On Thursday, leaders from the community came together once again for a tractor meeting. This time, they gathered around the tractor itself.
After a few words from Manis, Williamso, and a few other community members, the tractor was taken down off of the flat bed.
It was quite literally a historical moment. This has been a dream talked about in our community for decades. When the people as a community decided to take the first step back in 2016, we had no idea how many years it might take to actually realize the project.
Meet Dieusel (standing in about the middle of the frame).
He is an old man living in a nearby neighborhood. When the Tractor Committee (Williamso, Almais, Lenique, Brunel, Jinel) first started collecting funds for the backhoe loader, he said, "People are always collecting money for things, and then taking the money for their own purposes. We'll never see that tractor." Why would he say something like that? Personal experience. Nobody blamed him. People have often collected money and made promises on which they never delivered.
On this day, we made sure Dieusel was there. He was the first person present to sit behind the wheel of the tractor!
When he got down, he said, "Now I can die! Look at me at my age--I've never even touched anything like this!"
(By the way, his name, "Dieusel," translated into English means "God alone." Coincidence? You decide.)
The next day, our friend Derek Conley began training three of our guys to operate and maintain the "Tractor." It has been so fun to watch it work! See it for yourself in the following videos.
"It's like watching a dream come true!"
This phrase (or something similar) has been repeated many times over the past several days.
There is a lot about this project that is so special; it is hard to express in a brief blog post, outside of context and culture. But, let me try to encapsulate some wisps of significance in the following words...
It's a big deal to us. This whole project put the power to make a difference into the hands of the people of our community. They decided what they wanted. They took the first step. They sacrificed out of the little they have to pool their resources and raise the first funds toward this project. They will help decide how it will be used for the benefit of the community. They own this. As Manis has repeated to them over and over again:
We respect you.
We listen to you.
We work together with you.
We can't succeed without you.
In a country wearied by exploitation and strong arming, this means a lot.
Williamso told the leaders: "This project happened because of unity--because we worked together."
That statement is significant in a community and a country that has been historically ripped apart by division and dissension, jealousies and hatred...everyone trying to get the best for themselves while the opportunity exists. The slogan on Haiti's flag is "Unity makes strength." Unfortunately, this combination is rarely seen in Haiti today.
But, it was seen in the Tractor Project.
The reality is that our community could probably never have gotten there on its own....at least not for many, many years. We needed those who were willing to give a hand up, who were willing to come alongside. Working together made it happen.
The following clip demonstrates the exultation of personal accomplishment together with the humility of thankfulness for others who helped along the way. (I apologize in advance for the lack of capable editing...as of the moment I have no program to help me out with that.)
In the end, the Tractor Project is a living testimony to the love and power of God. It would not have happened apart from those two things. Period. Whether people choose to trust Him or not, it is a signpost pointing to the power of the God who loved them enough to die for them, the One who is still reaching out to them in love.