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.