“What can possibly happen to make life better for the community here?”
That is a question I have asked myself and the Good Lord every time I have visited the very remote village of Platon Balai, which is home to St. Simon & St. Jude, the farthest-flung Episcopal church on la Gonâve and our (St. Andrew’s Anglican, Little Rock, AR) sister church.
The village is so remote and so poor that even our Haitian colleagues in Anse-a-Galets are stumped by this question.
There are no easy answers and there are plenty of obstacles, but I believe there is also great reason for hope.
One of my favorite memories of a trip to Platon Balai took place in March 2013, when a team from St. Andrew’s went out to help Boss Therlange and a local crew of workers to get started on putting gutters on the church building after the local community told us that building a large cistern was a very high priority for them because the closest water source was an hour’s walk away to Gros Mangles. We asked the community what they could contribute to this important project. Père Soner, Père Vil’s predecessor, had observed that “God had blessed Platon Balai with a lot of rocks!” and the community said they couldn’t contribute financially, but they could certainly gather some of those blessed rocks.
Early one morning, as our team slept on floors in the church and school, we were awakened by the sound of many footsteps and looked out to find that the whole community, from very young to very old, had come out to gather rocks. We scrambled out to join them, and by noon the industrious crowd had gathered two large piles of stones, enough for a great start to build the much-needed cistern. By God’s grace, some large anonymous donations allowed St. Andrew’s to send the funds to complete the construction, and by the time I returned to celebrate the Feast Day of Sts. Simon and Jude in October 2013, it had become a reality.
But the work started with the community and their willingness to contribute what they could.
I still have no easy answers for Platon Balai, but I see in that community the willingness and grit to work together toward important goals. Sometimes, God blesses you with a lot of rocks, and you just have to find a way, with His help, to move them.
Sandy Chai, Little Rock Arkansas