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,