Saturday, May 26, 2012

We Need a Savior

The fabric of the clouds whipped up in dense swirls like a good meringue that Granny Alderson would have been proud of. They poorly hid the plump algae-green mountains that fold into themselves as we ascended off the Island. And I thought, “Haiti, you make my life terrifying. And I couldn’t love you more.”

This is a blog entry about our last four days in country for our annual summer trip to Les Cayes.

Familiar and predictable would be words that one might use to describe a place and a people that they have visited several times. And I suppose in more stable lifestyles placed in more stable communities, this could be the case. But no trip to Haiti has been like the other. And no trip to Haiti has been uneventful--a praiseworthy reality, because many of the tales that bind us together in their sharing arise out of the event-filled. Jesus highlights Himself in story.  Stories highlight themselves in the unconventional.

On Monday, we said goodbye to the Centenary College team that we bunked with, ate with, and served with the week before. After their departure, our young adults team (many of whom have traveled faithfully for the past four summers) packed our buckets and bags and awaited our F350 to retrieve us for Mama Pampering Day at Darivage Children’s Village.

Darivage, on the days when the kids are not acting up, holds the spirit of an old wrinkled hand guiding the backs of the fatherless. There, the community cares for their own. There are things to be taught and things to be grown. The widows in the village instruct and love the 43 biological and economic orphans that fill the concrete dwellings. And there is an awareness that the burden of the young and impoverished is the responsibility of the old. It is  lovely. And it is inspiring.

In the days leading up to the second half of our trip, we, along with Centenary, taught classes at Bighouse and Darivage of French, English, Crochet, Music, Haiti & Louisiana Similarities, Math, Bead Making, Simple Medicine, Tool Usage, and VBS. In return, the children and their teachers taught us beginning conversational Creole, the words & music to their National Anthem, how to (attempt to) carry buckets of water on our heads, and Haitian Rara Dance. They lit up in the exchange, and we learned much—not necessarily about the topics being focused on, but much about the necessity of exchange within foreign friendships. Where there is no empowerment…where there is no place for me to edify, “You have something to give too”….we have only grown a charity, not a person or her people. And when people are growing (both on our team and in the village), we are likely to be giving something lasting to the Kingdom.

Monday and Tuesday were different than our educational days, however. These days were in celebration for the mamas at both sites. Half of our team broke away with all the children to teach movement exercises, play with bubbles, and paint fingernails…while our spa crew took over the small concrete rooms, moving around wooden desks, and attempting to avoid the hens roosting in the corners.

Three buckets of clean water from the clean water buildings (newly built, safe enough for us to drink).  Bags unzipped and sundresses layered for display. Nail polishes of reds and pinks stacked. And suds growing in the pales stirred by fast moving, gloved hands.

The women began to line up in the room where our translator helped us explain: “We wanted to have a celebration just for you. Because we realize that we get to visit for a week or two, enjoy the children and our time here, but then leave. And we recognize that the real work comes from you. Our lives have been changed by these villages and these children, and we know that they are only here because of the meals that you cook, the clothes that you wash, the beds that you make, and the wounds that you bandage. And we wanted to say thank you. So if you will let us, we would love to wash your feet and hands, paint your nails, do your makeup, and let you choose some dresses and purses that we’ve brought.”

We waited a bit nervously wondering if they would be offended by our offer, when a huge unanimous “Wi!!!” came from each lady in the room. And we began.

A small wave of uneasiness quickly followed our eagerness when we realized that the hands and feet we would be cradling had seen much. But the fear of the unfamiliar in the form of gnarled toes, missing nails, heel infections, or caked mud quickly dissolved in the gut remembrance that the base of our faith unambiguously rests on moments like this. What an honor this was about to be.

As if every woman were Jesus himself. As if every knot we pressed into, stain we scrubbed, muscle we relaxed were the King’s own. As if each massage for a tension spot were a thankyou for a child being picked up, a plate being washed, a tummy being medicated. As if we were getting the opportunity to thank the Lord of the world for individually caring for the orphaned. I cannot tell you what these hours meant to me. I will never forget them.

Each mama came through the different stations picking the colors and lotions they wanted and piercing us with loving stares as they watched and rested. At the end, Mama Darivage, with her perpetual frown climbing the top of her pole-sized body, gave a speech.

“What you have given us is worth more than gold or silver. We know you do this because of the love in your heart. And because you have loved us, we can love the children better.” Her frown never shifting, she grabbed four of us by the necks and sobbed into our shoulders.  We showed each other Jesus that day. And I believe that is the definition of restoration.

We debriefed for hours that night on the roof of the guesthouse, letting the Haitian world spin around us from dusk to stars  as we talked about simplicity, and community, and what was hard and what was rich. Then we headed off to rest up for our trip-wrap-up-day on the Island of Ile a Vache.

