UCNH Pentateuch Class
Dr. Monel Jules and UCNH students
Dr. Joselie Dormeus and Ebenezer patient
Cathy & Allison Fisher at Ebenezer Health Center
We were in the final moments of class, after an intensive week of study in the book of Genesis. My new friend, Dr. Monel Jules, was speaking to the students who had so energetically thrown themselves into the study of the text all week. Monel is the Dean of the Theology Faculty at the Christian University of North Haiti (UCNH).
We had had a good week together. It always takes a little while to establish rapport with a new group ("Does this stranger have anything to offer?" "Does he respect us?" "Will he use our questions only to embarrass or humiliate us?" and so on). The UCNH students caught on quickly. Halfway through the first day, they realized I was serious about working with their own observations and questions, rather than simply telling them what to think. From then on, our discussion times were very high-energy.
At the end of the week, I was moved by the expressions of gratitude from many students. And I was delighted by Monel's closing remarks, both to the students and to me: "This week, Professor Slade has led you to immerse yourselves in the text of the Bible and to find the meaning for yourselves--I like it!"
I like it, too. It is much harder to carry out my preferred, highly-interactive approach to teaching and learning, when working with an interpreter. If it were not for Monel's very gifted work as a translator, we would have made little progress during the week. But he was terrific. And, though I never recovered enough of my long-dead French to put three coherent sentences together, I could follow enough of what both Monel and the students were saying to stay with the flow of conversation. (It was a mercy that the UCNH language of instruction is French; if they had been speaking Creole, I would have been completely lost!). Also very helpful was the strong emphasis on learning English at UCNH. Their situation with English was the mirror-image of mine with French: very few of the students felt comfortable speaking in English, but almost all of them could get the gist of my comments--and then have them reinforced by Monel's excellent translation.
As we went through the week, many of the students experienced wonderful "aha!" moments, as they saw things in the text of Genesis that they had never noticed before. We ran out of week, long before we ran out of energy and enthusiasm!
It is a privilege to have the chance to work with such eager learners. I was especially moved by their energy and enthusiasm, in the light of the very tough context in which they live and work. Haiti has suffered terribly, for a very long time. The trauma of the 2010 earthquake (and subsequent cholera outbreaks) has been severe, but by no means isolated. I am grateful for the chance to encourage some of the young men and women who are clearly part of Haiti's hope for the future.
Thank you for the prayers and gifts by which you make this ministry possible!
P.S. In addition to the privilege of serving with dedicated Haitian leaders, it was a special treat to connect here with a number of others who are part of the team of encouragers that American Baptists make available to our Haitian brothers and sisters: Deliris Carrion (IM missionary working in relief and development in Port au Prince, especially with disabled children); Nzunga Mabudiga and Kihomi Ngwemi (IM missionaries working with UCNH and with the women of the Haitian Baptist Convention--thanks for the ice cream and fellowship, friends!!); Herb Rogers (former IM missionary to Haiti and now, in "retirement," serving on IM's volunteer mission support team [VIGM], as well as the UCNH board of directors); Allison Fisher (a nurse and friend from our home church who was volunteering here this week); and long-time friend and former Stanford and Fuller classmate, Vic Gordon (pastor of Cincinnati's Kenwood Baptist Church), who was at UCNH to teach and attend Board meetings (while a team from Kenwood and the last two churches Vic has pastored served in other ways). I am inspired by Vic's 20+ year commitment to come to Limbe to teach intensive courses and to support the work of Haitian leaders. The most special treat of all, though, was to share this trip with Cathy, my wife! While I was in the classroom with Monel, Cathy was volunteering with Monel's wife, Dr. Joselie Dormeus, in nearby Ebenezer Health Center (where she might have crossed paths with IM [and CBF] missionaries Steve and Nancy James, had they not been on U.S./Puerto Rico assignment this month). We are very grateful to our friends at Royersford Baptist Church for their generous help in covering Cathy's airfare to serve here!