Haiti After Dark


Pastor Villens and his family

This blog is a little long, so please forgive and read it all. The end is really important to a couple of very special people. I began this story on my recent trip Haiti, after a day of dealing with tropical storm Sandy.

We just returned from a long day in the mountains with lots of rain, and tropical storm Sandy on us here in North Haiti. Driving home tonight from Marmelade in the rain with no light to be seen anywhere, I had a sense of what rural Haiti is like after dark. Think about it. We drove 60 miles, and except for our head lights and an occasional flash light, candle or passing truck, it was pitch black outside the truck. Inside, comfortable with Nelson driving and Marcot in the back seat, we were dry and fine.  We slowly bumped along through puddles and potholes covering the 60 miles in three hours. As the rain let up, I rolled down the window to clear the fog off our front window and saw lots of people alongside the road sitting with friends just under whatever cover they could find, waiting for the storm to pass. The wonderful part of this is they were laughing and talking with each other as if everything was just fine. We traveled slowly enough that occasionally I could easily hear the women laughing and enjoying the evening together, but this wasn’t Central Park or a beautiful Florida beach. It was raining and dark and they are among the poorest of the poor. Why are they laughing, talking, visiting as if nothing was wrong? I asked Marcot if this is normal and he reported simply, yes it was. People just hang out together into the late evening until the air gets cooler and then they head off to bed. “But how do they walk?” I asked? It was so dark I would not be able to see my hand in front of my face. Don’t they fall? How do the get home or wherever they go? Marcot paused and said, “It is easy, their feet know how to walk in the dark.” What! That’s crazy. “No”, he said, “Haitian people in the country do it all the time. They know how to walk in the dark.” I thought about that the rest of the way home. How does one learn to walk in the pitch dark? Blind people use a white cane. The road is dirt and filled with ruts. Their feet know how to walk in the dark!

We passed many couples in total darkness holding hands and some walking on the pitch-black dirt road. No flashlights or lanterns, just walking and chatting with each other as our truck lights passed them. I commented to Nelson that it seems that a lot of “hand holding goes on after dark as well” and he smiled. I learned something on this trip down from the mountains that may seem simple and obvious, but it wasn’t to me. The materially poor in Haiti are all about relationships:  personal, warm, caring, time-consuming relationships. I see how meaningful and rich this sense of friendship is to those who call Haiti home. The relationships in Haiti after dark are very real.

In some ways our relationship to God is like knowing how to walk in the dark. We trust that when we take one step after another, God will lead us even when the outcomes are unsure or risky. We cannot know God’s full plan for our lives, yet He reveals it to us each day. Working in Haiti is wonderfully exciting, confusing, frequently frustrating and occasionally just plain disappointing. How can so many people cope with this abject poverty and be so prosperous in their relationships with each other? Here are two relationships that exemplify life in Haiti.

Pastor Pierre Villens and the Church in Marmelade

Here is the thing! During this entire time together, Pastor Villens never mentioned that he is homeless- not once. It came up in a conversation with Marcot. His wife and three children are back with her parents and he fends for himself staying with different church families. On the third trip to the school, when I discovered this, I asked him about it and he said he has bought a small piece of land not far from the church and his goal is to build a small two-room home on it. He had been staying with his family at the home of a widow but when she died, her family sold the house and they had to leave. I suggested he could move the family into the new storeroom we just built but he rejected the idea. There are others without shelter and he believes it would be bad for the church if he were seen as benefitting by living there. Each day his wife and the kids walk to the school and they are together as he works there, and at night they go their separate ways. Hear me when I say this man’s trust in God is so complete, so strong, that he is not depressed or down-hearted. He presses on, taking care of his flock, running a school, buying some land and trusting God to take care of today. I am inspired by Pastor V’s strength, his resolve, his faith and through it all, his joy. We could build him his two-room house for $5000.

Rose Marlaine Suprevil

Rose Marlaine November 2012

At the end of this school year, her final grades go to a college in Port au Prince where she would like to go next September. The cost for tuition is about $1500 per semester. In addition, she would need books and a monthly allowance of about $100 to live with other students. The cost is about $5000 for a full year of school. I tell you this story because her resolve, her hard work, even taking care of the other orphans at Bon Secours is inspiring. She would have every right to think life is too hard and give up trying, but that is not what I see. She is Haiti’s future: bright, hard-working and ambitious. I believe she can make a difference.

Like Pastor Villens, she is not afraid of the dark. Their feet know how to walk in the dark because they have been doing it their whole lives. They live in today, taking life one step at a time. The strength of their relationships with friends, family, and teachers and with the God they both love, propels them forward. It inspires that they simply need a hand up to change their reality – not a hand out with another generation of poverty to be their legacy. They are making a difference in Haiti today.


The year is closing in about a month. Betsy and I have been so thankful for your generosity this year. Kids have food for lunch every day, two new rooms have been added to the school, gardens are being improved, and teachers are being paid, all because of you. As the year draws to a close, I told you these two stories because neither of these needs is in our budget. It is our hope you can help us fund these needs with a year-end gift. As funds come in, we will do our best to provide a “hand up” to some special people.  Thank you in advance and have a blessed Christmas.

With deepest gratitude,


Jim & Betsy Willey


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