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.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Return to the OTV

It's been a month and a half since my last trip to Haiti, and with the long wait in between the quake and the April trip that seemed to last forever and a day, this shorter turn around leaves me feeling a little caught off guard. Or maybe it's getting to be more routine. I can't tell. Either way (or maybe this happens every time), being back didn't sink in again until the concrete and the slums peeked through the dreary clouds in our landing. Maybe it feels like just another long-weekend trip. Or maybe it's starting to feel like a more familiar face. There's an anxiety in me that thinks one day the stories will run out. But then there's a confidence in me that knows God and life and the unpredictability of both better. I'm thankful to have not arrived yet. The journey's too much fun.

I left Shreveport Regional this morning at 6:15, heading through DFW to Miami to meet my team of 22, all from different corners of the states and Canada. Many of them had seen the Global Orphan Project's special on 60minutes a couple of months ago about their efforts in Haiti and had signed up to go on a trip down to the Orphan Transition Village. And since GO Project trips have more than tripled in members willing to go over the past few months, a few volunteers were asked to lead teams down for them. Hence, why I am in Haiti again:)

However, I forgot that my team had no idea what anyone else looked like, nor did I wear a shirt that was easily identifiable. So I spent my first 30 minutes in Miami making a tiny sign with a tiny black pen that said, "Hi I'm Britney!" And then walking around with it. Because, clearly, I'm that cool. But, finally we found each other and were off to conquer getting 40 duffle bags through the Port au Prince airport without having to pay an arm and a leg for "assistance."

"Amer-ee-can guhl, I weel help you, just ten dollah!" ..."No, mesi."...."ok, five"..."No, mesi."

The team charged through like champs and piled into the GO projects newest mode of transportation...a really nice, proooobably 15 passenger bus. Good thing we had 25 people. I sat backwards on the console. Saves from having to watch all the cars we're playing chicken with, I suppose.

The Orphan Transition Village radiates hope just as much as it did in April. And fewer things pierce as deeply, feel as raw, as when the kids' faces light up because they know you. And they remember you. And they realize that you meant it when you said you'd be back.

Like the most glorious family reunion you've ever been to, where no words are spoken because of the language barrier, so everyone just hugs real tight. There's something mysteriously right that happens when the child you met and took pictures of, then told stories about, becomes alive and in your arms again. Making jokes about something you did last time and pointing at the shoes he painted. I want to emulate the part of Jesus that sticks around.

We played and unloaded, then prayed and ate rice, beans, red sauce, piclis, and fried plantains. Then we made our way up to the roof for nighttime devotion/debriefing. I'm with so many people whose eyes are wide in expectation, whose eagerness to dive into these next few days fully is apparent and throbbing...and I don't even know all of their names. But I know they'll, once again, let me see Haiti through a new lens. And in effect, let me see God through a new lens.

Rojelin is still here. The legal tape has not been sorted through for him to join his sister in the states. But he is the best host the GO Project could ask for. And he's safe. Renice (the 13 year old)'s baby Kimberly has grown soo much. And she's healthy. And Renice laughed and laughed in excitement that she got to show her baby off to me one more time. Ellison greeted us with a dance that only the greats know how to pull off. I swear he's an old soul. An old goofy soul.

And we sat on top of the roof waiting to meet. And I heard the kids clanking their dishes as they put them away down below us, and I thought about the richness of life. And I saw the sheet lightning shoot without pauses up above us, and I thought about the jealous God that watches over his own, who's alive and winding through the halls of the OTV.

When we're aware, without fail, we'll see.

So here's to toilet paper in the trashcans, slow june bugs that work my nerves, the kids who never forget names, and awareness that seeks consistency. Here and there.

Bon nuit:)