Monday, April 19, 2010

I can't think of what to title this because I am literally swatting huge bugs away from my mac and face...

Last night of blogging before we fly out of Port au Prince and back into the states in the morning. The trips are always very two-fold, in that they feel like I've both been here for a three months and just arrived a hour ago.

Today was a little different because the kids were back in school. The Orphan Transition Village is still settling into their new routines and structure, school being a part of that. But the kids looked so great in their multicolored uniform shirts, maroon pants, dress shoes, and big bows. All of which was completely shed the minute they got out of school, and justifiably since it was soo humid in Croix de Bouquet today. So for the morning and early afternoon we completely reorganized the supply closet which functions as hub of supplies for most of the GOP orphanages in the north. I've never rolled so many shirts or seen so many flipflops. We've gotten a lot of great ideas of what is needed and what they could probably do thermal underwear or a nice pair of thongs (not flops, of course). So, noted.

Cathie (from The Global Orphan staff that's with us) gave three of us the opportunity to go to Love a Child, so I jumped on that and we left mid-afternoon to take 4-week-old Kimberly and her 13 year old momma to get vaccines. This was a different side of the quake than I'd seen so far. The drive, gorgeous of course, as Haiti is Caribbean countryside wishing to be at its finest. We turned down a white-rock road past a big sign and arrived up on a hill where a large hospital campus stood amongst what looked like hundreds of tents, representing a result of community in between the mountains.

The first thing I noticed (after we got scolded for wandering and taking pictures), was that there were a lot of American doctors and nurses walking back and forth, working with an aimed purposed at their new job that some of them were thrown into just two days ago. We sat outside of the "ER" tent and I practiced my Creole on a few teenagers while one of our boys got his healing broken foot checked out and half of the group accompanied little Kimberly in to get her shots. The second thing I noticed were the injuries. All healing, thank God, but my God.... amputated limbs, toddler bodies scarred with burns from head to foot disfiguring their entire little selves, cuts, slings, crutches...Thank God, thank God for the medical volunteers who are taking leadership in and amongst the chaos. The initiative and risk they are taking is keeping the horrendous count of lives lost far less lower than it could be.

And so, se la vi, they didn't have vaccines for Kimberly, but there was a new 15 year old that connections were made for him to come and make the Orphan Transition Village his home. He has been at Love a Child with some sort of illness or injury and was about to be released but has no parents to go back to. But now he has a safe home and a chance. The ones within these walls...with everything they've lost and been through--orphaned, raped, sold into slavery, living on the Haiti, they are the lucky ones, if lucky is what you can call it. They have food, beds, a chance to go to school, etc. You pass the masses on the streets into PAP, and you think no wonder so many parents give their children up as economic orphans. Help us keep families together when possible, Jesus...and help organizations like the GOP continue to expand and be provided for so that more and more children can be found and cared for.

I sat with baby Kimberly's young momma tonight and I thought about how her life not only was completely decided for her before, as an abused restevek, but has been directed for her from here on out with the child that came as a product of that abuse. And I pulled out my earring stubs and passed them over to her and she said, "Thinkyou" and smiled and put them in, and I thought about how she has been treated like a worthless piece of property for so much of her life and I wished I could do anything to make her feel worthy and beautiful and take away the certain depth of her wounds. And then I thought, "No wonder You did what You did." The staff put Lion King on the projector and she sat as near to me as she could, holding my leg as tears streamed down her face without a change of expression, and I drew "You are beautiful" over and over again on her back, begging for it to sink in.

We had our last debriefing on the roof and laughed about how many times the goat on a rope passed us by while we were in traffic, how many bare butts we've seen, and how one of our team members confessed to singing "Jesus take the wheel" every time we're going 70 in the back of the old pickups. We talked about what it was like to come to Haiti for the first and fifth time. We talked about how alive Jesus is and how we've felt Him, and seen Him, and held Him. And how heaven has punctured through in the lives of those who are totally aware of their dependence on God. I have seen richness. Sharon said, "I thought you were crazy when you first said how often you'd been back...and now I understand." Don't come here unless you want something uncontrollably contagious to happen. You'll come again, I guarantee it.

