Monday, August 2, 2010
Last we blogged en route, we were on a plane bound for JFK, then Logan. You can imagine we were all a bit excited to see our families and friends. We made it through the complete chaos of customs, and after an hour and half, found out our flight had been canceled. The next flight was the next day, from LaGuardia! Twelve of God's disciples (hmmm) stuck in NYC. OSLC, however, has a connection in NYC with the Salvation Army, so Rob gave them a call to see if we could crash there, only to find out that they were all full - no room at the inn, as it were. The group that was there booked rooms at a mission house in the west side, not knowing the Salvation Army would accommodate them, so we gave them a call. Again, God watched over us, and they had just enough room for us, in rooms that had been paid for!
We got there at midnight after a lot of trains subways and walking. Phew. A bunch of us went to a deli and had some dinner, many of us had not eaten since breakfast, and hit the hay at 1:00am. We had 4 hours to sleep, get up and get a few taxis to LaGuardia.
We made it to the airport and got back home the next day, safe and sound. Well, with the exception of 8 of us ending up with some bad bathroom problems for several days, weeks in most cases. (Note: If the travel Doctor prescribes medicine for this, DO NOT DONATE ALL OF IT UPON LEAVING) I, for one, needed to get a new prescription upon my return.
Back in Haiti: Right now Momma is probably washing some laundry, there is a smell of garlic in the air, and in the distance, what sounds like an ice cream truck (it isn't though) is playing Christmas carols. That's right! Christmas Carols! All this is happening on the work site, which is now...a real house! As of last week, the only remaining task was to finish the roof. Can you believe it! They had a few ditches just a month ago, and nothing but manual labor built it. No tractors, Bobcats, or excavators, just shovels, picks, and sweat. Momma, Papa, and those cute kids are living a little better now thanks to the LORD leading us, and His provision of good health, injury-free work, and the gift of endurance we received in a dangerous and very hot environment.
The Clinic is as busy as ever right now. Gale Hull (co-founder) said they were seeing 5,000 people per year before the Earthquake, this year they are tracking for 60,000!! I know she misses the help our team gave her in caring for babies, working in the pharmacy, and helping with the travel clinic that goes to help people in tent cities in the Port-au-Prince area.
Gale was thrilled with the work done around the compound, too. Canvas shed-style roofs were made, shelves put up, doors fixed, etc. A long list of little things that needed attention.
But the real blessing is the family our team adopted. This family lives in a tent city with about 2500 people crammed in right next to each other. There are 7 of them now, Momma, Papa, and 5 Grandchildren. The Alexci family had a house that was destroyed by the earthquake, their daughter and 1 grandchild were killed. They have a baby, a young boy that has ringworm on his face, another in a wheelchair, and one with terminal CP, whom the Clinic treats to prevent constant seizing. The boy with CP requires constant care, and there are 3 other kids as well, so the Papa doesn't have time to work, or beg, so they rely on donations and...well, I am not sure what else. On our last day, we delivered food to this family, and adopted them through PID (Partners in Development)
I need to plug PID for a moment: Literally for pennies a day, you can support someone who needs food and essentials. Through PID (www.pidonline.org), I can guarantee that 100% of your donations will make it to a VERY needy person or family. Please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Speaking for the team, I encourage you to sponsor a child or family, you can even keep track of them, write them, and maybe someday, visit them.
Lastly, I have told the team, famil,y and friends that one of the gifts of a Mission trip is all of the time surrounding the trip itself. What an opportunity to "talk God" with someone that you may never have had the opportunity! Before the trip, I spoke to a travel Doctor, Pharmacist, a Kohl's cashier...you get the point. We can share this trip, it's purpose, and our faith forever! Even as we were there, our blog was being shared by my friend Patty Mellon. We have all prayed for her while in the throes of Breast Cancer and a couple weeks ago she and her team called "The Tough Warrior Princesses" walked 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3 day walk for cancer. She had New Balance as a sponsor, and a crew there to interview and follow them. The point being, think of all the people that we may have touched that we never would have had it not been for our faithful answer to God's calling.
Keep sharing, the Haiti Mission isn't over yet...
Thanks Patty, we are praying for you and for a cure!
