More than one hundred locals, wearing their Sunday best, sit on wooden pews in a dilapidated building, while gaping holes in the stone walls let in the morning light. The people reach their hands toward the red, white and blue tarps that make up the roof of the structure, their eyes closed, lost in prayer.
Maj. Brad Baumann, a native of Blue Earth, Minnesota, and 2nd Brigade Combat Team chaplain, was invited to preach at the Prophecy Church of God of Caradeux, in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 21. Baumann and his chaplain's assistant, Spc. Midine Beauvais, who grew up in Haiti, have spoken with many pastors in the area since arriving in Haiti, gathering information about people in need of shelter, food and medical aid. But, he found that delivering his first sermon to the Haitian people was a surprising challenge. "The challenging thing for me was to articulate a message in another language," he said, not wanting his message to be lost in the translation.
Planning ahead, he and Beauvais prepared two manuscripts, one in English, and one in Creole for her to translate during the service. "Beauvais put it in a way that they could understand," he said.
"Even in my rough Creole, they loved it," Beauvais said. It was a treat for the locals to have U.S. Army soldiers at their church, she said, which was made evident by the amount of handshakes and kisses they received after the service. The locals don't expect people in the military to be Christian and take time for God while on a mission, she said, so they appreciated that the soldiers attended the service at their church.
Following Baumann's portion of the service, the local pastor showed his appreciation by praying for the soldiers in attendance, for their comrades in Haiti, as well as U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, they prayed that as soldiers in Haiti begin to redeploy back to the United States, that God will keep them safe, Baumann said.
The chaplain is planning to speak at another local church next Sunday, but he is dedicated to his main purpose here in Haiti; giving religious support to his soldiers. "A chaplain's primary mission is to preach to his troops," he said. "I don't want to lose focus of that."