Monday, October 25, 2010

This was our Monday

The sound of the small hand bell ringing from downstairs. It's 8:04 and Danyis is letting us know that breakfast is ready. Grab the water bottle and a green tea packet, update our @fumchaiti twitter account about the day's plans for our scouting team, and carefully trot down the tiled, unevenly measured pink stairs. It's oatmeal, yesss. Some days it's eggs with hotdogs for breakfast. In past trips we've had spaghetti with hotdogs for breakfast. Today, it's oatmeal. They make it with half-and-half and cinnamon here, glory glory. There are only three of us instead of the usual fifteen per team, so we can fill our bottles up half-way with ice and still have plenty. Sarah Marsalis-Luginbill and I dropped a dollop of homemade spicy
mamba a (peanut butter) in the middle of ours and watched it swirl around in the heat. Fresh juice from the trees behind the guesthouse sits in a pitcher beside the white thermos of cinnamony hot chocolate which sits beside another white thermos of Haitian coffee (either, a smart choice). Pray together that our food helps equip our bodies to be tools to help liberate and provide for those without food, as we're more reminded of their number while here. And nou manje (we eat).

Get our backpacks with our US dollars, our Haitian goud, our phones, our water, our hand sanitizer, our cameras and notebooks, and get ready to head out with the driver for our morning at the market. Go back upstairs and wait for the vehicle to get fixed. Get ready to head out once again. This driver has a no-nonsense policy with our Creole skills. We will speak Creole and if we don't understand his, he will just repeat it louder, no problem. And louder once more, what's wrong with you people. But no complaints...this is how you learn a language, by not having your own enabled. First stop, the Supermarchet for Haitian Coffee and sugar cane coka cola to bring back to a lucky few. Weave in, weave out of scooters, tap taps, and second-hand vehicles. Needing the windows down for the breeze to aid the ever-growing stickiness in the car, but catching all the black exhaust from the 20 drivers surrounding your own machine at the one stop light in town. Second stop, Pharmaci. We need malaria pills, he gives us eye drops. Non, non, malaria pills. Not enough at that one. So two pharmacies later, we roll our windows all the way down as to be able to stick our hands far enough back to open the door from the outside, look both ways as to find the perfect .3 seconds to get out without getting mauled by traffic. Determine that there may never be a perfect .3 seconds to, so you open the door with confidence and speed. A guy on a scooter honks at you, but that's ok because he also winks at you. You've done something bad and something good, apparently. Two boxes of malaria pills, please. That'll be $3.50 US. Mental note: never, ever buy malaria pills in the states again.

Third stop, church book store. These three please. 750 goud a piece or total? The driver tells me again, and louder. So 750 total? No, no, I can't pay $20 US per book (not walkin' all over this blanc). Oh, oh ok, $20 total. I gotcha. Pardon mwen, I was confused, but luckily the fourth time you repeated it louder, I finally understood. My apologies. Mental note: never, ever skip another Creole Class when you get home.

Fourth stop, Project Espwa. The acre beyond acre of inspirational orphan care. It is a village founded by a Catholic Priest and funded by a nonprofit called Free the Kids. Over 600 kids live there, mostly boys as the "girls are more useful for restaveks (slaves), so the boys get left on the streets." The compound reflects its name (Project Hope) as it cultivates an atmosphere of respect and possibility for the children it is raising. We're given a tour where we're shown the place where they make over 3,000 meals a day for orphans, community students, and staff. Then they show us the new dorms and dining area that are being built with new construction methods where metal is built along with the concrete making it much cooler than normal Haitian structures on the inside. A clinic is there, offering services at very little fees to the community. And children are in their uniforms in classrooms with maps on the walls. When they turn 16 they are asked to decide what they want to do when they "graduate" from the place, then Project Espwa puts them on a track to become more trained and educated to accomplish their goals. They have wood shops, craft training, metal work, and higher education tracks that have led some of their students to medschool. The children and the workers (some who are children that have graduated and been hired back into the system) walk around the place with a type of pride that is healthy for humanity. One that rests in an identity that says, "I can. And I am." Make this the contagion, Lord. We can all learn from this type of orphan care.

Coast back into the guesthouse driveway for lunch. Then an after-lunch nap. We head upstairs to our beds that have open windows at their heads and lasko fans at their feet that go on and off depending on the city's power and the generator's attitude at the time.

Wake up and stretch, turning a sweated-upon pillow on its other side and pulling our sticky knees apart to drop my feet back to the floor and put my toms back on. Let's go for a walk and see what we find. Sarah, Hu and I grabbed our backpacks again and stuffed our phones into the most inside of their pockets because grey clouds are laughing at our excursion. We laugh back and open the gate. We go left and through the anniversary arch and down a rock path, thinking the whole time, "It's really unfortunate that I have to watch my every step, because this scenery is beautiful." And, "I would pay an arm and a leg to go back for one day to see the Island and its indigenous people before Columbus got here." Lush rainforest infested with the appropriated animals of that climate. Little glimpses of what the land was and could be if cared for are everywhere (sounds like a broken Kingdom that throbs with resurrection). We found a goat on a tomb, a room of people singing "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" in English, and two little sisters who couldn't stop laughing at us. An infectious laugh that we recorded on Hu's phone as his ringtone now. Can't have a bad day if that kind of joy is calling you. Back to the highway. Down another side road. Too many puddles. Back to the highway. Down the road that leads to the American University. Don't the Maxos live down here now?

The Maxos were the family that once worked for the guesthouse where we stay, and I was afraid of how long it would be until I would get to see their faces again. The cook had mentioned that they were down the road (at least, that's what I thought she said). Walk, talk, think "please be outside, kids...", walk, talk, walk, look, talk, look, look. "BRITNEY!!!!"

"Where'd that come from?....."

A tiny, round face slowly peaks over the balcony. "ANGAEL!!!! Ki kote ou mama!?!?! (Where's your momma??)" She disappears and then reemerges with her sister and Mama Lis who give us no time to say hi before they pull us into the gate, down the side path, and up the back stairs into their upstairs home. We hug and hug and get the tour and keep pretty decent half creole/half english conversation and sit in white lawn chairs around a plastic flower arrangement in their den while she tells me about life and is patient as I watch and think about her words slowly to recognize them. Her kids are all in school. Her husband, Maxo, is driving some for the Methodist guesthouse in Port au Prince. He comes home tomorrow for a few days. I comment on how much beautiful space she has, and she drags us into her room to show me how big it is and to tell me that she and the kids all sleep there when Maxo is gone, but when he's home, the kids are out and in their own rooms. And then we laughed and laughed. I mentioned something about her wonderful peanut butter and barely got it out of my mouth before she sent Liznael to get three freshly ground jars. But when she found out Mama Virginia was in Haiti and at the guesthouse, she said, "When you come back with Mama Virginia, I will give them to you:)!" Smart lady. So, we are going back with Mrs. Virginia (who runs the guesthouse) Wednesday. She showed us the kitchen, the kids rooms, the bathroom. All concrete and with no lights on, but spotless. Then she showed us a back room where she proudly said was "Mama Virginia's!" And that we could sleep there too if we ever needed it!

God's people make room for God's people as God made room for God's people. It is not charity when it is family. It is not family when there are "us and them." It cannot be "us and them" when love is the root and Jesus is the Lord...the final say of all decisions, the shifter of the selfish, the challenger to the comfortable, and the reminder that there is more (and more outside of me) and that it's good to listen and jump and laugh and give. If life is not full and done alongside one another, it is not how it was meant to be. Liberate us, Great Offerer of extra rooms. :)

She took us up the last set of stairs to the roof where we all five stood and watched the sun setting over Les Cayes. A chicken coup and laundry lines make the rooftop perfect and I tell her that this is where I'd like my room, sivuple. I think I've found my favorite spot in Les Cayes, second to under the mango tree at Bighouse. We hugged and kissed-cheeks goodbye as it started pouring outside (you win, weather). Mama Lis gave us umbrellas and told us we could bring them back when we came Wednesday. Some more security ensuring we'd come again. How could we not:)

Carefully navigate the rocks to the main road, then through the gate, and up the guesthouse stairs to change for dinner and take our soppy shoes off. Eat chicken with the magic sauce, dreaming about a vat of it with a ladle and promising audibly that I'd drink the whole thing. Then shower/online-story-reliving, finishing this blog just in time to see my mom's public facebook request for me to get on skype.