I've slaughtered approximately 32 June bugs tonight...that is of course after I full-body-planted it in the screen door of the kitchen trying to get out of the territory of a huge roach. I am proud of the former, we're not talking about the latter. Win some, lose some.

Bags are packed, poptarts are on the table for the morning, and our pickups pull out for Port au Prince International at 6:30. This trip and this team have been healing and inspiring and shown me a new since of perspective and humility, and I have laughed and cried a lot.

"We were pressed on every side, full of fear and troubled thoughts, for good reason we carried heavy hearts, it is good to come together, in our friendship to remember, all the reasons hope is in our hearts, Alleluia, alleluia, Christ our Joy and strength" -Sara Groves

For those who ache to stand on the front lines of social justice, and laugh, and cry,
For a God that loves us and for the people He surrounds us with,
Once again, Haiti, few words,


Sunday, April 18, 2010

A day I'll remember forever...

It's an early blog tonight at the Orphan Transition Village...but i couldn't ask for a better moment to write. It's raining in Croix de Bouquet this evening and the kids are playing under the veranda while this shower takes care of the heat in our rooms. This weather is amazing. Not quite as great as it was in Haiti in January, but pretty close. There are naked babies taking advantage of the bathing opportunity and the team is scattered on the long porch of the second floor listening to it pour. I feel seven.

We woke up an hour early this morning to eat breakfast (toast and hot chocolate..that's right.) before we loaded in the back of a pick up to head out for the hour drive into the heart of Port au Prince for worship at Pastor Mois' church. My alarm was extra ridiculous this morning as I spent most of the night adjusting around my sunburn and instigating a massacre on about 50 june bugs that made the mistake of coming too near my bed. They didn't know.

It's so strange driving through Port au Prince having made the drive several times before the quake, evacuating from the quake, and now after the quake...a lot is different, but not a lot is different. Of course there are buildings everywhere collapsed, shattered, and representing the tomb stones of so many who were lost. And tent cities are everywhere, ev. ry. where. And those who must live day in and day out can testify to the completely different worlds that they now live in with loved ones gone, forced homelessness, and amplified orphan count. But if you are just driving through...Haiti very much looks like Haiti. The widespreading food market that has the distinct smell of rot which had pretty much all fallen in January, is standing again... shaky branches and old tin leaning against each other. The trash is still everywhere, showing years of disregard or weak infrastructure. More organized in some places. More distraught and multiplied in others. The roads tell a long story that undeniably leads to a world that must stick around long after the fade of the media in order to see her renewed.

We got to Pastor Mois' church, and time stopped. I will never forget today. I hope I never, ever forget today. His congregation helped us off the truck in the middle of surviving Port au Prince and led us to the front of the church (which is custom for their guests) and the building...which is only half together, half made with tarps donated from relief groups...was packed and overflowing with people who braved the heat and overcrowded area to stand together in praise of a good God. And I just stood there trying to pick up little bits of Creole here and there in their music, watching the hands reaching for the heavens across the pews in desperation and gratitude to a God that loves people. There are few things more beautiful. Is there anything more beautiful? Is there anything more beautiful than when the broken worship? God....I am amazed. I watched a woman, probably in her 80s, who was suffering from a bad headache who told us of how she had lost many teeth when her house fell on her, stand on the front row and spend herself in desperate prayer and praise to her Jesus. And I thought about all she has seen. Living through two Duvalier Regimes, oppression and poverty, hurricanes and gang violence, and now a massive earthquake... There is something mysteriously perfect that happens when the survivors of the deepest suffering love on God.

I wouldn't have traded today for anything.