...right back at ya! http://www.pattys3day.blogspot.com/
When we arrived at the worksite, we found barely dressed and barefooted children playing in destruction and rubble. A family of 8 living in a small tent in the midst of what once used to be a cement house (or should I say two cement 8 x8 rooms put together). When you see some commercials on tv that have a little child barely dressed and barefoot playing in dirt and rubble and the caption saying “for pennies a day you can feed these children,” this is what they are talking about. This is our unseen, un-talked about, “turn the other way so we do not have to deal or acknowledge it” reality. We were there to make a difference in these people’s lives like we are called to do - Use our bodies as vessels for Gods glory.
As a team we started to clear out a dirt and rock foundation in order to build a more secure and stable house. We chipped and picked away at the rubble while pieces flew everywhere. They flew into and on the family’s tent which was less than 5 feet away from our work. There, lying alone in the doorway was a 6 month old baby - dirty, soiled pants and no diaper, a fly haven. That’s when I felt I reached my limit. I have a baby girl Samantha Grace, who is only a couple of months older then this baby girl (Essoilinne). I was emotionally frozen, speechless. The emotion connecting a little life in such an atmosphere, to my baby girl who is away from her father for the first time was overwhelming. How was I to go on? I was disappointed with my situation.
One of my favorite preachers, Charles Stanley once said, because disappointments can come and they're unavoidable, you could get covered with discouragement in a moment. We don’t have to accept it, discouragement is a choice. On what basis, one might ask - God loves us, he is a good God, he is all powerful, he’s with us, he’s going to see us through it, and he promises to never leave us. Then it was mentioned several times on our trip that God never gives you more than you can handle. Sometimes that is easier said lived, especially when you are in the midst of adversity.
I grabbed my worked boots (in this case – Reebok gym shoes) and tightened the strings getting ready for battle. I had to put on the armor of God. All the negative thoughts of why I can’t do this were flowing freely. Then I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit calming me – through connection of all of your prayers. I reached the turning point. I could go on! If it wasn’t us to help build, it would just be someone else – or would there be? I realized that the faster we helped build this house, the faster this family and baby can have a somewhat real shelter over their heads. Needless to say, I was able to acknowledge my surroundings the rest of the way even though I felt numb to the reality of its dire devastation and hopeless situation.
With all this devastation, why should we attempt to help? What can we really accomplish? It reminds me of the little boy on the beach story: One day a
little boy was walking down the beach. There were thousands upon thousands starfish that washed ashore after a storm (or in this case – a dismantled government or affects of an earthquake). The little boy bent down and threw one starfish back into the ocean. He kept on doing this as he walked along. Passing him walking the other way was an old man. He stopped and asked the boy, “What are you doing”? The little boy said kindly to the man, “I am throwing the starfish back in the ocean.” The older man grunted and walked on. Then the little boy heard in the distance the older man yelling back to him “you can’t make a difference for there are too many.” The little boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean. The boy looked back at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.” This little story holds a big truth for all of us.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. But in reality, the Haitians gave to us, they gave to me. We are so afraid of what we are going to have to give up following God. We think we are going to help others, which in part we did. However, they in part helped me by showing their joy and peace in the mist of having the least – which in reality is the greatest.
Before I left, I was so focused on what I was going to do, what profound and great change I can make for them. However, it was the Haitian people, who had the impact on me. The gift they gave me was simplicity and joy. Hope. No mental clutter or emotional havoc. It has been years since I had had so much peace in my life. Now to hold on to it with the Grace of God.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the earthquake. It is impossible to estimate how vast the damage of the earthquake was. Six months after the earthquake, the airport is using a corrugated cargo shed as its Arrivals terminal. The real terminal has large cracks running through the concrete and there is not a single man or piece of equipment working to repair it. The presidential palace, which we could see out the window, lies vacant and broken, with sight-lines like a Picasso painting. How can you try to estimate the damage when two key pieces of infrastructure like that haven’t been touched in half-a-year? The UN tried to get a list of operational hospitals from the Haitian government and found that fifty percent of the hospitals and clinics on the official list were no longer in existence, or no longer operational. We met a nurse from an Adventist hospital downtown. She said they had been without power for three days. There had been a mix-up in paying the electricity bill so the city shut it off. Because their generator had caught fire a few weeks earlier, no power meant the water pump shut off too. An eighty-bed hospital was without electricity or water in 98-degree heat. The nurse’s room was a bed in one of the hospital rooms, shared with a hospital patient.
