Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day Seven

No work today...Sunday. Late breakfast and then Fan-Fan led us in a worship service in the courtyard of the Guest House.  Fan-Fan will be the minister for Grace Village and he is studying at a local university.  His sermon is on following God.  He spoke of the prodigal son and Ruth and Naomi.  He is passionate and will make an awesome minister.  We have all followed God's call to come to Haiti.

It will be exciting to see where the ripples of this trip will go...a body which is in motion stays in motion...we make our plans and then don't hold onto them too tightly in case God wants to tweak them.  It hurts to have them ripped out of our hands if we hold too tightly.  It's like dancing (which is on my mind since we Salsa'd last night in the kitchen).  If you are too stiff, your partner cannot lead you in the step on each other's toes and run into each other and it is rather jerky and awkward.   But if we stay loose, and "feel" the pressure of a hand here and the push of palm there, it becomes something beautiful.  If we listen to God's push here and pull there, it becomes something useful and beautiful in his hands.

Today we shop.  We are on our way to the top of the mountain.  We stop at three stands on our way up where we can purchase our souvenirs.  Beautiful metal work, wood work or jewelry.

We drive downtown Port-au-Prince.  You can see some of the downtown buildings still canted precariously over the sidewalks.  This was once a beautiful downtown and now it is all street vendors.  99% of the buildings left are uninhabitable. Even the president's palace is still in shambles.  The president himself lives in a tent out back of the white-house-like structure.

We drive towards the top of the mountain.  Jennifer points out that there are no longer tents in this particular area which is now a city park....grassless and littered with concrete but there are people there doing what people all over the world do in parks....strolling, talking, sitting, playing games.  Three areas along this road have now had their tent dwellers moved to livable housing by the government.

I feel that there is hope for Haiti.  If you would have asked me on Day Two - water truck day to Cite Soleil, I would have way, it is in the world... but there is the key word, "world"...there is now way in the world that they can recover...this will take a miracle.

My word of the day was Metamorphosis.  In it's current state, Haiti looks like the cocoon which the caterpillar has built to dwell in while makes its changes.  on the outside, it looks dirty and rough and unlovely.  But slowly, it begins to change.  I have hope that some day, Haiti will show us what it is they really are.  Beautiful people with a rock solid faith in God and their Saviour, Jesus.

I think Healing Haiti team's must be like that...those that come down to Haiti....Some faith-filled, some not so much, some out to change the world their way, some searching for...."something"...not even knowing what.   Not so great to look at.

What joy the leaders must experience to take 10 raw recruits and watch the transformation....the Metamorphosis. What joy must our Heavenly Father feel when he sees that we came to make a difference to Haiti ...and in reality, Haiti has made a difference in us.

Funny how it works that way....sort of like a dance.     


Day Six-Part Two

We get to return to Cite Soleil today for another water truck truck-two stops today. We will visit the first two stops that we did on Day Two.  It will be good to see our new friends again.  How quickly we form those relationships here...if you picked up a strange child in the states, you would have all kinds of ugly come down on you...but here, it is a normal occurrence.  Children wander like our parents and grandparents did when they were growing up.  One of the Minnesota workers was holding a three year old.  When the water runs out, we get into our top-top and leave.  "what shall I do with this little one?  where is her mother?" "Oh, just set her down, she will find her way home" That is the way. sometimes that is how it is with God.  sometimes I feel we get in the way of how God works in our lives or the lives of someone we love.  sometimes....God says, just set her down (surrender), she will find her way home to me.  I don't need you to help... just now.  We walk such a fine balance of helping (signing up to work with Healing Haiti) and surrendering. How will we know?  Listen.... we had to listen to our leaders in Haiti.  When they said move, we moved.  When they said wait, we wait.  It was for our safety and we worked as a single unit.  Listen for God's voice...when He says move, you move....when He says wait, you wait.

We had a couple workers from another organization with us today.  While they worked in Haiti, they were newly aghast at the conditions in Cite Soleil.  Paul, said that we had become used to the garbage and the intense crowdedness and the men standing around and the women and young children hauling these heavy buckets of water....We were looking at the people... but all of this other "junk" is still there.  It kind of reset our eyes for a moment.  Yes, we are dong a good thing bringing free water (which costs us $7 per 3500 gallons of water - one truckload...ONE venti caramel machiatto and a scone)....yes we are doing good but in the end, we should remember that these conditions are still NOT right.

