Sunday, September 21, 2008

Haitian Singers Inspire The Faithful


NEW MILFORD, Conn.—For 14-year-old Peter Gaudette, a mission to Haiti with his mother in May was a life-altering experience.

He will never again take for granted food on the table, clothes on his back or a roof over his head. The poverty he saw was beyond anything he knew existed, and the special-needs orphans he cradled left a mark on his soul.

So the fact that there are still men and women who, despite lacking electricity, indoor plumbing, regular meals and a guaranteed education, can praise God inspires him to be thankful.

"It really changes your life if you go to a country like that," Peter said. "I was really surprised at how really poor they are. It hits you how good we have it."

On a recent Sunday night, Peter reconnected with his Haitian memories as he danced and sang along with a Christian Haitian a capella singing group, the Union Brothers Singers, a group of 12 brothers and cousins who left the hurricane-devastated country on Sept. 12 to perform for a week at various Methodist churches in the New York Annual Conference.

Along with his fellow congregants at the New Milford United Methodist Church on Route 7, Peter was awed by the gift of song these young men, whom he first heard at a church in Haiti, shared with the congregation in a special concert on Sept. 14 that cost nothing but a "love offering."

"They're really cool. Everybody will love them," Peter said during the potluck supper the church organized for the 10-year-old performing group before the hour-long concert. "They might be singing in Creole, but you'll understand what they're singing about."

Peter's mother, Laurie, said she was glad the Union Brothers agreed to come and perform because their music, and their lives, are such an inspiration.

Despite their struggles in one of the world's most impoverished lands, these men evoke a joy that belies their circumstances, she said.

While in Haiti, Gaudette said she and her son were invited to the home of lead singer Jude Exantus. She said homes there are very simple, and the families live in buildings built atop one another. A clothesline hangs from the roof near a growing banana tree. Their hospitality, though, was heartwarming, she said.

"I'd love to go again," said Gaudette, a Danbury Hospital nurse who is raising four children.

The Rev. Tom Vencuss, of the Wethersfield United Methodist Church, who arranged the troupe's concert schedule, said the members are devoted to using their talents to praise God and bless others in their home country with whatever proceeds they earn.

One of their primary missions is educational scholarships for Haitian children. In their first year together, they were able to send 10 children to school. This coming year they expect to afford tuition for 40 students. This summer, they offered a summer camp for 100 children.

As they ended their concert with their own variations of "Amazing Grace" and a Creole hymn, the members encouraged audience participation, which included young teens to senior citizens. Even New Milford's pastor, the Rev. Stefanie Bennett, moved to the beat.

"I think they were awesome," said congregant and church choir member Kim Birsen, as she stood in line to buy a CD of their recordings. "I can't believe they do it without music."

Source: NewsTimes.Com

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