Sitting on my striped sheets by the lasko fan, feeling solid in my soul for this moment thinking about family here, family there, the thrill and challenge of thinking creatively and efficiently for the sake of the orphan, Shreveport, Haiti, and the God who loves all and gives all. Whose hospitality is radical, who gives another option when life is neither full nor done together, and whose kingdom peaks through in the moments when we know, suggesting a glorious and purposeful order to what once was, and the hope and possibility of what can be. There is a reason Jesus went backwards from death to show us that nothing has to stay buried. Even hope on an island of deforestation, fallen buildings, and rampantly spreading Cholera. The empty tomb is the audacious declaration by the only God to the oppressed country, the single mother, the addict, the criminal, the starving, the businessman, the wanderer in transition, and the person who seems to have it all together but is truly tired.

But this country can't catch a break....The tomb is empty.
But I've tried everything....There's a bigger truth here.
There is no hope. There is no option.....There was a man who died, and he is no longer dead, not even now, and his public victory over the final, final word is the reason why this statement is no longer valid. Take your words to someone who is content with accepting the stone as the deal sealer. I want to be among the crowd that remembers, in all challenges and transitions, in all losses and world-shaking-catastrophes, these words...

"He is not here...He has risen..."

Take us somewhere wonderful with each other for the sake of each other. Give us hope that makes a bigger family, that changes the world.

And thanks for today:)

Tomorrow we go to Dasmas for November-Trip construction project planning.

Bon Nuit!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nakedness and Learning your Language

Today was the one day this trip that we visited Darivaje and Bighouse Orphan Villages to drop off some medical boxes, a soccer ball or two, and to meet with the pastors to discuss what supplies and projects are priority needs right now. It seems to be the more difficult visits when you are there for scouting and discussion for just a few hours and can't say, "Na we demen!" (I'll see you tomorrow!) to the 77 faces half-excited because you came, half-bummed because you're leaving for another couple of months. But because God is continuing to grow this story with Haiti throughout North LA plus some, we're able to give many solid dates of when a number of teams will be visiting throughout the next year. I tried to tell Pastor Jean, "Thank you for letting us drop in today" and he laughed a very hardy laugh in my face and said, "This is your home!" As if to say, "Why do you need permission to come home?!" Glory, glory, what a sweet life.

Before we left Bighouse today, we were standing in a mob of children in the dorm area (where they EACH have a new metal bed courtesy of our sponsors through Global Orphan Project!!! no longer sleeping 3 to a mattress horizontally). I was telling them about their sponsors and how each one of them is paired with someone in the states who loves them and prays for them and helps provide for their food and medicine and schooling every month. I told them that if they ever wanted to draw their sponsors or any past team members a picture, then we could get them on one of our trips and take them back. As I said this, Jean Renald smiled his huge, gorgeous smile and pushed through the crowd to hand me a picture he had made. "For you!" he said. At the top it read, "We love you!" And underneath it there was a picture of a large, half naked baby. I take this to mean, "We love you, big baby." No? Is that not right?

Obnese of course handed me something to bring back to Kaci as he asked where Nicole was. Anna C and Anna M's song was still being sung. Makendy didn't lose his tough-guy-I'm-getting-older-I-don't-hug-anymore facade until I told him that Missy di li renmen ou! And everyone was SO stoked at both Darivaje and Bighouse that "Justeen" would be back in November to flip in the air with them some more. There was not a summer team member not asked about. Actually, they went through the list of every person I've ever traveled to Haiti with plus some Kansas folk that I haven't. How humbling is it to be so special to a group of people that they voice how much their home is not the same without you by asking repeatedly, "Kile yap vini?" (When will they come back?). I've committed most of you to March, July, or August....whoops.

Darivaje's well has been paid for through Global Orphan and the man was coming to check out the land today to get that ball rolling. No more barrel trips into town several times a day for water. A list of supplies is being made by both pastors and will be given to us this week so that we can plug people in for what school supplies, medical supplies, clothing supplies, etc are needed. It is safe to say, as cholera continues to infect so many throughout the country, medical supplies and more water filters are a definite. If you know of a group, a church, an individual, a business that would want to ask the question, "What can we collect?" tell them to contact me. We're in the business of making connections to fill and refill cabinets for the sake of Haiti's children as she grows. Hit me up:)

We accidently walked through a larger, older Haitian lady's bathing quarters today. She just laughed, and bathed, and laughed, and waved. It was slightly awkward but mostly joyful. (?) Hahaha, she just laughed and laughed. I felt rude for ignoring and I felt rude for waving. What a predicament. What a very naked predicament. Welcome to Haiti, Sarah M.L.

Do you know what it feels like to leave your heart somewhere and walk away from it? It's like taffy being pulled apart. It's 8 goodbyes and 3 hugs a piece and 11 looks back until you make yourself break away and focus on the muddy path in front of you. I love Bighouse. I pull those kids to me and breathe in the 4 second hugs and think how they feel so much like a part of my biological family that what feels foreign is the distance. Can we move Haiti and Shreveport closer, please? Thanks.

It may be the language barrier (though my creole is growing they say! thanks, Dr. Kress!). It may be the limited time. Or it may just be how life goes when you love someone, are grateful for someone, are proud of someone and could watch someone do life so much that it feels impossible to express it. (My parents are such characters). But in the hesitation of "Ok, I've said goodbye and now I actually have to make myself leave" this afternoon, I kept thinking how incapable I feel of accurately conveying how deeply I love these kids. How I want to, just for a little while, become one of them in all of their language and being just to have any better of a chance to show them more of how full and rooted and hopeful my love, our love, is for them. And then, again, I felt God through my thoughts say, "That's what I did... :)"

"I learned your language and spent time with you that you might know how full and rooted and hopeful and deep and transforming and specific and wild my love is for you." A bizarre and perfect and truthful and unexpected teaching.

Samuel (one of the orphans) met us as we were leaving the gate and passed me a tiny, torn sheet of paper that he had written on in Creole. It said, "On behalf of the children at Bighouse, we are very grateful that you spent the day with us!"

I see the Kingdom.


Friday, October 22, 2010


This marks Haiti Trip #8 for me, #1 for Sarah M.L. from Grace Community, and #God Only Knows for Hu Debo...those of us making up the three-person-scouting team in Les Cayes this week. We left Shreveport Regional yesterday morning making the Dallas connection to Miami where we stayed overnight and boarded for Port au Prince at 5:50 this morning. I say it every time, but really and truly these trips sneak up on me (Not planning-wise, mentality-wise...ok, maybe personal planning-wise too. My roommates will vouch, I'm usually begging for a vocalized check-off list 5-min before we leave for the airport.). Regardless, it never feels like reality until we hit the PAP tarmac. Surely the words of Jim Elliot (whose story that I read in the 9th grade might explain a lot) ring true as the state of mind that I usually find myself in, "Wherever you are be all there; live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." Surely, a richness to be present. Surely, sometimes an unsettled mind to be caught off guard with every new event. Maybe this helps us trust God though. Maybe with spontaneity of thought and resting within the now, we can find ourselves paying less dues to the past and sacrificing fewer anxieties to the future. Potential result? Maybe company in the here and now with the Lord of the people and His people. Maybe joy.

Grace Community's young adult group surprised us at security check at the airport to pray with us before we left. It's been a couple of trips since it hasn't felt routine and that a moment of community within the mission was fresh and connected. It was beautiful. It was a gift. I mean this more than I have in a long time: there are few things more powerful than when we go to God together. Nothing more binding. Nothing more freeing. Nothing more relational. And to think that even that is amplified when we go to God together on behalf of a bigger picture, a larger healing, a wider-spread commission, a resurrecting piece of the world, something bigger than we are. I don't know that I'm ever offended when someone says, "Can I pray for you? Right now?" Therefore, why would I even listen to a whisper that suggests that the same inquiry from my mouth would be offensive in the slightest? Our world, and communities, and siblings, and best friends, and Haiti need us to have audacity enough to grab each other by the hand and go to God. This feels right, right? Thank you for praying.