I share these things to help you know how overwhelming the need feels here. The systems were broken long before the homes were. To be honest, it can be overwhelming if you look at the larger view. A frequent topic of conversation among our team (especially the problem-solving alpha males) was how we wished we could fix the systems, how relatively easy it could be to provide these people with reasonable living arrangements, reliable public services like trash removal (they burn their piles of trash on the street) or clean drinking water (they rely on unpredictable water trucks or underground cisterns which sometimes have trash or waste in them).
But let me paint another picture for you. Adline is a woman of maybe 45. She has five girls and three boys. Their home collapsed in the earthquake, but no one was hurt. The oldest boy, Woodson, 20, makes deliveries for a local shop. Adline does laundry for Partners in Development, hanging it to dry on lines slung over the walls where her new home is being built. When Adline makes the seven-minute walk to deliver the clean laundry to PID and pick up the day’s dirty laundry, her six-month old daughter, Essoilinne, and four-year old daughter, Cristina, are cared for by her 6-year old son, Bebe. When her 12-year-old son, Billy, returns from school, he helps prepare their food, usually rice or plantains. Together they play, they laugh, they cry. They live in two tents, both under a tarp that is slung from tree branches and reinforcement bar on top of a nearby unfinished wall. Their eyes are a beautiful mocha brown, their teeth clean and white, their smiles quick and broad. Adline is fond of saying, “God bless you, my friend,” in Creole and is quick with a laugh and smile when she hears, “Amen,” in reply.
This is the family whose foundation we built. They are still probably a month or more from having a home, but their hope and joy were palpable, and as we left, we shared the bittersweet tears of friends who part almost as quickly as they met, friends who toiled side-by-side through heat and rain and sweat. We were told by PID’s construction director that he was extremely impressed by our work this week. He thanked us for our strength and our love for the family and the other workers (who found great glee in teaching us salty Creole words instead of the actual names for the people and objects around us). This team from OSLC, most of whom had never met one another six weeks ago, changed the lives of that family.
Let me paint another picture for you. Jean-Claude Alcide squats in a four-man Coleman tent, waving flies off his son, Nicoury. Nicoury has cerebral palsy and will not live more than eight weeks more. He is probably about 10 or 11. Jean-Claude lives with his wife and her mother, with five of his own children, and his two grandchildren. Their mother, his daughter, was killed in the earthquake when their house collapsed. They moved into a tent in the city square, but were forced to re-locate. The government told them they would have a village on a farm. They were put in the corner of a sugar cane field owned by the Barbancourt rum factory. There is no drainage system, no septic. At the entrance to the village is a hog barn. Next to it is a tent the village uses for birthing. There are 2500 people on what must be about 10 acres of land, divided into three sections.
One day, as PID nurses walked through the tent village, Jean-Claude cried out to them, “You must help my son!” Nicoury was seizing and he was not breathing. Jean-Claude handed his son to these three white people in scrubs, who immediately rushed him away to the clinic. Jean-Claude didn’t know their names, their affiliation, or the location of their clinic. So desperate was he that he gave his son to complete strangers just because they looked like doctors. The nurses were able to revive and stabilize Nicoury. They returned him to Jean-Claude and his understandably panic-stricken wife the next day. She had been away from the tent when Nicoury was taken and didn’t know where her son was. Since that day, PID has been delivering anti-seizure medicine for Nicoury, as well as medication to Ashley, Jean-Claude’s younger son who has a badly swollen and infected leg, and to Jeanle, the four-year old grandson who has ringworm on his cheek.
On Sunday night, we asked Gale how much it would cost to feed this family of ten in their two small tents for a month. She said about $25-30. Our team is now sponsoring the whole family for the entire year at $50 a month to help offset the cost of the medicine. With pride, Jean-Claude arranged his family outside their tent for a family photo. We took the photo and said a prayer with them, thanking God for his endless love and perfect care.
Haiti is far too damaged to fix. There is no way to even estimate how many lives were lost in the earthquake. Countless bodies are still in the rubble and you cannot check public records if public records are not kept. If you look at the entire picture, you lock up, you freeze. The damage is too vast, the corruption and dysfunction too crippling. But if you look at Adline and her family, or at Jean-Claude and his, you can see hope, love, and a future.