The boat ride from the Cayes Port to the cove of the tiny sub-Island’s resort should take about 45 minutes. Our over eager and (surely) slightly deranged captian of the 30 foot yacht made it there in 20. I’ve never flown/seen people fly so high on water before. With no time in between slamming into waves to adequately scream or laugh, our crew held on for dear life and kept an eye on the shoreline that seemed to never come. But when we arrived, it was every bit worth the travel (and bruises and scrapes).

The cove of Ile a Vache is one of the most beautiful places, and definitely the most beautiful beach, many of us have ever experienced. We spent the entire day on the half-mile stretch of paradise sitting, sleeping, walking, swimming. It was the perfect way to end the trip, enjoying each other, loving on Haiti, rehashing moments of the past 10 days. Deep breaths, deep laughs, darkening skin, and a book of stories not yet processed.

A less intense boat ride back to the mainland led us to one last drive through downtown Les Cayes and up the hill to the Cambry Guesthouse for a little light packing and leisure preparation for our next-day departure. Or so we thought.

Our three rooms of Americans had just begun to fold a few shirts and take a few showers when Pastor Louis, our main partner and the head of the ministry in Haiti, came to let me know that Haiti was currently under some political unrest which was manifesting in riots throughout the south. A few towns in the south are on strike because of the governments refusal or delay in giving them electricity. We would need to leave at 11:30pm instead of after breakfast as to avoid the rock throwing that had been occurring during the day.

A panicked laugh and a prompt change of pace happened in the rooms as word spread, and we prepared to leave during the night.

Thankyou notes were signed, waterbottles were filled, and our luggage was weighed and lined up before we took a small one hour nap prior to loading up for our midnight travel. It had been too uncharacteristically uneventful, I suppose.

Groggy bodies climbed inside the dark blue 15 passenger van that was to follow its matching vehicle carrying Pastor Louis and all of our luggage. And we took off. We stopped just into town to pick up DouDou, the largest Haitian I’ve ever seen. He speaks wonderful English, has the lightest brown eyes, and was chosen as our driver because of his intimidating size coupled with his extensive capabilities. You’d be a fool to mess with DouDou.

We were driving much faster than normal, which made it hard to want to fall asleep. All eyes took on the responsibility of backseat driving and we wondered what the speed was for. We weren’t flying out until 6pm the next evening. 

I’ve seen political manifestations before in the forms of burning tires and large parades. So my assumptions of what we might encounter were filtered through this. With those assumptions tucked away, and the speed of our vehicle ignored, a few of us fell asleep for about an hour.

The gasping of team members and the fast jolt of a slowed vehicle threw us all awake in time to watch the large van with “Daniel 3:17” painted on its back u-turn on a dime followed immediately by our matching van. A quick flash of the barricade we were avoiding with fervor came and went with the headlights and we sped back towards the direction we had just come as angry locals ran to surround us. DouDou cracked his window and spoke in Creole to the rioters. Whether they were convinced that we would be let through or they were lying, I’m not sure. But we were told we could pass and turned around once again. Two locals’ bodies made a loud thud on the windows as they road the back of the van toward their wall of trees and rocks that prevented any car from passing on the main road connecting the south to Port au Prince.

Both vans eased up to the barricade awaiting the right of passage. But nothing happened. Except for the growing volume of a voice rounding the corner coming from a small Haitian man with black beady eyes and a swinging machete. DouDou exited the vehicle into the noise of creole and darkness, interrupted only with the rhythm of our flashers. “Be careful,” he said as he locked the doors. “Stay calm and quite. Stay calm and quiet. Do not move. Do not speak,” I told the team. And we waited.

A larger dump truck, innocently attempting to pass in the same manner, creeped up behind us.  The driver stood outside amongst the locals along with Pastor Louis and DouDou, wisely assessing the situation like silent warriors. Being led by the Spirit when to talk and when to not. We watched wondering if this was culturally a big deal or if we had nothing to fear. The angry man with the swinging machete directed the large dump truck with the tip of his weapon, drawing lines on the gravel like nails on a chalkboard. He was moving the truck in such a way that it would add to his barricade. “Stay calm. Stay quiet.” The sound of the machete-prompted air being let out of big tires would have been the eeriest sound, if it weren’t for the breaking glass of bottles behind the wheels that followed.

“Oh. We were being used as the blockade, but now they have this truck. They’re getting the truck in place and then they’ll let us go.”