Today was really just a big 8 hour drive in the back seat of a four-door pickup. My tale bone no longer exists, don't ask me about it, it's not really something I want to talk about. ;) But seriously, it's gone. We ended up driving east to Croix des Bouquets to buy some metal art, then back through the city and north to get the car looked at (a two hour journey for a 2 second "OK"...but se la vi, would rather double check a vehicle in Haiti any day than not), then the 5...6..hour drive down to Cayes, past the anniversary arch and on into home sweet guesthouse. We got out of the car and Hu said, "Well. We made it without hitting anything"...just as the driver pulled up and got his tire stuck on a parked car in the drive-way. Eh...nou pale too soon?

Today on the drive something really significant happened. Other than me falling to sleep sitting in the middle with my feet in the dash, head in a blowup neck-pillow, mouth wide open with gum drying on tongue (heh). I can't exactly explain this, so stay with me. Today a veil lifted between me and a Haitian woman who was sitting on the street in one of the market places in Port au Prince while we drove though the city. She was, for a moment, demystified and therefore less distant. She wasn't a victim, a photograph, or a survivor from the kind of place overseas that one could place in romantically foreign or tragic stories. She was a neighbor. She was human. She was normal and in her day to day. She was there, and I was in a car, and we were in the same world at the same time. She probably has gossiped before, or has a crazy sister-in-law, or has one outfit that is so much her favorite that she'd wear it everyday if she could. She probably has a distinct laugh, and a food preference, and pet peeves. Sure, she probably has a past, and deep wounds, and big questions for God... no doubt. But this coming back thing is etching away (I hope) a glassed-over "these people" perception of this country. Their livelihood is no longer my parade to watch. Something very liberating happened today. And as we drove off and I attempted to recover and wrap my mind around what had just taken place, I thought, "Hm. So if someone imbeds themselves long enough in a peoples' life, getting to know their humanness, their spirits, and their realities...a veil eventually lifts putting us all in the same place, lessening the distance between us, and giving us greater room for understanding and relationship and therefore greater room for healing." And then I thought, "Oh my God. That's what Jesus did." I can't fully explain this, and I apologize for that. But it was a solid, bewildering, and glorious 20 seconds.

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." -2Cor3:16-18

Tomorrow, we are going to see the kids at Darivaje and Bighouse...!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhhh, those hugs, those hugs, those smiles, those hugs!!! We are all big brothers and sisters now. Tomorrow, I check on family:)

We'll be in country for the next six days and blogging all the while!

Oh. A few last things. We ate Haitian pumpkin soup tonight, mine and Sarah's first time. It was amazing. I saw four guys peeing on buildings today, two of them saw me (a very awkward exchange of glances). Cholera is spreading rampantly throughout the country apparently now, please be in prayer for the halting of disease. And elections are coming up, so we got to drive through a "manifestation" today being held in promotion of a candidate. There were trombones, which I thought were pretty appropriate.

Wanting you, me, and Haiti to take each other by the hand and go to God together...

Bon Nuit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trip Calendar for the Next Year

I'm currently in the middle of working with a website designer who is creating a site for First Methodist's local and global missions. Meaning, there will soon be a hub for all of the information concerning our partnership in Haiti (blogs, picture archives, trip calendar, team prep, ministry information, donation lists, etc).

Until then, I'm putting the trip calendar up for the next year here on the blogspot so that you all can get an idea of what we're offering and when is a better time for you to plug in. Check out the opportunities and if you or someone you know is interested, email me at I'd love for you to come to Haiti with us!

October 2010-October 2011 Haiti Trip Calendar

-October Scouting Trip (Full, Church Staff Only)
-November Construction Trip (Full, with Grace Community's Young Adult group)
-December Youth Trip (Open, for 11th/12th grade FUMC youth, contact Rhonda Mallory at the church if interested, 424-7771)
-February Project Trip (Open)
-March College/Young Adult Spring Break Trip, March 28th-April2 (Open)
-April Medical Trip (Open)
-May Module with Centenary College (Open to Centenary students through the college only)
-June Summer Trip (Open)
-July Summer Trip (Open)
-October 2011 Medical Trip (Open)

It cost around $1700 to go with one of our teams, and this covers all of your expenses. We will take a $300 downpayment 3months before departure. You need HepA and HepB shots as well as malaria medication, and it sometimes takes a month to get your passport in if you don't have one already.

Again, shoot me an email if you're interested or if you have an further questions!

-Britney Winn

FUMC Haiti Initiative
Church #: 318.424.7772 Etx: 147

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mwen Fanmi...My Family

Conversation carried by a translator, of course:)...

Me (as we're leaving Darivaje for the last time this trip): "Pastor, my entire team has felt so welcomed at Darivaje. Thank you for letting us visit, beginning this partnership with us, and allowing us to start a relationship with your ministry and these children..."

The Pastor: "I am so, so very happy that you and your team have come. Darivaje is now your home, and I have told the children that they are no longer orphans. They have a momma and a daddy with me and my wife and this staff, and they have a family with you and your people. Whenever you are in Haiti, Darivaje's doors are open wide to you..."

"But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Whoever is wise, let him heed these things, and consider the great love of the Lord." -Isaiah 107:41-43

If you are reading this...if you have had any input in prayer, in conversation, in questions...if you have given by your presence, by your wallet, by the sharing of the stories...if you have been to Haiti...if your heart has been tuned to the people of this country by the lives of others, by the quake 6 months ago, by a child you sponsor... if your world has been made smaller and your family bigger...this next part is for you. I'd like to tell you about some of the little brothers and sisters that live behind the doors that are "open wide to you" in Haiti at both Bighouse and Darivaje, where our partnership has increased as abundantly as the love and resources that accompany it. It is amazing to think that there is never a question or hesitation as to whether the Spirit is going to provide a limitless supply of love in our souls, energy in our days, and money and ideas in our banks and minds for the sake of the poor. For the sake of these...

Judalain is 16 and is the oldest, maybe the sweetest, child at Bighouse orphanage. His english skills are growing "ampil, ampil!" and he starts school again down the road in September. Judalain, in all of his thoughtfulness, told Dr. Kress last week that when teams come, he sits back and lets all the babies get the attention, because he wants them to be held and loved and doesn't want to get in the way. He has had a hernia now for as long as he can remember, and recently it has become unbearably large, to where many days he is unable to eat. With the extra money that was raised at the "Restore" event that we had before we left, Carrie, Michael, and Nic were able to take Judalain for an examination, then to have lab work done, and then secured his surgery for August 18th. So many treatable sufferings continue for such unnecessarily long amounts of time because of lack of resources. And the lack of resources continue for such unnecessarily long amounts of time because we don't know those in need, we don't know where or how to use our money. I am convinced that people are generally good and want to fight against poverty...they just don't know the names and faces of those who need to be fought for. That is what we want to do. Introduce you. Introduce ourselves. And then pray that it is impossible for things to stay the same. Because hernia surgery's in Haiti aren't that expensive:)

John Wesley is a small-framed boy with a snaggle toothed smile out at Darivaje Orphanage. When we first heard his name, we all died out laughing, and someone said, "Our conference is going to loooove you!" He wears flooding, khaki slacks every day to compliment his short sleeved button down shirt...looking like a tiny pastor walking around the village. His smile is both curious and shy. He doesn't know what to think of us yet, but I'm pretty sure we're winning him over. Next trip for sure.

Obnese, Jean Renald, and Chryslain look like they'd be nothing but trouble at Bighouse, but they are every bit of the leaders we need to execute any sort of structured day on site. They herd the little ones, pick them up when they fall, help re-strap crocs and balance plates of food. They know where the trash goes, where the scissors live, how to get everyone to be quiet and listen or to leave the paint brushes alone. They are the "bosses," the leaders. And I pray so hard for their lives. I see their potential. I want such wonderful things for them. How do I say, "I'm so proud of you" in Creole? Because that is all I'm thinking while I'm there. And that is all I want them to hear every day from here on out. I pray someone is telling them. And that it will make the difference.

