FRERE ISMA 12 16 17
Frere Isma, officially Pierrisma Geffrard, was buried today in Carrefour Tintin, his funeral attended by a thousand people from every level of society, from the poorest of peasant farmers to a military honor guard and the three-mayor committee of the area’s little suburban county seat of Petion Ville. He was a humble, retired man whose appearance would draw no second glance.
Isma’s last days of suffering after a stroke were spent here in Fermathe in our little hospital. Eleanor Turnbull who at least seventy times had given her time and energy to help his people carry him over there several times a day to make sure he had efficient care. His son gratefully told the crowd of it. When he passed away, a mission pickup took his body home.
The eulogies varied from praise of his community leadership as his area’s elected representative under Haiti’s presidents over half a century, to his role of spiritual leader. One witness told how he would periodically balance project funds (the balance of which he produced from his pockets) always proved his meticulous honesty. Illiterate, he carefully proved that his work was exactly as prescribed in written records of allocated funds.
I was able to tell the crowd that I remembered a very small meeting grotto that had stood next to the position of the present church structure into which many had crowded to stand for several hours around Isma’s casket. Beside the church, there were now, thanks to him a constantly busy little road, a school and a clinic run by a resident nurse.
I had no time or need to tell how Isma had kept the population alive in lean years by rationing food and milk that we were able to find for him to handle, or how he had encouraged them to practice erosion control by using bushes when there were no stones to build a retaining wall. Or, how he had fought to keep seedling trees alive to provide vapors to seed passing mists and bring rain. We saw the results in exceptional gardens of produce on formerly dry, bare hillsides.
Years ago, Isma was redeemed by Jesus through visits to his Calebasse church three miles East of Fermathe whom Baptist Haiti Mission taught the basics of the Gospel and the Christian life. The pastors of the Calebasse district had since hiked miles over the hills to encourage Isma and his growing flock.
Grateful and to show his love, Isma came at least once a year to Fermathe, the distance of at least twelve miles of rough ground to touch base, with a turkey or a rooster on his arm. We turned the colorful bird loose in our little zoo until it was ‘in better shape.’ In recent years, motorcycles have made the hills around here buzz as the population now producing more can call a ‘taxi’ with their cellphones charged by a solar lamp! Always clever, Isma has been coming lately on one of his family’s taxis!
We will miss Isma’s cheerful encouragement but his eldest son trained here in our Summer Bible Institute will keep us appraised of the growth of the church in Carrefour Tintin until we meet him in Glory!