When they told us to open our Bibles, we couldn't tell what scripture they were pointing us to, but one of our team members, Wayne, thought they said 2 Corinthians 5....and I'm still not sure if that was the one we were supposed to read, but I know that that was the scripture we were supposed to read:

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us to the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight....If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God, if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

Rojelin is sitting up here with us under the long porch listening to one of the team member's ipod and singing praise songs with his eyes closed. He's alive because his momma sent him out with two dollars to market just a few minutes before the quake hit. And he sings. Pastor Mois has not slowed in his relentless efforts to find the newly orphaned and place them, though he is still surely grieving the loss of his son whose body was discovered in the excavation of a building some weeks ago. And he sings.

Dear world, watch Haiti. She believes in a good God while she marches broken and bloody through long suffering and loss. She is rich in joy and gratitude. She will not be quieted or easily shaken. She lives on deep breaths and codependent relationships. I want to be like her when I grow up.

One last full day tomorrow for this go-around. Two more roof top debriefings and another day of soccer that I've learned I'm really good at. And by that, of course I mean when I play with a 4 year old, and just us, and just kicking back and forth, and not hard. At that, I am golden. They don't let me play the other way.

To days when time stops,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nail Polish and 4-Square and the day to day of Haiti

Day three in Croix de Bouquet, Haiti, and we are sleeping solid after spending all day in the sun. Woke up and indulged in another sugar cane coke for a caffeine fix; and had breakfast with the Pleasant Valley team and Sharon (from KTBS in Shreveport, who is getting such great parts of the story to bring back to share with North LA)...they're all so funny.

We took off walking down the way, across the street, and past a couple of pastures to another orphan home that also transitioned about 40 kids in and out of the OTV over the past months and now live in a new building that The Global Orphan Project was able to finance. The kids greeted us with a welcome song, and a little boy named Leles (who is 7 but looks 4) found me. If my sweet friend, Herby from Bighouse, has a long lost twin, it is Leles. He melts into my arms like Herby. Closes and opens his long-lash-surrounded eyes slowly like Herby. Sang really quietly into my ear like Herby. And looked at me differently, like he knows something I don't, like he knows the secrets of the world, like Herby. I didn't think I was going to be able to see him on this trip:)

At the orphan home, the Pastor's 25 yr old daughter and 17 yr old son sang "Alleluia, Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns...worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb, you are Holy" for me, Sharon, Nicole, and Cathie. Then a small child climbed a mango tree and dropped a few down for us to peel back and eat, the kids were completely enthralled with a game of "jump over the stick," and the Pastor asked if we could all pray. So everyone crowded in together under the mango tree, every team member cradling a kid buried in their neck, the pastor offered a prayer in Creole, our team offered a prayer in English, the translator connected our worlds, a huge breeze swarmed the place, and I thought, "This moment is why we do what we do...."

The pastor of an orphanage, filled with victims of life's uncertainties who he is now responsible for, offered prayers to God...for us. Along with their best mangoes. They have nothing, they give all. Very few moments are so humbling.

We came back to the OTV and proceeded to take part in 1000 different activities that seemed to make for the longest day in the Caribbean heat. We taught 4-square. We made instruments. We had a parade. We played soccer. We took naps. They took baths. We played more soccer. We painted nails. And that's where God told me again this whole thing is not about me. Whoops.

Fighting this dumb sinus infection, my nose refuses to stop running. There are few things that I can confidently qualify as my pet peeves, but sunburns, allergies, mean children that hit, and flies that fly near your face certainly fall into that category. Luckily, they all decided to meet in one hour of my day today. I was drained of soccer and burnt from the sun, so I went into the supply room and found some toe nail polish and told a couple of the girls that I would paint their fingernails. A couple turned into roughly ten, and ten turned into 20 hands and oh, 20 feet too while you're sitting there, si vu ple. And 20 hands and feet turned into, no I was next in line! No, I didn't like that so I bit it off and would like you to do it again but not after the others, now, mesi. Plus, I couldn't stop sneezing, a fly was trying to go up my nose, and a 5 year old named Kenly (who I LOVE!) was hanging on my sunburn.

