to the cross, and the cross itself was filled with these spirit-summoning candles. The thing that probably most surprised me is that the worshippers were completely normal. To be honest, I expected them to be much more depressed-looking or something. It was as if they did not understand the Evil to which they were lifting up their prayers—it seemed that they were comfortable and that such worship was normal, and to them it was. When the interns asked if anyone would pray, I volunteered. In the prayer, I declared the power and sovereignty of the God of salvation and denounced the powers of the Evil One as far lesser, even incomparable to the power of the love of Christ. We then went to the temple. I was surprised to find that it was like a crowded market. The experience was not very “dark” to me—however, when we were in the actual temple, in the room where the doll that “fell from the sky” all those years ago lay encased and surrounded by gifts and offerings, I decided to read aloud from Scripture. I read from Matthew chapter 27, verse 33, to the end. As people sat in chairs sweating, praying aloud, and holding long, yellow-wax candles, I began to read. I started out quietly, reading to confess His sovereignty and power by highlighting the faux-victory of evil upon Christ’s crucifixion and the true victory of God upon Christ’s resurrection. As I read I spoke more loudly, and I realized (or maybe just noticed for the first time) how much louder the prayers of the voodoo worshippers were than my reading. I read louder, and I finished with a confident and projected voice, proclaiming Christ’s words: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Then we left. We visited the cleansing pool afterward, a pit of greenish-brown, filthy water where worshippers paid the owner to “cleanse” themselves before worship. We ate lunch in a school building and then left. When we were loading into the tap-tap, a bunch of kids were surrounding us. When I sat down, a young boy came from behind, jumped up, and punched me hard in the back. It actually hurt. As we pulled away, the kids threw gravel and dirt at us. It was sad.
I had some thoughts a few weeks ago regarding the experience at Ansefoleur: maybe in my caution I acted too sternly and somberly. Maybe I unknowingly overdramatized the experience (which was a very embarrassing possibility to accept as I reflected). Maybe I did indeed bring a level of emotion to the table upon embarking. I’m still in the process of coming to a conclusion about this.
We returned to the mission for the last time that trip, and we decided to get packed up. I spent a great deal of time with Jessica up until we departed, and we had some really good conversations. Well, they all are, but I just have to emphasize how much special this particular set was. Mwen renmen li anpil. We left the mission at quarter ‘til eleven and drove through the night. We reached the Port-au-Prince International Airport just before six o’clock. And so we returned.
I’m not done posting about Haiti. I’d like to present a short series of stories about a few different individuals from whom I learned. Be warned.
The view from my reading tree
In silence I listen,
in silence I grow;
in silence I learn,
in silence I know.