Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day Three

Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me...Bless His holy name.

Today was our time to be at the home for sick and dying babies. What an honor to be allowed to come into their dwelling. The nuns and ladies do an amazing job of caring for these little ones.

The main floor is a maze of small rooms, two of which are dedicated to the babies. One room is about 14' by 18' with 15 tiny metal cribs lined end to end and side by side. The second room is about 10' x 10' with 9 cribs. My picture of this before I went was a large room with no adult activity...just babies alone in a cavernous existence. God bless these gentle ladies who care for these little ones. They bustle around them all day. Feeding and changing and delivering medication. There is so much to do with many of them on respirators or feverish. Every half hour or so they put on a children's music tape..ABCs or other children's tunes. Healing Haiti is allowed to come in and help the nuns by feeding or changing or simply holding and talking to the children.

I had sealed my heart for this trip. Over the year, I have allowed my heart to seal itself from pain and suffering. It helps to survive in an overwhelming world and corporate America jobs. But sadly, the best part of ME is safely on ice, behind locked doors.

I can feel my heart begin to thaw not only from the heat of the day (holy moly, its hot) but from tiny hands and huge wide feverish eyes. I have given of ME.... I always worried I would run out of ME...that "they" would take the best of me. I've known that I am supposed to be God's funnel for His love but... How difficult to remember that... until you are put in a situation where you can do nothing but sit and give a child love...too hot to run energy to play anyway...just sit.... and love.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mans search for meaning....

For over thirty years my lay ministry in church consisted of assisting parents in guiding their teenagers through the rocky years of adolescence. Some responded to the adventure of scouting, some to the discipline and focus of sports and some to extreme high adventure. We once found a service opportunity for a week at a state hospital for mentally retarded (the term used at the time).
For every child that found real purpose in life, confidence and respect for themselves in serving others, uniting in a worthy goal of being the best they can be at something or touching someone's life with the love of God through our willing hands, we rejoiced and thanked God with joyful hearts that we could be instruments in His hands with those sweet, choice souls that He had entrusted to us.
Some were harder to reach. We never gave up but unfortunately some of them gave up on us and went on into adulthood learning only by the school of hard knocks that God designed as his "reform school" of life.
I still follow these children into adulthood, especially our "problem children". We hope they have found meaning in their life and a self respect that God wants for all His children.

Turn about...

One of the great experiences that we have enjoyed on this Healing Haiti trip is that our team leaders have included parents on the trip. My daughter Karen, invited me and her mother-in-law Jan , and Jenn invited her parents Lynne and Bill.

I heard about Haiti from Karen and she was so excited to share her transformative experience with me. As much as I tried I could not get into it like she did. I also found another friend Jan, who had returned from Haiti who too could not wait to share her experience with me. Everyone who went was somehow transformed. They were revitalized. Life suddenly meant more than before. Some things were not as important as they once had been. An energy and purpose infused the lives of those who returned.

My sons would talk about the dramatic change in their sister's life jokingly saying, "I hope they don't sell their house and live in a shack and dedicate all their money to charity." They too knew something had permanently changed. And it was good.

Today we went to Cite Soleil. The poorest area in a country of nine million. 80% in the country are in poverty and 50% in abject poverty. I learned what the term abject poverty meant today. I will not dwell on that. What is not expected in that squalor was the bright eyes of the children. The little ones tugging on my shorts wanting to be held and loved. Their bright eyes flashing a deep soulful gratitude that can only come from a child.
An eight year old child Cece that Karen bonded with on previous trips, the last of 9 children, came to the water truck and they were reunited. She had prayed for this little one for eight months, and to her delight, she was doing well, going to school and had the real hope for a better life. Child after child would say in English, their native language is Creol, God is good, in all their little ways in gratitude for the water and the love we brought.

A (semi)crusty old man was touched today, in a way no telling of the experience can.

The torch has been passed. My daughter is now dreaming up ways to guide her parents (and others) through the rocky years of middle age. Hoping somehow she can be an instrument in Gods hand to reinvigorate the purpose and meaning in the lives of those she loves. Hopefully I will get it and not be her "problem child", relegated to the school of hard knocks.

The miracle has happened again. Where the giver and the receiver are both blessed.

Greetings from Healing Haiti (aka "Adult Spiritual Rehab")
Paul (Dad)


Day Two

Today was Water Truck day. After a breakfast of eggs, pancakes, mangos, oranges and avocados we prepared our shirts for the day. We were all in Healing Haiti t-shirts (easier to keep track of a group and help identify the group). But knowing it would be hot out, we cut the sleeves off the t-shirts and tied the shoulders with the hem of the sleeves (through the neck, under the shoulder of the tshirt and out the now cut-off sleeve then tied in a knot.)
We loaded into the tap-tap (a truck with bench seats running from front to back in the bed of the truck and surrounded by thick metal mesh with a locking door and a roof.)

City Soliel is our destination. The slums of the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The main streets are still there but peppered with potholes and road heaves. People are everywhere. The tent homes which crowd up to the road are augmented with metal, plastic and random boards. Women bathe in front of their tents right on the street. Young children run naked or wear a random assortment of clothing donated by various charity organizations. It is not unusual to see a Disney princess shirt or Old Navy shirts on the children or even the adults.