And as I watched foot after dirty foot pass by my lap, with all of the crushed toes and deformed toenails and blistered soles and infections...and as I painted on top of the cracked paint that the last team had adorned their nails with a week ago...and as I sneezed and fought the very real annoyances...these things came to mind:

1. Their feet looked completely different with sparkles and new pink paint, drawing the eye away from the dirt to the beauty. We are here to create beauty in places that are hungry for it.

2. We can not merely continue to paint over the last team's paint in this some point, the root of why there are dirty, bare, and broken feet must be fiercely, often slowly tackled...that is what Global Orphan Project, and many other deeply invested organizations, congregations, and stateside souls are doing in Haiti. Praise God. The church is both bringing the weekly polish to brighten faces, and changing the world.

3. We can romanticize anything in our stories, and this is easy here because the story of the gospel is very, very romantic. But, there are children who were rude to each other today in the heat and pollen that culminated to work my nerves and I remembered that they do not go home at the end of the day to parents. They are the the world's children, and this day to day, sticking it out, pushing past ourselves for service, even during the times that can't be completely romanticized, is the heart of selflessness that ushers in the Kingdom of God. Bless the "mamas" and the staff that stay long after we leave.

4. A lot of time is spent, even for if not especially for people in ministry, trying to preserve a specific image of ourselves. Guilty. It is at the end of ourselves that the Spirit is free to run wild in the places we step foot. So much energy is lost in our preservation that could be poured out in our reckless loving. That this might be a consistent reality...

We ended the night on the roof again, as we listened to the kids down in the dark courtyard, singing as they got ready for bed.

Maybe tomorrow Kenly will have pants on that don't hit the ground every time he runs. Maybe tomorrow we will play another few hours of 4-square. Maybe tomorrow they will make new headway in the new village planning and Rojelin's quest to reunite with his sister in Miami. Maybe tomorrow it won't matter near as much to preserve a specific image, but to love to a nonsensical extent, to love wildly.

We drive an hour into Port au Prince in the morning for church:) :) :)

Alleluia, Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns,


Friday, April 16, 2010

Her People Sing

Day two in Croix de Bouquet, Haiti...and I must correct a previous statement from the last blog: this guesthouse sometimes has hot water. And by sometimes, I mean just last night, and just for my shower apparently. But, let's be honest, after a normal day here, you really only ever want a cold one. So, conveniently enough.

We had pancakes this morning then took a tour of the compound, which can really only be best described as a fortress in my book. The Global Orphan Project took on this site last fall, but it was originally built with a church, hospital, orphanage, and hotel by other owners. The hotel has been completed and turned into the guest quarters and supply rooms. It. Is. So. Big. The dorms look much like those at Bighouse, in Cayes. They have school outside under a makeshift tent and trees, and their huge warehouse is right when you come into the complex. This is where the distribution took and continues to take place. Piles of rice, pasta, crackers, water, etc. A lot of it reminds me of scenes post Katrina in New Orleans. But then again, much of it is in a complete different realm.

We played with the kids most of the day, save for a two hour nap that I took to try and fight this sinus infection off:/ They remind me so much of our babies in Les Cayes. There is the token diva. The I-say-one-phrase-of-English-really-well, see-kid. The one who is determined to have your watch by the end of your stay, thank you very much. And the baby boy who is surely probably one of the funniest personalities on this earth, and you would confirm it if you spoke enough of the language. Soon enough.

We were able to check in on Stephanie's baby today, and that's when I met one of the other children and her baby. She is 13, and has a story that no 13 years should ever have to tell. Sold into slavery and raped, this child was kicked out when her pregnancy was discovered. The Global Orphan Project found her on the streets after the earthquake, and she gave birth to Kimberly just four weeks ago. She is so little, and so is her baby. They are both babies. And her story is as real as slavery and hunger and despair...and we are grateful for the Gospel. Who could survive anything without the hope of healing and an ultimate story...