One of the Haitians was explaining that Port-au-Prince was designed to hold 200,000 people.  There are 3 million people in the city. And no structure is over one story tall. no highrise holding several hundred people in a 3000 square ft footprint....ALL of them are ground level. Imagine the crowding....

Some good things happen... Jan's precious one Reuben was once again in her arms at the first stop.  Our guest worker came up and asked what had happened to his little foot.  his grandma said that he had been burned when he was three months old (his foot has fused up against his lower leg).  Soon she came back  and said that she knew of a friend in the Dominican Republic who was an Orthopedic Surgeon who operated on these kids for free.  She would put us in touch with him.  Jan talked to the grandma and said is we did this then she would have to make sure Reuben went to school. Knowing Jan, she will make sure that somehow this happens-sponsorships and keeping track through Healing Haiti.  He may have a chance.  Changing Haiti back to Haiti one child at a time.

We rest for a couple hours at the Guest House...our bodies are fatigued....our emotions are raw.

We will visit the Home for sick and dying babies for a couple hours this afternoon.  The heat feels more intense today in the small cramped rooms. We help with feeding time (tonight it is a broth with bits of chicken and potatoes) and then we take the babies out to the courtyard for some sunshine and cooler air since the bigger kids are off of school.  This facility not only houses the sick babies but orphans and a school (for both orphans and local children).  It was nice to see some of the babies we bonded with a few short days ago look better and hopefully they will go home soon.  Some will go home to their Heavenly Father where they can sit in his arms as much as they want with cool breezes blowing. Some will go home to their families here on earth.

It is harder to leave, today.  I know that they are in good hands (the workers there are awesome) and that they have other organizations coming to help.  But it is hard to walk the narrow broken path, down then up, past the wire fence used as a drying rack for the dozens of tiny cloth diapers, along the cracked and crumbling concrete walls ( a ghost of what was), past the slowing evolving new construction (a hope of what is to come) to the huge wooden gate....knowing some of us will never see this again.  Lord, let us not forget. Place the salve of your love on our broken, wounded hearts.  and even tho' we will heal, we will carry that scar, that memory, forever. .... au revoir, mon petits. (good bye, my little ones)

But God has sent Jean to care for us.  He makes sure everything runs smoothly and he cooks us healthy meals and has such a caring heart.  We have Creole chicken with rice, tacos with rice and meat and beans.  Spaghetti.  Creole eggs and pancakes.  With the overwhelming amount of sights and sounds and experiences that are SO different to us, the american style meals helps keep us grounded and stable and healthy and our tummys happy.

SALSA DANCING NIGHT!!!  Jean will give us a Salsa dancing lesson tonight.  Our working days in Haiti are done.  Sunday is a day of sightseeing and the market so we play tonight.  The kitchen table is moved and the "dance floor" is created.  One, two, cha-cha-cha.  Andy, Paul and Bill are good sports and give it a try.  Jenn and Karen are old pros and look great with some of the advanced moves.  Carmen Miranda come to life!!! You could just imagine the Fruit Hat on their heads.  We laugh and whoop and holler and siphon off some of our intense emotion into the dancing.  It doesn't take long before we are spent and dripping with sweat.  Meci, Jean for taking care of our bodies as well as our spirits.

Bon Soir, mon petits.... (good night, my little ones).  May you have only good dreams and my God hold you in the palm of his hand.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day Six- Part One

            Elder's School
          Love and Loss
           CIte Soleil
      YvoNne's Orphanage
             Grace Village

             Home for sick and dying babies
 Elder CAre
          GuIllame's Orphanage
           hOt (did I mention the heat?)
             Roads with dust


Day 5

Healing Haiti is building a small city - 15 acres in the mountains outside Port-au-Prince.  A colorful, safe, walled/gated modern home for 40+ orphan children plus two house parent families with a play ground and a cottage industry that, like the disciples in the Bible, will give them food to sustain themselves and their work.  A Tilapia fish farm from which the waste is siphoned to supply water and nutrients for a hydroponic vegetable garden.  What an amazing idea.  When we visited the orphans at Giullame's yesterday we saw some of the orphans who will be moving there this month.  They will no longer be crowded 20 to a room but each have their own bed in a nice new bunk bed.  8 to a room.  A lunch room/school room/church that looks much like an American lunch room.  I am so excited for these children to have this.  It fits into the culture of Haiti and yet is a picture of what can be for them.  Clean, safe with room to play and live. Changing Haiti back to Haiti 15 acres at a time.

