Mesi Papa

Praise and thanksgiving in Hinche, 1990
Praise and thanksgiving in Hinche, 1990

In the fifteen minutes I have before Easter dinner at my in-laws, I want to write about Haiti. Fifteen minutes is a pittance of an offering to think about the nation, the neighbor who taught me so much about faith and persistence and love and generosity. I only visited Haiti one time…in 1990 just at the very beginning of the Lavalas movement that brought democracy to Haiti with the election of Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Ah, but politics is not where I want to spend my fifteen minutes.

I want to write about people and God and creation today and offer these fifteen minutes as thanks to Haiti for helping me deepen my faith, open my mind, and soften my heart. Two decades later, my trip to Haiti is still unfolding.

One thing I learned there – in Port au Prince and in the Central Plateau, from sharing meals and celebrating mass, and from listening to history told by Haitians is that Haitians are an Easter People. They are a people who rise up, a people who believe in the promise.

Not only do they believe, they work. Hard.

When I was there, we met women involve in micro-business, farmers irrigating and conserving, and families holding regular worship and Bible study in small groups – the Little Church. Ti L’Eglise.

Outdoor evening mass in Hinche, 1990
Outdoor evening mass in Hinche, 1990

From Haitians, I learned a simple hymn that I sing almost every day – to myself, to my dog, to my daughter, to nobody. The words are:

Mesi, ooooooo, mesi.
Mesi Papa jodie a et pou tou tan
Mesi Papa jodie a et pou tou tan

All it means is: Thank You.

Thank you, oh, Thank you.
Thank you Father for today and for always.
Thank you Father for today and for always.

Central Plateau, Haiti, 1990
Central Plateau, Haiti, 1990

From Haiti, I learned that water is a gift from God to be treasured and shared and used wisely. I know it will seem like nothing, but I am a better water user since visiting Haiti. Before then, I think I really took water for granted. After visiting Haiti, I started to realize how the James River keeps me healthy in a very present, very real way every day.

Beautiful Haiti, 1990
Beautiful Haiti, 1990

As a result of the 2010 earthquake, a group of Haitian-Americans living in Richmond came together to raise awareness about Haiti and the long-standing connection between Richmond and Haiti. The Adopt Haiti Project serves as a clearinghouse for information and resources for Haiti. Adopt Haiti is one more example of how the Haitian people rise up from whatever has put them down.

What Adopt Haiti reminds me of, though, is that none of us survive or thrive alone. We all need each other; all of us are in all of this together.

So, from Haiti I learned to say, “Mesi, Papa!” Thank you, Father (And Mesi, Mama!)
Thank you for the river, for the sunshine, for my family, for a new chance to be a better person, for this day and for all days.

Pa Lage Ayiti; don’t let Haiti go!


2 thoughts on “Mesi Papa

  1. Hi Julia – thanks so much for your nice words. One day when we see each other, I’ll teach you Mesi Papa! It’s such a sweet balm for the heart and soul.


  2. I want to learn to sing that song too! Thanks for your always beautiful posts, Gigi! Loved your recollection of Haiti.


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