I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams... (Joel 2:28)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (February 16, 2011)
Pere Simone is an 81-year-old Celesian priest in Port-au-Prince. He's been helping children on the street for as long as he's been a priest, over 50 years. From three locations, he runs a school for 120 young boys and girls, ages 10-13.
Pere just goes to the markets and invites children to come to the school. He asks them to give up their knives and other weapons first. He wants them to get an education even though he knows some of them will learn to read just enough so that they can read license plates to deliver drugs.
But he's taught three of Haiti's presidents, too, though he says "they all forgot me."
Pere's school, Timkatec, is one of Mennonite Central Committee's partners in Haiti. When I was in the school, I saw evidence of MCC's canned meat, comforters and school kits. After the earthquake a year ago, Pere received additional help from MCC to help keep the school open.
After 50 years, Pere is still dreaming. He'd like to open up a camp where kids, rich and poor, can come together to play and to learn to know one another without fighting and to see what life can be like.
Pere says we all need to have faith in God and depend on ourselves as well. We can't just pray all day, he says, we need to call on ourselves as well as God. That's what he tell's the children, he says.
The teachers need to learn our way of educating, too, Pere says. Even when the children are just playing, teachers need to listen to each one, because its not just a group of children they are teaching, but each student is important.
At 81, Pere is stil working with street children and dreaming about how he can make their lives better. He's dreaming, depending on God and depending on himself to help make it happen.