We make a quick stop at the market to buy some food for the elderly who we will visit next; bananas, hot dogs and a bottle of Pepsi.  We have brought sardines from home for them as well.  We have 6 homes we will visit.  There is a man who is in charge of the elderly program who is with us and will find their homes for us.  If he had not been there, we could have wandered forever.  Every walkable path looks identical to the one 20 feet either way.  Some of elderly live in tents, a couple live in a small cement home that measures about 8x8 which HH has helped them rent or in one case, for the woman with the older child whose seizures have rendered him incapable of speech and have locked his limbs into a rigor.  Their half dozen chickens roam their tiny dirt yards.  They ask us to pray and sing with them.  I grab the hand of the seizured young man while we sing and make small conducting movement along with the music.  When we finish, I put his hand back on his chest.  We begin the second song and he raises his hand towards it again...I grasp his hand and we conduct the second song I have done so often with my own children and grandchildren.

So here we are standing in a place of dwelling that is smaller than most of our bathrooms, in a dirt yard that would fit in my walk-in closet, singing songs of praise to God for his love and care.  These precious people are so grateful to God for what they do have.  I am so humbled and so honored to be in their lives for 5 minutes.

Some of the elderly, like Angeline, is doing well and wears a gown sewn by one of the team members who have come before us.  She looks lovely sitting in her place on the floor.

They take their sardines and tuck it under something so that no one will steal their special treat.

Our last stop of the day is at Yvonne's orphanage.  It is tucked amongst the tents and cement dwellings...we weave our way through the cactus "clotheslines"...cactus plants with sheets and shirts and at least one pair of tiny Dora the Explorer tennis shoes drying in the Haitian sun.

So many children (40) little space (20x20 play yard).  They sing songs for us about praising Jesus and we sing songs for them about praising Jesus then we break into our teams similar to yesterday...a dental station to identify potential teeth problems, an English writing station on the little dry erase boards (a big hit), a menstruation education station for the older girls and an Art Adventure station.   Rotations! Exactly like I designed for our physicians that we teach at work.  It works for MDs as well as tiny children from a third world country.  I LOVE education!!!

Paul and Jan and Andy have their routine down and get through everyone including the kitchen staff.  Their efforts will be handed off to another medical team in the near future.

Maureen and Bill are a huge hit with their dry erase boards and since paper is so precious, these little ones can write to their hearts content.  Some make their way back for a second session.  One young girl obviously needed some "man time" and sat next to Bill to share her work.

Heather and Karen and Fan-Fan (our male interpreter) have given such a gift to these young women.  They will not be frightened of what is a natural process for their bodies - menstruation.  They love Fan-Fan who is a frequent visitor and he made giving potentially embarrassing information a safe environment in which to learn about this.

Art Adventure...sounds relatively benign in a world that has nothing but they also NEVER get to see anything other than painted flowers on their walls or someone's attempt at painting a human being. This is real art and this group was fascinated by the two pictures we brought. Some were not interested but there were a few boys who came back to talk more about the art.  "why is this here?"  "why is he holding that?" "who is that?"  One young man, who's English was good enough to help translate for some of the younger boys. He was very smart and processed the information and then talked about some higher level thinking.  He started to read about the picture but the children wanted to see some of the other pictures.  He got interrupted.  We asked him if he was interested in reading more.  Yes, if you will send me this book.  Jenn said, "you may have this one".  "Meci!!!"  he quickly went and hid the book so no one would take it and he could read it later.

One little girl has a terrible split in her lip from drying.  We happened to have a small tube of medicated lip balm which we gave her and she immediately hid so no one would take it from her.  Soon she will be able to smile again without pain.

We are almost full to overflowing with emotion.  These children will not be moving to Grace Village because the director prefers to keep them where they are at.  there are no words.....

