Port-au-Prince, Haiti—At a time when political instability mixed with a rise of insecurity sweep Haiti, the announcement for the 6th edition of Retraite Béni (Holy Retreat) at Ganthier was made. Due to the deteriorating situation in the country, the big question was: Will it happen? Suggestion to cancel the retreat was even mentioned. But the head of the committee held firm. Consequently, the retreat had to go on.
Retraite Béni or Holy Retreat is an experience that favors the renewal of young Christians as they grow closer to God. It also allows them to discover Haiti through local tourism. The Retreat also promotes Christian values while offering young worshipers a place to make new friends.
On Saturday February 6th, around seven-thirty in the morning, participants were rendezvoused at two meeting points: Complexe Delimart located at Delmas 30 and at Fontamara. I was one of the participants. We were all excited, for there was a consensus among us that the retreat was indeed going to happen. By 10 AM, every retreat goer was at hand, and off to the retreat, we went. Despite a tinge of fear that continued to linger, a sign of relief swept through. Cautiously optimistic, we held our breath, for we were yet to be out of Port-au-Prince. As soon as we reached La Providence University in Ganthier—a small town on the western edge of Hait—we were finally able to breathe. “We made it,” everyone exclaimed uproariously. Retraite Béni 2016 was on.
Upon arriving, the first thing everyone did was to look for a room. Just like last year, there were more women than men. Comparing to last year, however, the number of men had increased slightly. As we were settling in, laughter rang throughout the campus. We were happy to see our friends again and a lot of new faces. People were already taking pictures, from left to right. I also brought my brother along this year.
Hours later, as the sun was settling down and dusk was making its presence felt, it was time for the evening devotion with Maestro Nicky. As usual, no words could describe the atmosphere during that devotion.
Sunday morning, around five forty-five, a trumpet sounded the alarm. The author was none other than Daniella Pierre. I could hear the girls in the other room saying, “Se sam konnen.” (That’s what I know). Those, who were in the last year’s retreat, knew exactly the meaning of that alarm. It was time to wake up, time for devotion. Throughout the whole retreat, we were graced by pleasant mornings. It was a nice feeling for those who love the cool morning breeze, but it was a disappointment for those who couldn’t stand it.
Right after devotion, it was time for breakfast. Soup Joumou was served. Joumou takes its name from the French squash Giraumon extremely popular for its thick yellow flesh. Also on the menu were coffee and bread. Breakfast was soon followed by church service. Church was amazing. Daniella led the worship service, while Pastor Vital-Herne gave out the sermon. Romy Laguerre, Ginou Pierre and Jean Elis Brutus sang. After church, it was picture time.
Folks were joking, laughing and simply enjoying each other company. Throughout the retreat, our group of artists, consisting mostly of young men, entertained the participants. Their animation was always on point, as they sang, danced, and joked around. They were the top cream of the retreat. There was never a dull moment with those guys around.
In the afternoon, it was rehearsal time for those who wanted to participate in the evening concert. Rehearsal was wonderful. However, the highlight of the night was Daniel Carleus Jean of First Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince. He is the youth president. He was followed by Christian group Triad. I must say, comparing to last year, Triad style of performance has improved tremendously. The group left us in awe. If I start mentioning groups and individuals that made the night of rehearsal and concert a night to remember, then I’ll never finish. Let me simply say that it was a wonderful night.
After devotion on Monday morning, it was time to get acquainted through games, brought to us by Vilaire Noel. The games were Follow The Leader, Storytelling, Tick Tack Boom and The Lawyer. We all had great time. Later in the evening, right after the night devotion, it was announced that there will be a song writing/singing competition on the retreat theme Mwen se pitit Bondye (I am a child of GOD) for the gala.
Tuesday mid-morning, the fun continued with the games Clin D’œil or Blink of an Eye and Follow the Leader. The atmosphere was one filled with laughter. A little later, after lunch time, it was announced that we will be visiting Lake Azuei on the border with the Dominican Republic. As we were approaching, the lake sprawled like a sea and, on its shore, wind gusts wiped out the foams off the shallow waves. It didn’t stop us, however, from playing volleyball. Boys versus girls, and of course the girls won fair and square. It was a fun moment. Noticeable was the performance of Karl Foster Candio. A first-time player in the sport, he stunned everyone.
Once back to campus, it was time to get ready for the evening gala. Gala started around midnight, with people singing, performing sketches etc.… Dinner was served around two to three in the morning. With this late dinner, it was the end of our last night in La Providence University in Ganthier.
Our last morning devotion will always be a moment that will forever engrave in our memories. Both Daniella and Ginou Pierre did a wonderful job. Rivers of tears streamed down many cheeks. To some, it was tears of joy. To others, it was just a factored-in chagrin.
I conclude this note with some warm accolades to the musicians, for without them, morning and evening worships would not have been this perfect. It was a wonderful feeling when you can affirm that God is and forever will be there for you. At the end of the day, you will always remain His beloved child. Needless to say that we left the campus with a bit of sadness in our hearts. Our spirits, however, has been rejuvenated by the firm assurance that we were ready to face any obstacle that may lay ahead.
Note: Claire Bijou is CSMS Magazine’s Port-au-Prince correspondent where she has filed this report. Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/csmsmagazine