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