We then loaded up in the back of a truck and went "right down the road" about 45 minutes to Julie's house, where 65 kids were waiting to sing for us. Julie and her crew lost much of their facilities when the quake hit, and they were left without a place to live. The Global Orphan Project took them in (along with hundreds of others) to be transitioned in and out once they helped them rebuild their site. It's good to see rebuilding.

We passed a flooded tent city on our way to and from and they said that many still lived there. How??

Tonight finished on a sweet, sweet note as the staff projected the movie Aragon in french on the wall of the courtyard for the OTV children to watch. I had four sweet souls fall asleep on my lap and drool huge puddles on my pants that are supposed to last me three days, and the stars were out, and you could have heard a pin drop, and I thanked God for His gift.

We wrapped everything up as a team on top of the roof where we talked about compassion, leadership, service, and risk, and how we are so rich--not just monetarily--but in freedom and choice, and how that richness' purpose is to enable us to make others rich in freedom and choice. It is a brilliant circle of relational interdependence when we realize that we must share the wealth of money, food, choice of education and freedom and clean water, joy, and deep humility and peace, etc with each other in order for the world to make sense.

I am 100% confident that mosquitos came with the plagues and that they serve no purpose. No one will convince me otherwise.

If you ever get to Haiti, do two things: 1. take part in song/dance time at an orphan village, 2. drink a coca cola made with sugar cane. At least.

Breathing deeply,


PS...Connie and Benjie deserve a jewel for letting me board the plane again. Your trust enables all that I do. Thank you:) Love, love yall. Tell Jason I'm proud of him for scoring the winning run!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back in Ayiti

I tried to predict what first-thought would come into my head today as the wheels hit the runway in Port au Prince, automatically reconnecting what was disconnected during our game-to-get-home-evacuation in January. But I failed miserably at my prediction, as I didn't anticipate my reality check to come in the form of the phrase, "I'm landing in a grave..."

The first things you can make out now, as you fly into Haiti and the blur of slums begin to define, are the tent cities. They are mostly blue and white. And they are everywhere. And they remind me that this world was shaken and continues to be everyday. And they remind me that the rainy season is coming. And they remind me that this is not just a story I confirm, but that this is a story that repulsively drags out far longer than anyone is comfortable with sticking around for. They are everywhere. And the hardest part is, people live in them.

We drove about half an hour north east into the city to the area called Croix de Bouquet, where The Global Orphan Project's transition village is located. This has been their distribution hub for the past four months as they ship food and supplies in and find the newly orphaned and exhaust themselves in placing them. This is where all the Cite' Lespwa funds raised in North Louisiana went in February. Right now there are 65 kids in the OTV (Orphan Transition Village).

Stephanie, who is 15 , took me out back to the dorms to show me the makeshift cradle covered with mosquito netting where her baby was sleeping. She wants my earrings, and she thinks it's funny when I tell her that I want her earrings plus a dollar.

Rojelin is also 15. He speaks wonderful English and says that I speak wonderful creole, but I'm almost positive he's just flirting because I even messed up the phrase, "No I don't" en Kreyol. I asked him to help me learn more while I'm here and he told me that he lost his parents in the earthquake. Both mom and dad when his house "broke." His sister's in Miami, and hopefully, if all terribly drawn out legal issues calm, he can go with her. I told him I was sorry, and the words felt like they didn't come from me. Like I was watching the scene of something very sad as Rojelin gave a little smile and just stared, then ran off to break up a cat fight between Stephanie and another girl. I want wonderful things for his life.

The lady who just recently moved here, hired by The Global Orphan Project for the year to live on site, said that last Monday they moved an activity into the church because it was raining. She said that the kids were all jumping and dancing and singing, and that when you get 65 kids jumping and dancing and singing, it is very likely that the building may feel like it's shaking. And that caused 20 kids to run outside in a panic, scared to death.