Driving back to the Guest House, we make a brief stop at the mass grave from the earthquake which is coming up on its two year anniversary.  Officially between 200,000-300,000 people perished in the quake.  Jean feels that this may be very short of the actual number.  Half of those that perished and could not be identified are buried in this mass grave now covered with white rock and tiny black wooden crosses, most of which are now lying broken on the ground.  We face the grave and the grass-covered mountains.
"I lift my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help."Psalms

At our backs is the most beautiful view of grassy knolls rolling to the ocean.  It looks like we are on the edge of a resort property.  The sun is setting in a blood red flame.  "My blood is shed for thee".

This has been the most emotionally draining day so far and we are empty....which is where God wants us...empty of ourselves and our "stuff" and all the junk that we carry around with us.  A truly usable vessel for Him...He can fill us all the way to the top with HIS love, HIS hope, HIS smile, HIS strength.  Just like the water buckets....all the way to the top and spilling over. His water of life is constantly pouring out just like the water truck...never stopping...gushing....we just need to continue to aim it at whoever He brings into our path...The Water of Life....sustaining, critical to survival

Father, help me to continue to be an open vessel for the outpouring of your love.  Use my broken vessel...I hurt.   Duct tape me so I am usable.  (p.s. We've been using the green duct tape...I'm kind of partial to that color).


Friday, December 2, 2011

A softened heart.

This week I have been blessed with the opportunity to lead this amazing team of family and friends. I love that I am able to watch each of them get touched by different things. God works in each heart so differently and how awesome to see hearts soften and change. My parents are on this team and it is their first trip to Haiti. I love that I am able to share Haiti with them, to have them understand why I feel the way I feel, and to have it touch their hearts too. It is priceless.
This trip has been different than any other for me. God has been softening my heart and this softness has opened my eyes to an injustice. Everywhere I look I see boys and young men with eyes that seem to look at you and say, "I am lost," "No one sees me," "I have no value." I look at these boys and I see children of our Almighty God. They have value because of His love. I hate to see the shadow of those lies in their eyes. I am unable to help every boy in Haiti but I have decided that each boy that God puts in front of me will be able to see from my eyes, God's love. I can be the eyes of Jesus in Haiti by truly looking into each boy's eyes and offering them acceptance for who they are right now. I can be Jesus' hands by reaching out and touching each of them. I can deliver God's unending love through touch. I believe that touch can heal, especially the wounds you cannot see. In our morning devotions we talked about the book, "Holy Discontent. In it the author references Popey and how he was slow to anger but once he did get angry, he would say, "That's all I can stanz and I can't stanz no more". He would then open a can of spinach, get super-human strength, and save his girlfriend. The author said this is similar to what happens when a Christian's heart and God's heart align on the same injustice. The Christian looks at what is happening and says, "I can't stand this!" The Christian can then be used for Gods purpose regarding the issue. God is the spinach delivering superhuman power. He calls this the Holy Discontent. I believe that God may be defining mine. The reality that anyone not know how valuable they are through God's love is unacceptable to me. That these boys feel like less than nothing is wrong. I believe that God feels the same.
While I don't know what God has planned for my future, I know that today I can help God start to change that reality one child at a time.


A picture's worth a thousand words!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day Four

We began our day with a stop at the school that Healing Haiti funds (teachers salaries, a real flush bathroom, a septic tank, school supplies, etc.)  There are 720 children going to school in a 3-story concrete building measuring a total of three thousand square feet.   Mr. Elder was so proud of his safe building and proudly showed us around each classroom; grades K-12.  The classrooms were wall to wall children, dressed in their uniforms and eager to learn. Their parents pay hard earned money for the privilege of sending their children to school and these children know it.  They are attentive and polite and have their beautiful smiling faces.

Our next stop is to Gertrudes who takes in the handicapped children that probably would not survive if not for her generosity.  These little ones are cared for and taught as much as they can learn.  The small outdoor courtyard became an Indy 500 track for one handicapped boy in a wheelchair and became a baseball field for a game of catch or became a place to soak in not only the sunshine but some love.  One group of children was singing and Jan launched into Jingle Bells.  We had several rousing choruses of Dashing through the Snow in the 90 degree heat.

We drove through the city to pick up one of our translators before heading to the orphanage.  Miles upon miles of tents.  One of our translators told us his story of surviving the earth quake.  He was in a college of 500+people on the day of the quake.  He left the school for a few minutes to go get some water at the market.  When he left the market to return to class, the earth convulsed, dropping the roof on the school where he would have been, killing all 500 - 1 people.  The market behind him collapsed killing everyone inside.  He alone survived this small section of disaster of a much, much larger devastation.

