The year of Jubilee, according to Jewish tradition is a year of emancipation and restoration celebrated every fifty years. In its very essence it is a year of hope. The small section of Gonaives labeled Jubilee is the ghetto of Gonaives. All the behaviors and attitudes you would expect to find in the ghettos of America can be seen here too. Not all of Haiti is like Jubilee. Not all of Gonaives even. We are in the ghetto and the ghetto culture permeates our school. Bad language, bad attitudes. Hopelessness. Kids buck up instead of back down. The desire to be respected flows through their veins thicker than blood. How does a team of teachers go about breaking down the bad that has been built up in their lives. How do we build on a cracked foundation? How do we bind up what is being unbound at home?
This morning we all sat down to discuss effective and natural consequences to administer in the classroom. How to you reach a child who is being beaten at home and expects you to do the same thing? What punishments can you use to reach the child to show him hitting other students isn’t okay? How do you get a child to respect you and trust you when every adult in their life is worthy of fear, not respect? So we discussed possible consequences. Threw around ideas, thoughts and opinions. Where are we to be strict because they need consistency and discipline and where do we flex to express love? How do we get them to hear our whispers of love and encouragement when their life in this ghetto is screaming distrust, breeding uncontrollable pride and arrogance, and breaking spirits?
It is hard. Teaching these kids is hard. Every teacher expressed that opinion again this morning. If you don’t eat before you come to school, you will fall down in tiredness they say. Its true. On those moments when I am not fed by the Lord before school, my spirit is weak and weary. Taking heavy steps through the muck we live in, walking this out with them, it is tiring. And if it is hard for an adult, who has the Lord, knows hope and joy, to remember it and hold onto it on the outskirts of this life how much more it must be for my children to live day in and day out with it and not fall victim to its darkness.
Lord, please permeate the hearts of these children. We cry out to you Father of Adam, Isaac and Jacob. Be ever with them. Speak louder. Cry harder. Stay longer. So you outlast every darkness. So your light washes away the all the recesses of darkness. Take hold of the skirts of their minds and shake the wicked out of them.
Met Fresnel ends every class with a simple question. He asks his kids, “is there hope?” He doesn’t say hope for what. He doesn’t specify. Simply he wants to know from their mouths is there hope in their lives. Everyday his kids shout back at him “YES!” I join in unison with them. Yes, Met Fresnel, in the darkness, in the weariness, in the middle of the ghetto in one of the poorest countries in the world, there IS hope. Because He is here. Because God is here. Moving, breathing, taking hands, whispering in ears, outlasting every darkness, touching and changing hearts. Hope is here.