its own set of traditions: some are fun, some silly, some perplexing, and
others destructive. Haiti is no exception.
Giving to Death
One of the ministries I am involved in is working with the women in the feeding program at the fishing village. This group of women comes together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to cook food for the elderly feeding program. Instead of receiving payment in cash they are each given food vouchers that they can use to buy rice and beans. They receive these vouchers every week, and therefore should be able to feed their family every week. What is perplexing is that there is a Haitian tradition called Sol that requires all the women that receive a consistent form of payment, in this case food vouchers, to give all of their vouchers for that week to one person. Each week a different women is chosen to receive all the vouchers, but meanwhile the rest of the women have nothing to eat for that week. It is up to that week’s chosen woman to share her food vouchers with the women if she so wishes, but she could also keep them all for herself.
What makes this tradition all the more concerning is that there are 14 women within this group, so it is only every 14 weeks that each women receives the group’s vouchers and can buy food for their family. To those of us outside of this tradition we cannot understand why the women would choose to give all of their hard earned money to one individual and basically choose to go hungry for the next 14 weeks. It is frustrating to see these women struggle because of tradition, but to them it is expected. So how does one try to help these women support themselves as well as support one another without discarding a cultural tradition that has been around longer than you have?
A Cycle of Murder
Within Haitian culture there is a strong emphasis on family and honor. So much so that when a man is killed it become the purpose of the dead man’s son to find the murderer and kill him. This then causes the son of the murderer to go and find the son of the other man and kill him. Thus creating a continuous cycle of death and destruction. It is heart breaking to hear about these sons that watch their fathers be killed simply because of honor and tradition.
There used to be a boy named J’ Moi that used to live here at the Mission. He had the devastating experience of watching his dad be pulled out of his house, bound with ropes and set on fire in the middle of the street. J’ Moi was filled with much grief and anger toward the men who killed his father. Filled with anger, he had every intension of following tradition and killing the men that murdered his father. It wasn’t until he met Kerry and Joy that he was able to be free from his anger and the expectation of tradition. J’ Moi has come a long way. He is only 17 years old and still has a lot of growing up to do, but thankfully God used Kerry and Joy to save this boy’s life. J’ Moi is one of the few who has been set free from the pressure of this destructive tradition.
My short time in Haiti has already created many questions about culture, tradition, and expectations. There may not be a direct answer to my questions. There may be no direct solution to the frustration with the traditions. There may be little I can do to change or help. I can only pray that God will reveal to them the truth of his forgiveness and his faithfulness.