Ron is a community child at Darivaje. He doesn't live at the orphanage, but his brother does. I'm unsure of his family situation, but I know his living arrangements are clearly different than his sibling's, evident by the large spots of infected scalp mange that we found on his head this afternoon. This is one of the hardest things for me to look at and deal with. I am not thrown off by a lot, but it takes everything in me to stick around for moments like this. But Justin Kirkes, medkit in hand, stepped up and took charge...throwing on rubber gloves, letting the child know it was about to burn, then quickly going through at least 12 alcohol swabs scrubbing the lime green pain away from the bumps that are causing it. The child took it without flinching. These kids are a different breed here. Their determination to press on, their tolerance for hurt, speaks largely of the human will to survive. That we could help each other do it. That we could carry the load. Surely there are fewer statements more powerful than, "I know how you feel" and "Let me help you." There is a doctor's appointment for that child already paid for on Friday to get it taken care of. But I just keep thinking about what would/could have happened to that child if there weren't people there with simple medicine to bring a halt to the spreading. And how many more of the Ron's are there in our world?

Stephanie is one of the older girls at Bighouse. She is too old to be held, but still young enough to probably wish to be held...making for a very awkward stage, indeed. She is quiet, but will sneak attack your hand without you even knowing it. Before you even realize what's happened, Stephanie has been interdigitating with you for five minutes, just content to be sitting against the concrete wall under the mango tree. She is the definition of enjoying the presence of company. She is the definition of the simplicity of being present. She is easy to overlook and quiet, but completely unforgettable. And she never, ever fails to remember anyone's name.

Peter is the most intense person I think I have ever met. He is the one we call "the walking bo-bo" as he is always hurt. Or at least, is always wanting you to think he is hurt. Peter cries intensely. Peter laughs intensely. Peter walks like he owns the place, and your place for that matter. He grabs our paint brushes and says, "M'travay!" (I work!) and struts off like, "don't doubt I won't finish this chapel by myself." He waits until everyone is off of the soccer field and screams, "M'jwe!" (I play!) as he barrels onto the concrete and kicks the ball square into his own face. His nose is always curled up to his forehead and his eyes are always crinkled and you are going to know that you have come to Peter's house before you leave the place. Peter is the character that you write stories around...every story needs a Peter. He makes you laugh, confuses you, and gives you something to talk about later. He lives life in a way that makes a mark, that leaves an impression. In some odd a way that not necessarily means I want to scream my way on to a soccer field or hurt myself every five minutes....I kind of want to live like Peter. All there. Crazy kid.

Laurenza has grown from a baby to a toddler at Bighouse, seemingly, in just a year. Maybe it's the food she's getting. Maybe it's the personality she's getting. But I held her long enough for a picture today before she jumped down and ran off to see what all the other kids were looking at (which just happened to be a game of "how many people can we pile on Justin Ansley's back"...the answer being, Justin Kirkes and 4 orphans). But watching her run off today like a little girl and not a baby made me think about the bitter-sweet joy that is laced around the entirety of this relationship we have with these kids in Haiti. We are getting to be a part of their growing lives...and maybe one day we can replay these stories with them...when they're older...when we've watched the years, the food, the medicine, the trips, the country, the education, the church shape them. Maybe we can sit down with them, with a stack of pictures, and say, "Let me tell you about how cute/intense/sweet/funny you were when you were five..." Just like any other big brother or sister, mother or father would....just like family.

So thank you for being a part of this ever increasing family. We are grateful to God for the inspiration, the invitation, the creativity, the resources, the web of believers who stand in the depths of compassion for the loathing of injustice in the foolish and beautiful belief of a better world. Thank you for making your world smaller, this family and the kingdom bigger, and continuing to pray, re-imagine, and dive in with how you connect.

The world is changing. At least here. In small ways. Which are surely the big ways.

Tomorrow we have our last morning at Bighouse for our big summer trip, complete with the long-awaited bandana-hand-out and a sharing of the cookies/bubbles/chalk kind of day:) Then we head to Port Salut beach with the August team to wrap up, then back this way to pack for home.

For the sake of a larger family,

Thank you...Mesi, Mesi

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Brown-Bag Fashion Show

It's a little draining to be typing right now, as I've been fighting a solid battle with the first symptoms of a decent head cold since about 1am last night. Sarah is doing the same, so she, Tim, and I came back to the Guesthouse after lunch today, missed the afternoon at Darivaje, and slept. Still super drained, throat not burning as bad, nap was appreciated and surely did something positive...but alas, this blog has the potential to be very short. More tomorrow.

Debriefing/devotion time on the roof with the August team was sweet last night, as Tim (with only a 30 second warning) was asked to share with us. And he offered us a message that has been growing in his life for a while about community, and the power that we have when we are together in the name of Christ to bring joy, and full life, and restoration. It was beautiful.

Went down and made a collective effort to cut front slits, head and arm holes into 122 paper bags for the VBS story today. Which were donated by Piggly Wiggly in sweet Haynesville, LA. Which soon became (after a little bit of messy paint) a "coat of many colors," just like in the story of Joseph, for ever child at the orphanage. Can you picture it?? Eighty children waddling around with oversized, painted brown-paper-bags on them....laughing, painting each other, confused as to how to get their arms in them, showing off how they put their name with flames on the back... If you're thinking that it was probably the cutest thing in the entire world, you'd definitely be right. It was in fact the cutest thing in the entire world.

And while half of our team did crowd control with all the little bagged Josephs...the other half sawed boards and assembled new desks for the new classrooms at Bighouse that were built in April, that last week's team finished painting. Construction is never easy in Haiti. The tools are borrowed, the donkeys bring in the concrete mixture, the rocks are carried by hand, and it can be best described as primitive. Thankfully, we had a group of guys that knew what they were doing, headed up by Mr. Bryan, and much was accomplished. And surely much more will be tomorrow.

While the building continued, and the paper-bags got hot and began to be shed, Michael, Nic, and I made the first official Croc drop in one of the back rooms. We organized them into three piles in the room beside the outside kitchen, and had the kids line up, coming in one by one to get sized for their new shoes. You should have seen the smiles and the dancing that took place as soon as the old worn pair was tossed and the new Crocs were sported out, only to be shown off to those less fortunate to be at the end of the line. A pair of pink Crocs have never looked so bright and new as they did at the end of Benji's old and dusty outfit, worn and torn by many months of play in the orphanage's playground. And her little body walked a little straighter with a little more energy as she buried her head in the side of our legs, grateful to feel pretty today.

Every child and orphanage "mama" passed through with a new pair in hand, (except for a handful of little-feet that we have to attend to tomorrow). Then we ate lunch (beside a rather large spider, that the boys in our team just couldn't leave alone), and headed for Darivaje.

On the way there was when the three of us were dropped off at the guesthouse, so I have missed much of the story from the afternoon. (Ughhh, I loathe being sick). But I hear it went very well. Cassie (with the August team) said that they are "so welcoming there." Which is the very best way to describe Darivaje. They sang songs, played games, and told round two of the story of Joseph, complete with the brown-bag-fashion show. The pastor and his wife, as sweet as they can be, rode into town just to check on those of us who have felt a little off today, and said that they pray we will feel better and that they will see us at Darivaje tomorrow:) So sweet.

Cabrit Dinner tonight (le goat), and organizing supplies for our last day of VBS, the Croc drop for Darivaje, more desk assembling, and the clothes drop for both orphanages tomorrow. Michael and Carrie leave with a translator, Pastor Jean, and Judalain leave at 6am in the morning for Port Salut to have Judalain's lab work done for his hernia surgery.

Grateful for your prayers for our team, our health, these children, Judalainls surgery, and our last 3 days in Haiti!

Mesi ampil, ampil, ampil,


Monday, August 2, 2010

Because We Love Haiti

The past couple of days have been packed with activity for us in Haiti. If big-moments are those that you take a photograph of with your mind and hope that you’ll recollect it often in the days ahead, then we definitely had a big-moment-weekend. We left early for Bighouse on Saturday to finish painting the classrooms and to give the six July-only team members one last morning to play with the kids and say goodbye. I can vouch for them and for this next team that will do the same this coming Thursday…knowing that when you leave there are not as many people to hold them when they fall, knowing that when you leave there will not be as many activities taking place or older “siblings” to play with or heads of hair to run their hands through, knowing that when you leave they will remember your name as much as you remember theirs and you will both be waiting until the time when you will see each other in Haiti again….saying goodbye is a terribly difficult thing to do at Bighouse orphanage. It is near impossible to get back into the bed of the pickup, and not be able to say “Demen” (tomorrow!), without planning your next trip down. I’ve said it once, and I hold to it completely…this place is contagious.