I feel like I leave this trip with a better sense of why God became human, and what that means. When God looks at humanity, he doesn’t just see our broken system – the unending pattern of sin and failure – he sees faces, lives, stories. He didn’t just die to save humanity, he died to save each human. If I have anything to be thankful for because of this trip, it is that God has shown me how He works here on earth. He does it through relationships. I have been blessed to form some fast, but very strong relationships with about a dozen or more Haitians and Christ’s love has flowed through me to them and through them to me. On returning to the USA and our comfortable daily lives, I pray that each one of us would grow those same relationships with the people around us every day. Grow the relationships and then let Christ’s love and truth flow through them. That’s how the world changes – you change one person’s world at a time.
Thank you all for your prayers, your love, and your support. I hope I get to return the favor sometime – where will you go?
Monday, July 12, 2010
For the construction crew, it was extremely hard work, without much relief. You can’t just run in the house for a cold drink, or enjoy the AC. Our respite was warm water and some shade under a few palms. God really watched over us, none of pulled a muscle, got hurt beyond a few scratches, or even got sunburned. We accomplished far more than I ever thought we would with His help. In a few weeks (or less!) this family will be able to move from a tent with canvas extensions, into a new house. We got to know their family, from Momma to her 8 kids. We left them some gifts and food today, a prayer and some hugs. We will never forget them. (Picture: Church we attended Sunday)
The clinical crew was taking care of babies, patients and making ‘house’ calls. I think they all got some additional experience, and for sure saw things they had never seen before. They were busy all day. People lined up early in the waiting area outside, and seemed to never stop. They can’t get enough help and supplies for these people, who ALWAYS say, “Merci Jesus”.
Mike N spent a lot of time on the compound with sporadic help from the crew. He made a desk, put up shelves, made a whole ‘shed’ type roof for their patio and a lot more. We missed him on the site, but I’m glad that we had him to get some handyman things done.
I had one day away from the team. As some of you know, I am a student pilot, and I have some aspirations of using that for mission aviation. There is an organization that brings our Sudan team in and out, called Mission Aviation Fellowship(MAF) They deliver teams, supplies and natives to and from remote areas. I had a chance to fly a few missions here and Haiti, and I did that on Friday. We flew 3 missions delivery missionary groups, much like us, to some remote areas. I met a pilot and a young man in the office whose faith was inspiring and I got an idea of what is involved in this critical role in Gods plan that WE spread his word and love.
We finished our study of the book of James last night and it just reinforced to me how much group study and fellowship are important to understanding, encouraging and living by Gods word. We helped many people, but only a fraction of those who need it. I think this was a different trip, not just being the first time OSLC has come to Haiti, but the fact that we came to help with earthquake relief instead of the normal agenda of a VBS to host, or a Seminary to document, just plain old hard work. To our amazement and delight, we weren’t alone. We met the most faithful, thankful, loving people we could have ever asked for. It was worth every bead of sweat. (and there was a lot!)
Sunday, July 11, 2010
In fact, the camaraderie has been family-like. Teasing, but encouraging; joking, but seriously processing together. No one has been stand-offish, domineering, or inflexible. The conditions have been challenging, but our interactions have been great. I can honestly say I wasn’t so sure as we had our first meeting – it is a very disparate group, but our dynamic has been a real blessing to me and I think to our fellow laborers as well, both in the clinic and on the job site.
Anyway, I thought you’d want to know that your prayers are working. Keep them up, as we’ll be putting in our last full day tomorrow and it could be a challenge after a day off. Though, to be honest, most of us were chomping at the bit to get back to work by mid-afternoon today.
We love you all, our families and church family, and we will see you soon!
This has been a very hard week. The heat is so oppressive here and trying to do any construction work is a challenge to say the least. While it’s tough for me, there’s no escape for most of the people we’re helping as they’re living under tarps or run down tents with no running water, no food, no toilets, no anything… many are sick and malnourished. They seem to more used to the heat than we are but it’s still a constant factor making existence all the more difficult.