Driving in Haiti is a mix of slowing over rough pitted road and then surging forward to take advantage of the relatively smooth road and no vehicles blocking your way.  Fast forward, quickly slowing, bump, bump, lurch, swerve around another hole, lunge forward.  every encounter of oncoming traffic is a game of chicken.  who will move the fraction of a yard to miss the other vehicle.  Junior, our driver, is the Mario Andretti of Haiti and is awesome at this game.  Rules of the road are pretty simple....the larger vehicle gets right of way. The slower vehicle gets passed on whichever side of the road is open. Honk, honk..I'm coming around.  Honk, honk...okay I see you.  Honk, honk....get out of my way.  Honk, first.

We arrive at Guillames orphanage and school. The children recognize Karen and Jenn who have now made four trips in the last year.  There were lots of cries of recognition, hugs, kisses....tears.  SO GOOD to see friends who love.

We have set up four stations of activities to do with the 40+ children. Paul is a dentist and Jan is a dental hygienist so they will do a tooth check and a flouride application with Paul as their faithful assistant.  Maureen and Bill will do an English lesson with dry-erase, cat, flower, tree, Jesus Love me.   Anita and Lynne are doing an art adventure with a photo from 1920's New York.  Their creativity is wonderful to see.  You know they are being cared for because they can now do more than just think of how to survive...they can create beauty.   Heather and Karen will do a Menstruation education piece with the older girls.  And Jenn will float making sure everyone is cared for.

A design course at the University of Minnesota has made dresses and shorts for the orphans as a class sewing project.  Baseball T-shirts for the boys were donated by one of Pauls' dental patients.  The kids looked absolutely adorable in their brand new outfits.  Every color of the rainbow and as bright as can be.  They sang songs for us and we danced and praised God for his goodness.  This group of orphans will move to Grace Village sometime in the next month.

Karen and Jenn have been wonderful leaders...kind, gentle, encouraging, affirming, uplifting, firm, caring, in love with the people of Haiti.  Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to be on their team.

We are tired but grateful to be given this opportunity to serve and to love.  Words of the Day....Dust, Progress, persistence, Jingle Bells, hard, favorite.....



After bumper to bumper, door to door, horn blaring traffic we arrived at our much anticipated final destination, the wound clinic. Once we arrived, we found out the wound clinic was closed. As in life, the journey was well worth it.

Our interpreter, Wilson, traveled with us in the taptap. As we made our way to the clinic, he told us his story on the day of the earthquake. Wilson was at school that day and decided to go get a drink of water from the market. Just after he left the market the ground started to shake, leaving him clinging to a stranger on the street. Wilson said his school collapsed and killed all 540 of his school mates, as did the market where he purchased the water minutes before.

As we continued down Delmas road to the wound clinic, Wilson told us about each building that collapsed that day. "That was a bank. It collapsed. That was a government building. It collapsed. That was a school. It collapsed. This was a big market. It collapsed. This was a clinic. It collapsed. That was a college. It collapsed." Building after building he carefully gave us the details. His eyes told us how important each place was as his story continued.

We finally turned down the street which would lead us to the wound clinic. We passed through a market, much like our farmers market. The market was packed shoulder to shoulder with people selling and buying goods. Some people were not happy with our disruption. Some men postured their disapproval and followed behind our taptap. I felt uneasy, and asked Wilson to close the opening to our taptap. I was very glad for the safety of the door on the taptap. Our driver laid on the horn, and slowly navigated his way to a gate which gave us access to the wound clinic.

The gate opened and immediately we heard singing. The cold prickly feelings we felt in the market melted away as we were blessed with the beautiful voices. I felt the unmistakable head to toe wash of the Holy Spirit as I witnessed their worship. An open area with about 400 people had hands lifted high and were praising our Good God.

I was humbled that day to witness the praises of these people, who only a short while ago, experienced the horrific tragedy of the earthquake. They who live in dire poverty and struggle just to feed their children. Voices raised, hands held high, shoulder to shoulder - giving it all for the glory of our Good God. Humbled, very humbled. They have it figured out. I yearn to have what they have - a reliance on our God despite circumstances.

Thank you Wilson for sharing your story. Thank you Lord, for the remarkable faith of these beautiful people.