"They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."
This promise is part of the reading from Revelation for All Saints’ Day. Revelation and its themes of justice and deliverance are popular here in Haiti. Reminders that the end is nigh can be found almost everywhere you look in Port-au-Prince: on the hand-painted signage, sidewalk stalls, pasted-up sheets of paper and, somewhat alarmingly, on the local public transportation (“Repent ye, for the Kingdom is God is at hand,” read the beautiful French script inside the first rattly tap-tap I ever took in Port-au-Prince, and I can’t say it exactly filled me with confidence).
The most widely quoted verses from Revelation tend to lean heavily toward judgement and repentance: “Jesus is coming, are you ready?” is a particularly popular refrain. But it was the powerful and gentle promise quoted above that stood out to me as I prepared to leave for the town of Desarmes to spend the All Saints’ holidays.
I had spent three weeks in Desarmes during orienation, and during those three weeks we spent a lot of time walking. Desarmes is in the Artibonite valley, and much of MCC’s work in the Artibonite takes place in the poorest, least accessible communities in the high mountains.
Many of these communities can only be reached on foot, so we took the same routes local residents walk every day in search of food, water, and medical care. They’re not easy roads. They’re steep, full of loose rocks, and because of widespread deforestation on the high mountain roads, many of them are completely exposed to the full force of the midday sun. Without sufficient water or shelter from the sun, the heat can become very dangerous very quickly. And once these travellers arrive at their destination, there’s no guarantee they’ll find what they’re looking for. The available water may be unclean, the doctor unavailable, or the market flooded with cheap imported food, making it impossible for smallholder farmers to compete.
All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, dedicated as they are to the remembrance of the dead, have a reputation for spookiness. I was told these holidays weren’t Christian holidays, but voudou holidays, and to be honest, that’s why I wanted to spend my days off in Haiti’s voudou heartland. But when I went to church on November 2nd, All Souls’ Day, I found the congregants “dressed in white, with palm branches in their hands,” as the passage above reads a little earlier on, lighting candles in remembrance of those who had gone before them in Christ.
I remembered the promise in Revelation, and I hoped this might be an instance where the last book of the Bible wasn’t just some impenetrable allegory, but simply a promise for future generations in Haiti: that their fields and gardens will be plentiful and that their trees will bear fruit, that cholera will be eradicated from the river systems and clean water made available to all; that trees will spread across the mountaintops and provide shelter to all who walk the high mountain paths.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.