We loaded up and headed back to the guesthouse for a quick lunch and a change of clothes, then got back into the vehicles for the drive to Port Salut beach. Of course, we listened to the wrong person who listened to the wrong person who said that the car we were renting was the one sitting across the street. So I led, ya know, ten people into climbing into the back of some stranger’s pickup and we just sat there waiting on our driver who just stood there wondering why in the world there were ten white people packed like sardines in the back of his pickup with their swimsuits on. Luckily, our guesthouse leader (who had rented us the other vehicle…that hadn’t arrived yet) caught us in time and yelled, “Whose car is that???!” And I yelled, “Um….well if you don’t know, then I’m sure I don’t know….(whispered) Hey guys, I think we should get out of the car…get out of the car.” Then our correct vehicle pulled up, we apologized to the driver who thought he was going to luck out on an American tip for the afternoon, and headed for the mountains.

The drive to Port Salut is indescribable in the most sincere since of the term. On the days when the sun is not masked by rain clouds, the Island lights up as we dip low and then climb back high across an hour’s drive to the southern coast. It is breathtaking. You can see the teal Caribbean sea when it makes a surprise appearance every now and then around a corner, right before it’s hidden again by another set of mountains beyond mountains beyond mountains that are covered with random crops and tiny huts that leave you wondering how in the world anyone got over there. The roads get better the closer you get to Port Salut, as many UN people live out that way, and the smell of sea water announces our arrival.

We went and put our orders in at the beach-side restaurant for dinner…some got chicken or fish…some got grilled conk or lobster (which just happens to be the same price as chicken, conveniently, and is one of the best meals I’ve had). Then we went and played in the water that is best described as cloudy, walked the beach and found shells and muscles, and played Frisbee with some locals. We finished out the evening eating our meals on wooden tables in the sand, singing to the guitar as the sun set, and driving through dark mountain roads back to the guesthouse.

We had our last devotion/debriefing time on the roof as thunder clouds demanded our attention and surrounded the house, eventually accompanied by lightning so bright and loud it would light up the entire outside and then have us jumping high and screaming. We moved our closing under the roof veranda and spoke over the storm as we cried and laughed and said our goodbyes to the July-only team. Then we played in the rain as we were still in our swimsuits.

Sarah, Michael, and I woke up at 5 the next morning with the July group, had breakfast with them, then climbed into the charter bus to take them on the 4 hour drive back to the airport. Saw them through security, gave hugs, and crossed our fingers hoping that Port au Prince airport would allow us to sit inside for the next 4hours as we waiting on the next team of 7 to arrive. They said no. They said no and asked us to leave. So we did. And we sat outside on the curb and ate our PB&J sandwiches in the heat and wondered what we were going to do on that curb for 3.5 more hours as we took the last sips of our water.

So. We called a driver named Daniel who I’ve ridden with before and trust and asked him to take us to the Global Orphan Project’s Orphan Transition Village, 20minutes north, where I led a group to and stayed the past two times I was in Haiti. And he did, and it was such an exciting and unexpected surprise. We sat in their main office with Tate, a GO Project staff, and his wife, shared their fruit cups, filled up our water bottles, talked about Bighouse and Darivaje (the two orphan villages that we sponsor through them), used the bathroom, hugged the children, then left to pick up the team.

Jackson, the one armed bag guy, helped us get the team’s luggage on top of our charter bus, and we made the trek back out to Cayes. As we arrived 4hours later at the guesthouse, we got word that the July team had made it home safely in Shreveport, gave the August team the rundown for the week, ate a late supper, took late showers, had a few late conversations, then got some much needed rest.

Woke up for another full day of painting (this time the church) and playing at Bighouse today. The older boys greeted Missy with bracelets they had made her with her name on it. Maegan finally found Merothide who had definitely grown since the last time she held her. Justin Ansley, who tries to act big and bad, melted when he immediately was covered with 4 kids hanging everywhere possible, tugging at his piercings. The minute we arrived, Nic Sorensen was weighted down with both Tony twins. And Jason (my little brother, mwen ti frer), Cassie, and Tim were welcomed without hesitation into the Bighouse family as kids wrapped their arms around their necks and asked their names.

All day long we’ve answered the questions of, “Kikote Nicole? Kikote Zahk… Eleezabith… Dehna? Kikote Gront… Mehree Lahenn?” And we told them they were in the United States, and that they love them and will pray for them, and that they will be back.

As we all will. Because they will be waiting. Because they won’t forget. Because we keep this thing going like an actual relationship… ever growing, ever added to. Because we love Haiti.

Going to get a coke and play cards and relive the day with the group,


Oh. Ps. Tim rode a donkey today. Livin' the dream.

Friday, July 30, 2010

surely the day

I wish I could paint an accurate picture for you of our day at Darivaje Orphanage. I assure you it won't be accurate, but I'd love to take you there as best I can...

We kick the dirt and linger around the vehicles a little longer than necessary in the mornings, because everyone is (silently) wondering if they're going to get to ride in the back of the small pickup instead of the four-door Pajero. Now, nothing's wrong with the Pajero...but the pickup is an adventure. You have to hold on. You have to sit close. You have to endure the bruises that you'll have at the end of the day on your butt-cheeks because of the way that you've been tossed by the avoidance of potholes. And it's perfect. With it you get the wind, the Caribbean sun abusing your shoulders before the day has even slightly begun, and all the smells both good and bad of the Haitian roads (mostly the latter). And it's perfect.

You sit so close that the sweat drips down the back of your legs and into your shoes almost immediately. And someone starts us off with an old camp song that none of us have heard in years (usually this is Lauren "the-walking-camp-song" Burkhalter), or we talk about Breakfast or how we slept or didn't, or we practice our Creole greetings on the passersby.

We make it a good ways off the main road and down a back one until the trucks can't pass anymore. We can see Darivaje across the corn field directly to our right, but have no clue whose field that is, so we have to walk the extra twenty minutes around. The path is so muddy that the 19 of us (16 team members, 3 translators) along with all of our coolers, bags, and supplies and about 11 community children, balance-walk in a straight line for many, many yards on top of a short concrete lining of the road. It's a pretty great sight, if you ask me. Someone yells, "Look at the tadpoles!" and our entire line almost collapses into the stream we are avoiding. It's best to stay focused. Though with this group, it's hard to stay focused. Easy to laugh, easy to love, hard to stay focused.

We are met by very excited faces and the warm of the Pastor who has already made this our home. He is so, so grateful that we will be doing for them what we do and have done for Bighouse for a year. They were inviting. We all met in the chapel, unloaded, then the kids sang a welcome song for us. Then we sang "This is the Day" for them in english. Then they sang "This is the Day" for us en Kreyol!! Then we all sang it together in our different languages, and I get a glimpse of the banquet. That in our differences, we make up the world that God loves; and therefore, in the moments where our cultures, and foreign vocabularies, and polar-opposite realities collide, we find God in the rarest form. It was surely the day.

After that, we lined the kids up and got their names, ages, heights, weights, and pictures so that we can partner them with their sponsors (of $35 a month) in the states! This money, like at Bighouse, will be filtered through The Global Orphan Project who then takes care of their meals and medical attention. Any extra gifts go toward things like the well that's needed at Darivaje, or the latrines and showers that were built at Bighouse last year.

After all of that, we balloon relayed. It was slightly successful, but shortlived. They really just wanted to chase the balloons around, haha. So we did that too.

Then the team broke for lunch in a side room of the concrete chapel that sits in the middle of a pasture that is lined with distant blue mountains on two sides. It is a lovely place, and those words do no justice. We ate our packed meals, but didn't stop there, as the Pastor's wife and the mamas of the orphanage brought us a fresh Haitian juice and some fruit that they had prepared. It. Was. Delicious. Oh my gosh.