We go to where the water trucks fill up and wait. We sit on a dusty road by a barbed wire fence that circles a school. When the truck is full, we follow it to our first stop. #17. It is 10:00am and the sun is HOT. When people see the truck they come running with their buckets to get in line. The typical receptical is a five gallon bucket (ala Home Depot). Sometimes there are kiddy pools, plastic gas cans or barrels. They hook up a hose to the truck that is about six inches wide with large stiff ribs on the outside. Once they turn the water on full (and don't turn it off until the water is gone) ...the trick is to fill bucket after bucket and let as much water as possible get into the buckets and not on the ground. It takes two people to handle the hose and two people pulling buckets into position. The rest of the 11 member team are helping carry buckets to peoples tents or playing with the children. So often this is the only gentle touch these little ones will receive.

After 45 minutes the water runs out. There were still people in line who will not receive any water today.

We head back to the dusty road to wait for the water truck to fill. It takes about an hour.

We make a second and third run to different parts of the city.

The people in the first two stops are gentle, kind, grateful and polite to each other. The children are beautiful and smiling; the adults smile and wave...bon jour! They have nothing ....but what they do have are beautiful spirits. Humbling.

The third stop is totally different. The street is narrow and lined with tiny businesses housed in remnants of houses that have survived the earthquake and the hurricane. The people are beyond hope... all the way to angry. The men are home and stand around harrassing some of the team.."you don't bring money for me or jobs so what good are you".....and the team stays huddled close to the truck. It is hard to see this since the first two stops were so gentle. Kind of resets your emotions....It is getting towards evening in City Soleil and time to head quickly back to the Guest House.

There are personal stories of the team members that make us smile and cry.

Jan fell in love with little Reuben who was about 4 or 5. He had a malformed foot with which he struggled to walk. But he was such a little love and clung to Jan....soaking in her love.

Andy received a love letter from a young lady who wanted to experience his love and could he give her $25.

Larger women are obviously a rarity in Haiti but considered desirable...So Lynne got kudos on her Boote along with one marriage proposal.

Maureen and Heather looked like a climbing tree with a child in each arm and one riding piggyback.

It was a very difficult day...but we are now sitting in the Guest House grateful to have what we have back home and thankful that we could give (at least our time and our love) to the poorest of the poor.

Words of the Day: humbling, powerful, grateful, sadness, incredible, hope, making a difference, thankful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Arriving in Haiti

Well...we made it to Haiti. Arrived at the airport at 3:45am for the 6am flight to Miami and from there to Haiti. We each have a carryon plus a backpack which is our clothes, toiletries and snacks for 8 days. Our checked luggage carries all the donations that people have made for this trip. 11 people...37 pieces of luggage total. A mountain of luggage.

The first view of Haiti is of dry, brown mountains all up and down the coast. Walled green yards come into focus as the plane descends towards the airport. We are the last of 3-4 flights that arrive each day when we finally land at 4:30pm. The plane is surprisingly large from Miami to Port-au-Prince...a 747 with nearly 200 Haiti!! This happens two to three times each day. Some business people, some mission folks like us, some natives. Incredible!

We deplane and walk through the tiny airport, down the escalator to the bus which takes us to customs. Customs is in a large warehouse type room with the three customs agents dividing the room in half ....on the other side is the luggage pickup where chaos reigned!! Everyone was trying to get their luggage to carts and there were Haitians there waiting to help load the luggage, hoping to get a tip for helping. People yelling, and pulling... then we walked about 100 yards to the waiting truck belonging to Healing Haiti. Exciting....overwhelming....

The ride to the Guest House is eye-opening. Poverty is indescribable. I will never complain about Minnesota potholes again...You could lose a truck in some of those. A bone-jarring ride through the tent city. Tents snugged up to tents snugged up to still more tents. Children waving hello from the doorways. 24/7/365 camping.

The Guest House is dim and cool with fans blowing on the seating area. The bedrooms are airconditioned (thank the Lord) and we bunk 4-6 to a room. The dogs guard the walled yard but they love your shoes for chew toys.

Dinner is cooked by Fonis and her helper and Jean. Plaintains, Chicken and rice, rice and beans, spinach, cabbage, local beer....DELICIOUS!!

We end the evening talking quietly...anxious about tomorrow with the water trucks. The heat will be about 90 degrees.

Some folks drove into town with our local liaison, Jean, to experience the market. I'm going to bed.

Welcome to Haiti!

welcome to Haiti

Team Jenn and Karen have safely arrived ! We have a great team of eleven and a bonus to have Linda Blesener joining our team this week - As we descended, the word that came to mind was beautiful- the green hills and mountain ranges- as we approached the airport you could see the landscape change and become more of what I was expecting- The airport experience and the ride to our guesthouse was more than you can be prepared for- it makes me excited to get back out there tommorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two more weeks and we will begin our journey to Haiti! I am so excited to be able to introduce my family and friends (old and new) to a country that captured my heart the very first visit.

Father, I pray that you would prepare each of our hearts so that we can hear your whisper both at home and in Haiti. You chose each of us for this trip for a reason; you have a plan. Let us be obedient and surrender our will to you. In Jesus Name, Amen