Monday, November 30, 2009

Haiti pt 3 (The Blues Bros. & The Coupon Yankees)

Did you ever see the original Blues Brothers movie? Specifically the scene where they strapped a huge speaker to the "Bluesmobile" and broadcast info about their upcoming concert at "The Palace Ballroom" at Lake Wasapumani? Click here for the gist if you missed it.

So Saturday CB and I headed out to do some "Blue Brothers Evangelism" in this little Bobcat pictured above. In the back we put a Peavey KB100 amplifier with a microphone. The amp is plugged into a loud chugging and glugging gasoline-powered generator. Two Haitians are in the back as well taking turns on the mic. It sounds like auctioneers YELLING in a foreign language.

I'm driving. CB (Chris Herr) is riding shotgun and Haitian Pastor Garry is riding backwards on the dash facing CB. The generator is screaming. The Haitians on the mic are also screaming. Every bump we hit causes the reverb unit in the amp to loudly, how shall I say...GA-JUUUNG!!! (And there are bumps like...everywhere.) Look at the Bobcat: right behind Chris' and my head, all hell is breaking loose at very impolite decibels.

The roads. Actually, "roads" is too nice of a term. "Creek beds" or "things poorly masquerading as roads" would be better terms. It rained before we got there. Rain and dirt makes mud. Rain, dirt, and "tap-taps" (and other Haitian vehicles) makes for what seems like impassable slime pits dotted with bits of dry ground.

For two hours the 5 of us, generator and amp-from-hell, bounced our way through what must have been 5-8 villages. How no internal organs or derrieres were damaged remains a mystery.

In the final thirty minutes or so, I took to steering with my right hand and pulling myself off the seat (to spare myself the jarring) with my left hand atop the roll bar. At each turn I would think, "Surely God, this the way back to Double Harvest--right?"

We gave little flyers announcing the crusade in Coupon, to people we'd pass on the (ahem) "roads." In the villages we'd get them into as many hands as we could, often sloshing down little side roads trying to get deeper into the villages.

At one such time, we kind of ran into a "no outlet" section and were besieged with little kids clamouring all over the over-loaded Bobcat. It wasn't fun. It was one of those moments where it felt a little "Blackhawk Down." (Not angry at all--but overwhelming.) Pastor Garry instructed us to, "GO!"

Most if the people happily smiled and reached out to receive whatever we were peddling. But as this was my first experience into Haitian villages, a couple things hit me:

The first village we road through brought me intensely close to typical living conditions. It shocked me. I felt myself starting to choke-up...felt heavy emotions welling. I pushed them back down because we were on mission--this wasn't exactly the time and place to have a good cry.

It was my observation that as I encountered older people, they seemed more serious, less quick to smile. Back in Coupon, we'd mostly seen little kids and it seems little kids are the same the world over--laughing, smiling--kids. But out in the villages that day I saw a bit of the hardness of Haitian life in the eyes and faces of people who weren't kids anymore. Sobering.

In two hours we passed out hundreds of flyers, went partially deaf and somehow missed getting stuck in the mud. I said to CB as we sat a few seconds before challenging the last nasty muddy pass, "Ok, I'll drive, you pray!" He must have prayed well.


Our band: Dave "Spiderman" Bottomley keys, Miles Heaslip bass & vocals, "Pastor" Dave Horrein accoustic guitar & worship leader and me on drums. We would open up the crusade on the four nights we were there.

We were the loudest of all the musical acts for sure, so the sound of the mighty "Coupon Yankees" ushered people from their homes to the bean field of dreams. All the guys did a great job night after night of giving it their all and playing well with our ONE monitor---and putting up with my "drums." ;-)

Arthur kindly borrowed a set of drums from another church. They showed up just hours before we started on night #1. They were...ROUGH. I taped up the huge hole in the bottom of the rack tom and removed the denim strips from the bass & floor toms. Gave them the best tune I could and hit it. The best decision? Screwing the bass drum and bass pedal down to the stage so they'd stay put! (It wasn't my first rodeo.)

When we would play, the Haitian band would be just a few feet away in the wings (behind the projection screen). Over the week they really got hooked on the song "All We Need" by Charlie Hall. It really fit the crusades theme of "one thing." And when we'd get to the place in the song where we all dropped for a few counts then slammed back in together--the Haitian band thought that was the COOLEST! The last night we were there they were going NUTS on this tune. I will never forget that sight and feeling...

(Speaking of feelings, I'm listening to that song right now picturing what I just wrote about and tearing up...God is amazing.) Here--you can listen to it too.

Every night, "Pastor" Dave H, Dave B, Miles and me got to tear it up--- because of, together with, and for God. Amen. Oh yeah, and we even let the Canadian (JB) sing back-up a couple nights ;-)


At the end of the crusades, the Haitian band would do this insanely long alter call. (No joke--like FORTY MINUTES!) I'd jump in a give it an islandy kind of groove and we'd play...and play...and play...someone would address the crowd...and we'd play...and then when someone would come forward to accept Christ, the bean field and stage would go flippin "bug nuts!"

We'd play even louder and more excitedly--and I'd look out and HUNDREDS of Haitians would be dancing their faces off, singing in worship to response of someone accepting Christ. The few white people danced...well, "white-ily" amongst the better dancers and everyone blended into one. (What? Like I can dance?! Somebody had to play drums.)

I will never forget playing with the Haitian band as a bean field of people got down and danced and sang unto God--and I got to provide the groove. God is way too kind. And we were way to fortunate.

photo album 1, photo album 2, photo album 3