I have landed on a grave.

But this is the reconnection. This is my God. I danced and sang with these new little friends of mine as one of the staff led them in one of the call/response games that I LOVE to listen to them do so much, and I remembered that we have forfeited this life to the One who was not threatened or amused by a grave, no matter how large the price of what had died. It just was never the fullness of the story. It just was never the final say. It just was never the power it thought it was, that it needed to be to devour the hope of a never-slowed redemption.

We're staying in one of the more brilliant complexes for orphans I have seen (complete with hot water...what the heck??). And I can see the mountains and lights stretching into Port au Prince out our windows. And I think about the lady I sat beside on the plane that landed in the grave earlier this afternoon who asked me how long we'd been coming to Haiti. And when I said 9 months and counting, she winced and said, " Haiti?"

How could anyone not love and be mesmerized by a people who refuse anything but moving forward? It is those people, in those graves, who demonstrate resurrection at its depth and completion. Because they hold out for it.

Haiti is beautiful tonight.
But more importantly, the Gospel is beautiful in Haiti tonight.

That we may not be satisfied in thinking that the Kingdom could not fully come now,


Croix de Bouquet, Haiti

Friday, April 9, 2010

April Update

Happy April, Sponsors,
It is a new month indeed, as several of us are making our way back into Haiti over the next two weeks for the first time since the quake. Hu's medical team that is going down to offer a mobil clinic to the Bighouse community and surrounding areas, is made up of Shreveport people and some first timers from Trinity UMC in Ruston. They left on the 9th and return on the 16th, just in time for our sister church in Kansas to tag off and work in Les Cayes for the following week. Jim West and his congregation in Kansas have been a huge partner in the efforts with Bighouse, and we are grateful to them for their large hearts and inspiring level of giving coming from a smaller congregation.
Their team will be the first team into Bighouse since the January earthquake from our end to do projects on site, and they will be doing two thigns: 1. Finishing two new classrooms to expand the school at the orphanage, and 2. Getting a full evaluation of the situation at Bighouse so that we as a sponsor program and congregation, their church, and The Global Orphan Project can know where to go from there.

What is being considered currently, and what would be ideal as a first step, is to expand the school (complete with new classrooms, desks, books, teachers, and a meal a day for every child) so as to offer affordable education and a good, healthy meal to more economic orphans with the hope that they will be able to stay with their families (or if they're already at Bighouse, return to their families). The Lord is definitely about keeping families together, and if we can help in that, we want to be a part of it. Doing this will make more room in the orphan dorms to take in the newly orphaned if/when needed. After evaluating this, we will see if we need to expand the dorms and "mother" staff as well, and then move forward in that aspect, which we are prepared to do.

All to say, the school expansion and sustainment, the continued orphan care, and the pending dorm expansion are all made possible because of your giving. The Global Orphan Project continues to express their gratitude and amazement for the large community that we have who has invested into this little place called Bighouse. Your connection is crucial and we hope that you know we could not do it without you. We serve a man who showed us that death and despair do not have to be the last word, and we want to live that out. And surely we are. And during this season of resurrected hope, few places need that message more than Haiti.

I leave on the 15th to accompany a The Global Orphan Project team to their transition village north of Port au Prince. It will be beneficial to see how one of their other opperations is running so that we can get a vision of where we're going. I am also excited beyond words to finally set foot back into the country.

Hu and Jim will return with new pictures of Bighouse (complete with new playground!) which I cannot wait to share with you and to see myself! I am currently planning two trips for the summer: from July 27th-Aug1, and from Aug1-Aug6. The August trip is almost full, but the July trip still has some spots available (first come first serve) if you know someone who may be interested! Just pass on my information.

And again, forever and always, thank you for enabling the Kingdom to come,

Britney Winn
Haiti Initiative
FUMC Shreveport