But then the edge of the tool made its way to our side of the van. “Stay calm. Stay quiet.” And the prayers began. We prayed through the sounds of the rocks stacking behind our tires. We prayed through the sound of air being let out on all four corners. We prayed through the sound of bottles breaking around the vehicle. And we prayed through the only creole word we could make sense of in the angry mummers outside, “Blancs….blancs” (foreigners, whites).  DouDou climbed in for just a couple of minutes to make a hidden call under his breath on his cell phone, and then he was gone again.

Thank God that this team was entirely made up of troopers, resting deep in the arms of a mighty Father. And we waited. And watched. And prayed. And wondered. Would we be there till morning? Or until another van came? Were we being used as leverage? Would they make us get out of our car? What would we do if they did?

DouDou opened the door and asked if we had our passports for him to take up so that we wouldn’t have to be searched. Two of us said in a panic, “Ours are in the other van. They’re in a green and black backpacks, can you get them?” He responded, “Not now, they will not let us.” And it was then that we realized how little control we actually had. But it would be fine. They could take our bags. They could even take our passports. As long as we could get out. A moment when it is intensely clear that the things that matter most are the things that we will leave this earth with.

Pastor Louis stuck his head in long enough for us to ask, “Are we safe?” and to answer, “Sure. By the grace of God,” before he went back to guarding the front of the vehicle. And we waited, slightly unsatisfied with that answer. Until a shot was fired.

“Get down. Everybody get down. And stay down,” Erik said from the front seat as the windows of the van filled with the light of 6 approaching headlights from the opposite direction. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus save us, Jesus save us. Jesus come, Jesus save us.

The locals ran towards the cars to acquire the next victims of their blockade enlargement but then scattered quickly into the woods. Why?

A few minutes later, bodies still tucked down in the sweating vehicle, Louis cracked open the door and said, “It is ok now! We are safe. The police are here.” And a roar of clapping and praising erupted through the seats. One by one we pealed ourselves out of the van and lined up behind trucks, hidden from the rocks being thrown from the trees, while the police stood watch, shotguns in hand, and our tires were aired up once again.

Eventually, after two hours of the experience, the barricade was removed, and we were off…more disturbed and unsettled, but unfathomably grateful.    

The car remained mostly silent for the rest of the ride to Port au Prince as we caught breath and tried to wrap our minds around whether what just happened was as dramatic as it felt or not. The “Daniel 3:17” on our luggage van bopped around the potholes in front of us, and we reached for a Bible.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”

And the understanding of rescue settled heavily on our silent car in the aftermath of not knowing how something could or would end. We need a Savior.

And we learn this in company of risk, faith, trust, poverty. Our acts of kindness, our pocket books, our relational trips to learn a people are manifestations of a Gospel alive, but it is no eradication of the unshakeable truth that we need a Savior. We can educate and feed forever, and our efforts will heal many. But brokenness and rescue are matters of the King, whose heart is for a renewed world. And we need Him. We need Him to take selfishness, poor infrastructures, and hate to the cross and give them their dues. We need Him to lead us in wisdom and ridiculous lengths of love to rebuild whole people and whole communities in His name. We have no way out but Him. We have no control but His. And, whether we know it or not, we are held captive behind barricades of self-living, injustice, and hurt until we are rescued. We need a Savior.

 And He will come. And He does come. And He has come. Rounding the corner in light, firing into the air to let it be known that all authorities who acted out of power that wasn’t theirs have been thwarted with the announcement of His arrival. With even the speaking of His name. And what was lost is found. And what was hopeless sees a way. We need a Savior. And He is Jesus. And He does not fail us.

The team is back in Shreveport and Houston and California, continuing to process the beauty of our time with our Haitian friends and family. Already beginning to talk about next summer’s trip.

Haiti. You make my life terrifying. And I couldn’t love you more. 


Soccer and Second Lines

Yesterday started a bit earlier than usual due to the fact that church started at 7 and we were riding with the Pastor. The sun was just started to inch over the hills at Cambry Guesthouse when I made my rounds through the hall knocking on doors, “Good morning, ladies!” The locals start Sunday School at six so that their walks to and from the 7am service aren’t in the hottest part of the day. So we scurried about in our long skirts and non-blow-dried hair towards the back of the truck that would take us downtown.

There are always seats towards the front of the church for visitors of the Pastors. And as much as we try to disperse into the crowd, we are usually pointed back to that spot in the church. It would feel uncomfortable if all eyes were on us in these cushioned places of honor, but the locals are not concerned with our presence in this moment. They have come to worship God.

A string bean of an elderly woman in a white cotton dress stood across the congregation from us. Her hands straight up and exactly half a beat behind the music the entire time. She’s there every Sunday, standing beside the man who looks about in his 60s, shifting his hips back and forth to the chants and rhythms of the Island’s hymns. The church usually holds around 1,700 on Sunday. And they are dressed to the nines.

