As we were planning a life together we talked about joining the Peace Corps or PAVLA (Papal Volunteer for Latin America). When we were married Bob was in graduate school and then our children began to arrive, so thoughts of doing either of the above were shelved. We have, through nearly all of our marriage, been involved in some kind of service. Some has been in our community, our various parishes and our Church, or even our jobs themselves. Bob has been retired since 1999 and I for 2 years. As we were planning for my retirement we talked about how this would allow us to spend more time being of service to others. In addition, as I approached retirement I said that I always wanted something to look forward to doing. I knew that the best times weren’t necessarily in the past but that good times would still lie ahead.
A year ago we met Renate Schneider. She is vice rector of the Universite’ de la Nouvelle Grand ‘Anse in Haiti. Our former pastor, Fr. Med Laz thought we might be interested in helping her a little financially. As we had lunch together she asked what we had done with our lives. We gave her a brief history and before we knew it she spoke to us about teaching in Haiti. While this has been something Bob has thought about for a long time, I was slightly intrigued, but mostly scared by the prospect of not knowing what I would do there. As the saying goes, the rest is history. We leave Friday to teach for three weeks at the Universite’. As the months have passed many thoughts and feeling have run through my very being. At times as we prepared I was reminded of the words from Man of La Mancha, the reprise to the Impossible Dream when after Don Quixote calls to Sancho, Sancho says, “more misadventures!” and Don Quixote says, “Adventures” too. I have little doubt that our days in Haiti will contain both.
Throughout our marriage much of the service that we did we did together. In one of my days of “panic” we did discuss Bob going alone but decided that this was something we needed to experience together. While I am still not exactly sure how I will teach ESL (English as a Second Language) and am likely clueless in what to expect it to be like living in Haiti, a few weeks ago the words of David Haas hymn, You Are Mine, popped into my head. I insert them here.
I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near
I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
So I’ve decided to just take a leap of faith. I know that we will receive far more than we give and our relationship with each other will grow and be blessed in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Keep us in your prayers.
When I was in high school I spent part of my summers working for a local truck farmer. One day I was in the field picking green beans. A migrant worker in the next row caught up with me and eventually passed me. During the interval while we were close to each other we struck up a conversation. As part of that conversation he told me about his family. He had a wife and children and was concerned about supporting them. His education was poor and so he did what he knew how to do – he traveled around the country picking crops – green beans, tomatoes, etc – to support his family. At some point in that conversation it became suddenly clear to me – this was a good man working to take care of his family just as my father worked hard in the best way he knew how to care for our family. It gave me a sense of the humanity and dignity of the poor that has stayed with me all my life.
As Rita said, during our dating and the early years of our marriage we talked about doing some kind of mission work, but that got side-tracked and we spent much of our married life helping others in parishes and other places. Most notably, we supported marriages through Marriage Encounter and in other ways. I came to believe that God wanted us to do that and sometimes said that we got the glory road. We spent a weekend or an evening with couples and when we left they were very appreciative. In hot weather, the room was cool and in cold weather it was warm. We didn’t have to step too far outside our comfort zone and the results were evident quickly.
Through all the things we did I still had a desire to go somewhere for a time to work with the economically poor and try to help them to have better lives. We talked about it occasionally, especially after we retired, but never did anything about it. When we were asked to teach in Haiti we suddenly found ourselves confronted with the decision to go, or not to go. For many years I have thought about what it would be like to work with those in conditions very different from our lives and wanted to try, so it was easy for me to give Renate a quick “yes”.
When I started to prepare and realized the conditions – large class, no textbooks, teaching math with little technology, hot weather and no air conditioning, to name a few – I had some moments of panic and wondered how this can possibly work. I have worked hard at preparing, without knowing whether my students will be ready for the course I plan to teach. I am now at the point where I have to put the rest in God’s hands. Now I pray – and go for it! My fantasies are about to be tested against reality.
With all the uncertainties I am still excited. I look forward to meeting my students and getting to know them. We both look forward to learning as much as we can about their lives and their culture. I was willing to go alone, but am very happy that Rita is going, too. Our adventures together are always good for us, no matter where we are. I’m sure we’ll have great stories to tell when we return.
Our Next Blogs. During our stay in Haiti we expect to have limited internet access, so we are unsure of our ability to post to our blog. During the next 3 weeks we will try to share some of our adventure with you, as conditions permit. We will resume our regular Wednesday posts on October 17. Until then, please keep us in your prayers.
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