Then it was time for baseball (kind of, as we had to teach it...and by we, I mean Justin). A few hours of that, and then some impressing them with our skills of flipping over kids and jumping on walls (...and by "our," I mean Justin's...). A group got a game of soccer going that seemed to last for hours in the grass, while some just held babies and soaked in, breathed in the awareness of the approaching goodbyes.

We thanked the Pastor for the day, who in turn thanked us for the day...must mean the one responsible is neither;) We said our goodbyes, some temporary, some temporary in a different way...loaded up, and headed back for the guesthouse. It began to sprinkle on the way home, which was refreshing. Our driver, out of much courtesy, pulled under a gas station roof to get us out of the weather. However, the roof was "L" shaped, so most of us were out of the rain, while Michael at the back of the truck was still getting hit in the face. So we told him we were fine with a little water, waved to the many passengers of a huge dump truck who were hiding under a tarp but on top of piles of material, and finished the journey home. Justin, of course, followed behind on the back of Pastor Jean's scooter.

Just made it back, and are taking shower-shifts before dinner. Tomorrow morning we'll be finishing out the July-only-team's last day at Bighouse, coming back to the guesthouse for lunch, then heading to Rainbow Beach for the afternoon and supper. None of us have ever been to this beach before, but we hear it's amazing. Looking forward to the day:)!

With banquets and sweet little faces and beaches on the mind,

Bon Nuit from Les Cayes:)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

“Darivaje ees yoh home…Welcome!”

Today was full as we started the morning finishing up painting and taking weights of children at Bighouse. Then after lunch, we all piled into the Pajero and the back of the pickup (which seems overly packed until we pass another truck, even smaller in size, with ten extra Haitians in it), and we headed to meet the children at the new orphanage, Derivaje, about twenty minutes away…give or take, depending on how much mud and how far we walk after we get stuck.

We woke up this morning and Mrs Virginia and the ladies had pancakes with mango syrup ready to greet us. So we ate, coated in sunscreen and bugspray, grabbed our packs, supplies, and coolers, and headed for the 20min drive, 20min walk to Bighouse. The kids are getting more and more familiar with us (as what usually happens by day 3). How they know we’re there is beyond me, but they always greet us before we even cross the tree line with hugs and laughter and running and “BONJU, Breetnee!” “BONJU, Aleesahn!” “BONJU, Gront!” “BONJU, Annah!” We hug, and hug, and hug for about 15 minutes before we can even officially get on orphanage property. Peter…who I’ve now started calling Peter “I fell on purpose so you’d hold me” Leore….did the obvious and, well, fell…started weeping, and found his way into someone’s lap, miraculously healing all recent injuries. And some of the older boys brought us bracelets they had made. Some people got bracelets that said, “Haiti Cheri” and “I love you!”…I got a bracelet that said “Kaka.” The translator said it’s for a Brazilian soccer player that the Haitians love….I’m not completely confident that it doesn’t just mean “Kaka.”

It happens about the third day every time when one of those “time stops” moments hits me at Bighouse, and I quickly and unintentionally pass over the reality that this trip also ends. I want such wonderful things for their lives. They hit deeper parts of my soul than I knew I had. This country is not glorious but her people will change you forever. And the intimacy of doing life with people is found when Obnese helps one of us tend to the younger kids…when Herby sings “Jesus loves me” in our ears even though the sores in his mouth hurt so much he can barely move it…when the soccer games go on for hours and no one even realizes they’re tired and thirsty and have no more to give, but it doesn’t stop them….when questions are asked about how this can be done better, and creativity and wisdom become the vessels in those conversations where God radiates and mends….when a well is fixed…when solar panels are discussed…when the children sitting with us tonight on the roof at debriefing can’t understand a word we’re singing but resound in Hosanna’s with us as we watch the stars….when a child weighs in 35lbs heavier than he did this time last year…when you can say, “This is life” and be completely confident in the statement, and therefore completely joyful. Who are we to get to be a part of this life? Grateful indeed.

I cut my finger open with a new pair of scissors last night. Bled all the way up the stairs, on the table, and all over the bathroom. Completely panicked at the thought of needing stitches in Haiti, and have been cleaning and wrapping ever since. Think it’s going to be fine. May leave a scar, but I’m just going to let the story be, “I got this in Haiti…” Because “I stupidly cut myself with scissors because I think felt can’t be broken through” sounds slightly lame. Leave more to the imagination.

Darivaje Orphanage was beautiful, and peaceful, and calm. The kids and the pastor were so welcoming and grateful. Humbled and illuminated when we told them that a large group of people back home have committed to being their village sponsors through Global Orphan Project just like at Bighouse. And they said, “We have been praying that you would come for months and months and now God has sent you. Tell your people that we pray for them. And that Darivaje is their home.”

I feel that that is true. I cannot wait for us to get to know this new part of our family more. Teams will start coming to both orphanages when we make trips down and we will help meet the needs as best we can for all the kids at the two sites. First and foremost, at Darivaje, being a well. They have no water source and have to go to the main road just to fill barrels and bring back to the children. So we’re gonna get the money and build them a well. Somehow. And soon. Because everyone deserves clean water.

Had goat for supper, mango smoothies for a late night snack, and now are wrapping up the night…resting for a full day at Darivaje Orphanage tomorrow.

Pray for the travels of the two teams that are switching out on Sunday. Pray for Judelain, a boy at the orphanage with a huge hernia who we are trying to schedule a surgery appointment with a good surgeon before we leave. Pray for health and energy and creativity and wisdom that ask the questions that make life better for others.

And if you’ve read any of these at all, thank you for sacrificing your time…your connections and prayers keep us going and grow the efforts.

Love from Ayiti!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Steak and Pasta, baby."

Coming in close second only to Mark Sorensen’s poorly executed Creole last summer of “Bon Sparge!” instead of the correct “Bon swa!”….was July Team Member, Justin Kirke’s attempted greetings out the back of our pickup on the way to day two at Bighouse.

“How do you say, ‘What’s up’ again?” –Justin

“Sak pase…” –Me

(a few minutes later, and yelled loudly at passersby)

“SOCKAPLAZA!!!!....I mean….SACKAPLAYSA!!!!....I mean….oh man, what is it??” -Justin

(a few hours later, on the drive back from Bighouse, and yelled just as loudly)

“STEAKANPASTA!!....wait…..seriously, what is it??...” –Justin

“No, yeah, that’s it. Steak and pasta, baby, steak and pasta…The Haitian greeting” –Carrie

Eh. It's a wonder we can get anyone to talk to us...

Last night we wrapped the day up with the Haitian dish that is only best described as cornmeal-grits-with-a-meat-layer-and-ketchup-squirts. Downed it. Then we divided up the next day’s supplies, took much needed showers, then headed up for devotion/debriefing on the roof.

We sat in a circle under the stars out from under the covering so that we could feel the slight breeze, and sang songs with our voices and the guitar carrying our praises across the rooftops in the area. Songs whose lyrics say, “I once was fatherless, a stranger with no hope, your kindness wakened me, wakened me from my sleep…” never mean as much as they do when you’ve left the company of those without parents. Those who share beds made for one. Those who love so freely.

We sang “How He Loves Us,” surely uniting in reflection of the day, though not having to acknowledge it. Then we talked about what it means to be rich. Shared stories and thoughts and things to talk to God about and things to be aware of. And then we prayed together. And the end of the day, that moment, felt good. Felt like quality. Excited that we get a few more end-of-the-days to do that:)

Today at Bighouse was very productive. Twelve of us painted some of the new classrooms and repainted some of the old ones, while 4 of us took new heights, weights, and picture updates of all the children. However, our scale (we found out later, after many failed attempts to create a mathematical formula to understand the conversions and how the weights might be off)….we realized the scale was broken. So that part, we get to do all over again tomorrow. But I’m pretty confident that weight has been put on at Bighouse. It’s encouraging, to say the least, when proof of conquering the lie of hunger and the hopelessness that accompanies it is tangibly evident. We stand against injustices, and creatively turn them around. Lord willing.

We told the story of baby Moses this afternoon and the kids each molded a basket out of rice krispy treats with a teddy graham in the middle for Moses. They loved it:) They also loved when Anna and Carrie acted out the story and stuck one of the kids in a wheel barrow as we “shook him through the waves through the scary, scary river!!” Precious.