We’re been working hard at the construction site and in the clinic but after the first day, I haven’t been able to join the others at the site as Gail has had me working on a number of projects at the PID facility itself. Since the dorm is newly constructed, it still needed shelves to be hung in the various bedrooms, some repairs in the clinic and a new fence and a new overhang for the outside dining/meeting area.
Today in particular was very difficult in a different way… we went early in the morning to a “tent city” down the road that was set up on a pig farm. The difference is that these people, families, were displaced from Port-au-Prince after the earthquake hit and so were not used to living with nothing in the surrounding country. We went to give medicine to a father who’s wife and daughter were killed in the quake and is now taking care of 7 or 8 children on his own including a 7 year old son who has seizures constantly unless he’s on meds. Three of the other children had other medical issues like Ring Worm, leg infection, etc… After seeing this father doing his best to take care of his family, we went for an hour’s ride to go to church and then see a different side of Haiti at a beach “resort” of sorts. After seeing this father in the morning and then seeing people an hour away playing in the sun and ocean without a care except that their coconut shell cocktail was empty, was surreal and infuriating. I don’t know what to make of it still…
Tomorrow I need to finish up the various projects on my list and then we’ll start to think about coming back home. I hope all are well.
Bye for now,
Saturday, July 10, 2010
THIS IS FROM FRIDAY
It was a great day for another great life experience here in Haiti at the construction site of the house we are rebuilding. Family life in Haiti continues all round us on the construction site with children sitting with us and socializing, clothes being washed for the PID Group and dinner being prepared on a small stove (makeshift) right next to where we are throwing rocks (chain gang style to one another in a line) along with passing buckets of concrete being prepared by hand in front of the house. We have met a lot of characters working with us that are great to work with building the house. Scott Seiler has assumed the responsibility of tutoring all of us on the fine art of throwing buckets of concrete to each other. We actually now have it down to a science. We all have our war wounds now with nicked shins from errant tosses of buckets as well as empty buckets hitting my head at the same time. Life is going well with the youngest of the group, Trevor Pituck out working us all. In my case, I blame on youth being on his side, but his work ethic is impressive never the less.
Our day ended with our PID coordinator, Maxim Genault, inviting us to meet his family (brothers and sisters and parents. Maxim is one of the most mature 20 years old I have ever encountered. To see 10 people (2 adults and 8 children) as one happy family unit in a (2) two room house is pretty remarkable. His Mom was not feeling well and sleeping on the small front porch, still no complaining, she got up at Maxim’s prodding for a family picture of all who were present during our short visit (see Picture of Maxim’s family). Overall, to see the love that Maxim has for his family was just a great encounter for all of us present.
The one thing we have all learned to yell out and laugh at with all the workers at the site is fatique or as they say it in Creole “fatigay”. Nice to see that we all have a similar word for tired. Heat and humidity are not our friends. We just enjoy the fresh breeze that comes along during our respite under the few palm trees where we sit for our breaks. God is with us here in Haiti.
Every day in Haiti has brought so many new experiences. Today I was able to go to collect supplies at ‘Big Pauls’. ‘Big Paul’ was a 34 year old man who was a photographer prior to setting up a base house in Haiti. He heard about the earthquake and felt compelled to help the people of Haiti. He couldn’t get a ticket into the country so he took a flight into the Dominican Republic and then took a bus over to Haiti. He rented out a huge house that a family lived in prior to the earthquake. The family is currently living in front of the house in a tent because they’re afraid the house will collapse on them in another quake. Big Paul visits warehouses and transports pallet donations of medical supplies, food, clothing…. Back to his house. He then contacts organizations (like PID, Partners in Health….) and passes all of the supplies on to them. We were able to obtain a Tap-tap load and truck load of free medical supplies. It took about an hour for the team to unload the Tap-tap and put the medical supplies away.
After we finished unloading the medical supplies we took a Tap-tap to a Sugar Cane Museum. The guide could only speak in Creole. Our translator did a good job with the help of the rest of the team trying to determine what he was telling us. Michael convinced the driver to take us to get souvenirs. We drove to a beautiful souvenir site, we pulled over and all unloaded and discovered that ‘souvenir’ in creole also means cemetery. We took a great photo outside the cemetery and then made a quick departure before the beginning of a funeral. Needless to say there were no souvenirs purchased! LOL