Another hike forever and a year back to our vehicles (that could make it an even shorter distance today because of ALL the rain we got last night). But this hike is beautiful and fun, and the rain made it cooler…and no one complains about that.

Judelain’s doctor’s appointment is planned out and his hernia surgery will be on the 22nd. Tomorrow we go to Bighouse for the morning to finish measurements and painting, and tomorrow afternoon we head to (what I was corrected and told to pronouce) Dalvaje Orphanage to meet them for the first time.

Last night, a theme in conversation was changing the world with small acts of great love. Putting our chances on the truth of a backwards Kingdom and message. Where the fools are wise, the poor are rich, the weak are strong, and the small acts of great love are restoring the people of God.

Hoping your days are backwards, from Haiti,


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Sweet Bighouse

It's almost dinner time at La Belle Maison Guesthouse in Les Cayes, Haiti. The electricity just went out so our fans have slowed to complete halts, and the team has started showers to wash away dirt so thick that little fingers were drawing pictures in our skin by the end of the day. Mud spots are caked in a variety of places as we battled a few refusals from our pickups to make it any further through what the rainy season has left down roads that are not roads. And we've all opened a sugar cane coke to make the afternoon all that it could be. :)

We're wrapping up day two of our two week summer trip to Haiti. We've got ten people staying the whole 12 days, and six people trading out half way through. Many are returning team members and many met Haiti for the first time yesterday.

It's been a year since our first trip to Haiti, and that comes with a lot of thought. Much more than I probably want to delve into right now even if there were enough room on this blog;) Just a few though.... I'm in love with watching people come into contact with Haiti for the first time. And yesterday I got to sit in the peace of letting people take it in, knowing that this is where their story here starts, and that in some way, it always goes forward. Last summer I began a courtship with this country, and we've been trying to figure each other out ever since. And this has been our story. And I am convinced that the more souls that get to say the same thing, the more hope the Haitians have. Because more mouths are, in some way, saying, "We're doing this together."

My team is amazing. They breezed through Port au Prince airport with all (that's right) all of our luggage, and we made it out with only caving to four people who helped us carry it. Now granted, I preached for 30minutes twice about how we "do NOT need help, say 'No Mesi!'" and then was in fact the only person who allowed for one...then two...then four people to assist. Better than 5...I guess...question mark?

The drive to Cayes was familiar and new. It was the first time I had watched those roads pass since the day we evacuated in January. Surprisingly, most of the rough parts have been beautifully paved. I suppose with so much traffic in and out of the capital, people relocating to the other cities, it was necessary.

We ate around the big table and the little table in the dimly lit downstairs last night. Sitting on plastic covers and comparing Haitian gumbo to Louisiana gumbo. A few instructions about how to put your toilet paper in baggies and your baggies in the trashcan, the unpacking of a few decks of cards, room divisions and bugspray...and we called it a night.

All call for omlet (egg, ketchup, hotdog) breakfast, orphanage activity bag and cooler organized and packed, water bottles filled, last call for the potty...last call again for Sarah...and we loaded into the Pajero and the back of a pickup and headed for Bighouse.

I love Bighouse.

The boys pushed us out twice before we called it quits and walked the rest of the path to the 78 little bodies pushing to be first in line to be held, remembered, played with. The orphan village looks great, especially compared to a year ago. The recent additions of latrines, classrooms, showers, playground, dining pavilion, etc, actually make it look functional for so many children. We played, and told the story of Noah, and held, and sang, and twisted pipecleaners, and retwisted pipecleaners, and re-retwisted pipecleaners in hair. We delivered another few months worth of vitamins and made plans to paint the rest of the school house tomorrow as well as finish assembling a few desks. Makendy was in his pink pants and the cut off shirt that shows how cut his arms are (which is somewhat freaky for a 7 year old, but it kinda matches his oddly deep voice). Acenita is spunky and showing off her attitude, as if anyone would miss it. Judelain showed off the english vocabulary he's learned, and Tony took someone's glasses and posted up beside a wall till everyone acknowledged his fashion. Obnese and the older boys whooped up on a handful of our team in a game of soccer on their concrete field in the middle of the beating-down sun. And Samuel stuck a walking stick in the ground and pretended it was a microphone that he performed behind with us as his audience. And we amused him. And we loved every minute of it. And they loved every minute of it.

Still to come: painting the church, potential building of new pews, Croc drop, and introducing ourselves to our newest partners and family, Derivuge Orphanage.

"You said that Haiti was chaotic and beautiful and in pieces and rich and hard and wonderful, and I didn't understand. But now I do." -Grant, while driving through Port au Prince.

Welcome to Haiti. She comes with as much baggage and questions as she does purpose and captivating something that keeps you coming back. That keeps you telling the stories. If you've been in any part of this relationship with her for the past year of our partnership there...whether going, or giving, or reading, or sharing, or praying for hope and healing and provision...Thank You. And stick with us.... surely the story only gets better from here.

Pray for our team, for health and efficiency, for Kingdom building processing and connections,


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jezi, Jezi

Currently I am sitting in a dark room on my bed, all the windows open for the breeze to usher out some of this sticky heat, listening to a Michael Jackson song blast full volume from a radio out back, exhausted from the rat race that a filthy, obnoxious, and purposeless june bug just invited me into. Guess who won...

One of my favorite quotes is from the missionary Jim Elliot who said, "Wherever you are, be all there; live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God."

And I try to live that present. And there are many moments when I fight hard to have that kind of "all here" perspective and investment. And many moments, including this trip, when I have failed. But then there are those moments, like countless ones today, where it just clicks. The fullness settles into the present and you can literally see a little more clearly. It's hard to explain, but I am in love with those moments.

This morning's worship in Port au Prince with the team at Pastor Mois' church was the treasure that it was the first time I visited with his congregation in April. And I don't mean treasure in some cutesy term by any means. I mean, the type of hour that you could search for forever and not find, but the Lord in His graciousness just gives sometimes. I've said it before, and I hold to it. There is nothing more beautiful than when the broken exhaust themselves in worship of a good God that loves them. That they trust. That is healing them. Who has never left.

Our driver took us through many more parts of the vast capital today than I had assumed we were going to see. Cite' Soleil. The government buildings. The capitol. The hardest hit areas, construction wise. The hardest hit areas, death count wise. And it's hard.

It's just hard.

What a vain attempt it would be to try and wrap up the reality of the suffering into a few romantic words. I have nothing. Still, it is appalling. Still, it is incomprehensible to the greatest extent of the term. Still, it is heart wrenching if given only a second to realize what and who are still in the ruins not yet excavated as life goes on around them. To realize that an orphan, if viewed as not another face in a group, but as an individual who is not being rocked to sleep tonight by one mother and put on the shoulders of one father...who potentially had that just a few months ago, and now doesn't. To realize that we forget, and it is easier that way. It is harder to think, and sift, and ask. It is harder to feel and be vulnerable in all of the uncertainty. It is harder to see life at its raw, wounded, and rich core.

Help us, Lord. You are good. You love us. And You are here. Help us. Help us all.

As we drove between Pastor Joseph's orphanage sites today after church, Tate (who is on staff for GO Project and works most of his time in Haiti) asked Ines (a team member who at one point worked for the same company as Alan) what Alan (who used to work for that company but is now on staff at GO Project) was like at his old job. "Was he a big deal?" Tate said, and then laughed. And then he made a point that I don't think he completely knew was so significant. But he said, "See, that's what I love about Haiti. It doesn't matter how high up Alan was at some job back in the states. He's no different than me in this bus. We're both sweating, we're both the same."

The Kingdom brings us all to the table. And our titles and pasts and status descriptions don't matter. Not even in the least. Surely that's how we know:)

We were greeted at the OTV gate by a group of an excited 80 who had been attention starved for a whole five hours. They asked if we were leaving tomorrow. They know the drill. And we said yes, and put on a carnival (in the most structured manner that I've ever seen a group accomplish in Haiti...yay team!).

And before we left to go up for dinner and then one last debriefing on the roof, I found Kinli who jumped up in my arms and we just walked around for a bit. And it happened. One of those very real, very present moments. He gave me kisses on my cheek and laughed when I tried to say, "You are my little brother" in Creole. Then we walked toward the soccer field and I prayed for him and twirled him and he said, "Jezi, Jezi" then giggled and pulled out his pixi stick which was soon all over everything. And he asked when I would be back, and I told him I wasn't sure. But that I would be. And I will be:)

May your moments be present and to the hilt,

Thanks for reading about one more trip and a few more stories! Until next time:)


PS. I got ranked a five today in looks by a very blunt Haitian man. I am offended. But he was on the prowl for a mama to join he and his baby girl in their family. So maybe not that offended. Bon nuit!

Doubled Up Because We Haven't Had Wireless...go figure

“Pa kite' moun di ou ke' ou paka fa anyen.”

Ron is a man who is traveling with us on the team, and this is his second time back to Haiti in 30 years. He was born here and now lives in Miami, still speaks the language and has come back to help. Ron sat in the back of the bus with us and Rojelin (who came to help translate) as we traveled to Julie’s Place and Madame Paul’s today. Rojelin, if you remember, is the 15 year old who is waiting to be reunited with his sister in Miami after he lost both of his parents in the quake.

I picked Ron’s brain as much as I could as we drove, and I asked him if he had to say what will help Haiti rebuild (as ridiculously simple of a question this is for such a complex reality) what would it be. And he said, time. And education. And this idea of “adding to.” He referenced the government and the concrete structures and said the same of both. He said that people knock down and rebuild, overcorrecting what the last person did, without any foundation. No one is adding to, they’re just always starting over.

Then he told Rojelin in Creole, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” then he turned and looked out the window as we passed a tent city that has completely flooded. And I got chills.

Rojelin wants to be a doctor. And he will be. And Kelsey and I told him that we’ll come and see him when we’re sick. We’ve also told him that he should give that cute little girl at Julie’s place a chance. He stopped listening to us after a while.

I sat in the top meeting room beside the kitchen of the OTV this afternoon and downed my very first Fluffer Nutter Sandwich and a sugar can coke. For those of you who have not experience the magic that is the Fluffer Nutter…it is white bread…with peanut butter…and marshmallow fluff. Lord in Heaven. Once again, my life has been changed in Haiti. I will make you all one when I get back. Scratch that. I will make you two. We will sit in silence and eat them and reflect on all things good.

And after I tasted the glory. I started in on journaling with a table full of wonderfully strong and compassionate ladies who were attempting to get some sort of journaling in amongst all our chatting. And I wrote about how that moment felt heavy. Not in a hopeless or distraught way. Not even in a joyless way. But I recognized the tension in myself.

And I thought back on Madame Paul’s place. And how big it was. And how overcrowded it was. And how foul smelling, and unorganized, and heart breaking it was. I thought about all the unclothed kids that aren’t potty-trained, the sick kids that looked so sad, and the babies that were being rocked by 7 year olds. And then I thought about how, yet again, I do not know how to feel in Haiti. And how I forget that I don’t every time, and I allow myself to think that this is all new. That surely I figured it out last time and processing should be quick and easy and everything will have a place to go.

But it doesn’t. Once again, it doesn’t. And thank God, as I hope and pray and am desperate to never be the soul so callused with time and experience that poverty doesn’t confuse me. Doesn’t stun me. Doesn’t leave me wondering what to do with it. Doesn’t make me uncomfortable in my own skin.

It is on the heels of that moment when inspiration emerges. At least eventually, Lord willing. And it is out of inspiration that we share the ideas that change the world.

Ron said today that Haiti cannot be put in a box, cannot be figured out no matter how hard you try. Which is somewhat comforting, because it seems that all things that I want to be a part of share the same description.

We finished out the day with the OTV kids who look more and more like the lucky ones with every new site we visit. Lasagna supper. And a beautifully moving and open debriefing time on the roof.

Oh, I forgot. Today the kids argued with me about the fact that my parents are both white. They say I’m too dark, my mama must be black. No? Papa? No? Then they’re red. Your parents are red. No…nuh no…they’re both white. I have thoroughly confused them.

Tomorrow, one of the richest spots in the world in my book…the half “standing,” half tent “covered” church of Pastor Mois in the heart of Port au Prince. 5:20 wake up call and worth every minute of sleep lost ten times over.

To confusion that means we’re alive,

Sleep well

Tin Roof

There’s that moment in between “we’ll play these games with these prizes in this order” and “oh…so you’re perfectly happy just running with balloons and getting kisses” that Haiti reminds me that at the core of our humanity, simple really is enough.

This country laughs in the face of an itinerary and time schedule and never ceases to invite us into the freedom that comes with losing control. Thankfully, my team has the energy that runs on grace, and they’re up for anything. We’re having funJ

Today we started the morning with a very typical Haitian breakfast…spaghetti. Seriously, though, it couldn’t have been better. It did however not have hotdog chunks in it like normal. Eh. Maybe next time.

Charlene then took us on the tour of the compound that all GO Project teams get to have. And she told us stories. And it’s like my ears know exactly when one of “these” stories are about to be told, because they tune right in and very little else can be heard. It’s the stories that keep me coming. That intrigue me. That feel like they quench some part of me that’s so thirsty to know more. How God has moved. How lives were saved. How things happened and came out of nowhere and provided so many with so much in just the right time. There’s a reason He told stories. Something happens when they’re heard that connects us in ways that lectures and lists cannot attempt. People want to hear about people, and God and people. Something in us, something very ancient, knows that we are relational and that we thrive there.

She told the story today about the church that is on the campus at the Orphan Transition Village. The entire compound’s purchase was finalized by the Global Orphan Project after the quake from a man named Pastor Claude for the use of it as a hub for transitioning orphans and storing and distributing food. Charlene told us that four years ago Pastor Claude had a vision from God to build a two story church with a tin roof. Two things being wrong here…1. There was no need for a two story church, and 2. A tin roof is disrespectful. It had to be concrete. However, when he refused to listen to the pull to place a tin roof on the church, the concrete structure soon fell. Recognizing this as a sign to be obedient, Pastor Claude made the decision to cover the church with tin.

For four years the tin made no sense and the bottom floor of the building remained bare and without function. Until January 12th.

Days after the quake hit the area, the bottom floor of that church became the distribution warehouse for thousands and thousands of orphans all over the country. Food from the DR was pumped directly into the building…which by the way, stood only because it didn’t have a concrete roof to cause its collapse…and continues to be funneled in and out today.

There is a Kingdom to be built at the end of the faithfulness that boldly treks through the nonsensical. And people will be saved because of it. As they are.

We spent the morning split up as a team, sorting the endless duffle bags of clothes and shoes, helping the mamas wash clothes so that they could have time for study and devotion, and we sent the men-folk to work on a questionably safe looking saw, finishing up some woodwork. It could have taken days, but this crew was resilient.

Bags of outfits and supplies were also packed to be taken with a team down to Cayes tomorrow. They are going to Bighouse to distribute and it is juuussst about killing me to once again be so close and to not be there with our babies. Correction, it is definitely killing me. I’m sending a letter with them saying that we are coming next month and that we love them tremendously. That is such an understatement.

The second half of the day was spent attempting to organize and execute a relay race at the OTV. Which the kids loved. The sack races were a little unnerving, as they kept falling on the gravel. But they would just laugh and laugh and pop straight up. At the end, we passed out star shaped sunglasses for a prize. Holly. Wood. To say the least.

Then we took the mile walk across the street and through the pasture to Pastor Calaix’s where we painted nails and made bracelets and braided hair and passed out suckers. I was only there for two hours two months ago, and I was greeted by name by a 10 year old named Jeff. It’s humbling, and that’s all I’ve got. It’s just humbling. They will remember every name that was there today, I assure you.

We wrapped the day with a chicken and potato supper, then the sweet, sweet bead ceremony/devotion on the roof while the kids watched a projected French movie on the side of the school building.

Did I mention how hot it is? It’s hot. I mean, pretty darn hot.

Also, there’s one room here that has a working air conditioner. The girls in my room are planning a hijacking of said air conditioned room. Wish us luck.

A night of wonderfully sweaty sleep, then another day of orphanage visits. Tomorrow, Julie’s Place and Madame Paul’s!

With “faithfulness” on the mind,

G’night from Haiti.