The music and the prayers last for a very long time and consist of full participation for the large, committed crowd. They cry out in Creole about God and His goodness. About God and His provision. About God and His power. The Centenary girls pointed out later in debriefing that you didn’t need to know all the words to hear the passion and conviction in what was being agreed with.

Two and a half hours later, we loaded back up into the off-roader and headed back home to eat breakfast, nap, and email our mothers for Mothers Day.

Naps lasted for a while, as you would expect on day 6. And then it was back up again to load up for the soccer game!

It seems something(s) unexpected always finds its way into our well thought out (and hardly stuck to) itinerary while in Haiti. One of those things for the first of this trip was getting to see the national final game between the North and the South to see how gets to go play in the Caribbean game! We were rooting for the Americas, a Les Cayes team dressed in slick orange and white uniforms.

The Pastor pushed his way to the entrance with our cover money, then went to point to who he was paying for, quickly realizing it wasn’t necessary. We’re the only white people in line. In the street. And soon enough, we would find out we were 15 of maybe 20 white people in a stadium of thousands.

The very few stands that were there were packed and had been for three hours, said Sean (another American who has been living in Cayes for three months teaching English). But that was ok, because the entire field then became lined with a crowd of people at least three levels deep, shoulder to shoulder. And then of course that moved people to standing on top of the walls, hanging on to the trees, and climbing on top of the roofs. The latter is where we ended up.

If you want an idea of yesterday’s atmosphere…mix the thought of a national soccer game, with a Caribbean flare, and add in Mardi Gras. The Haitians moved in as close as possible on the long, wide roof, as we searched for chairs to stand on. After every goal, the band (directly behind us) would grab their old worn instruments and have at it while the crowd went wild, drank their Prestiges, and danced away a couple of minutes of victory.

After about two hours of play, Les Cayes team took the National Championship and the thousands of people rushed onto the field as the music cranked up and (what appeared to be) a second line started, grabbing anyone with any need to dance and sweeping them into the street.

We stayed on the roof, watching and dancing, until the majority of the happy crowd bounced its way out the tin door. And then we climbed down and back into the truck to head home.

It was so very cool to witness something so collective and entertaining with the people in their world.  Something so universally unifying as music and completive sports. Makes people feel like people. And makes the world a bit smaller.

We came home for a supper of rice and turkey (Phil, the one we shared a truck bed home with from the Market the day before). And then a good night’s rest with the AC’s rhythm of shutting on and off on the wave of unpredictable electricity.

This morning, I waved the team off for a day of botanical garden seeing and down-town Les Cayes walking, as I stay at Cambry to sort supplies and await the young adult team’s arrival from Port au Prince!

Tomorrow, we begin our teaching/learning exchange at Bighouse Children’s Home.

A beautiful world we get to be in together,


“…out of the dust…”

Basket of Cherries

It’s only 10:35am in Haiti, and the day has already been extremely eventful. Since the first half of our trip revolves solely around the Centenary Module, we are attempting to throw the students into as much of a cultural experience that we are able to in 14 days. And if there’s a way to do it, it’s at the market.

Much laughter could be heard from the back kitchen at the Cambry Guesthouse this morning when it was explained to the cooks that our large group of light skinned 20-something females were wanting to explore the country market to purchase the things on our hosts’ grocery list. They agreed, and each item (along with its French name and estimated cost) was written down on a piece of recycled paper then tossed into Dr. Lawrence’s hat. Then the process of haggling was explained and slightly practiced before the drawing began. And the question lingered silently in the common room….Who would have to buy the turkey.

Cheese, eggs, Clorox, peppers, onions, garlic, raw chopped up goat, and more. Each student received their commission for the next couple of hours, and we climbed in the back of the off-roading pickup to head to the Biggarrouse Mache.

There’s nothing discrete about us when we arrive somewhere.  We arrive with the aroma of a target, along with our struggling creole skills only coupled perfectly with the Goude stuffed in our socks and our lack of knowledge of where to find what. The teenaged merchants follow our groups of four who have quickly split up and taken off into the layers of booths. They call after us in loud, monotoned descriptions of what they are selling and why we should buy. “Nou gen pa bezwen, mesi!” We have no need for that, thankyou! We must find goat.

My small team was made up of me and Amanda and, thank God, Mia…the cook. She had put on her finest dress for our outing, so of course we felt pretty underdressed. Haitians stay so clean, the greatest of mysteries.  Who knows how we would have returned to the truck if it weren’t for Mia. We approached the section of the Market toward the far back where the fence line began where the meat was stored, both the live and the…well…sellable.  If this doesn’t qualify as intercultural experience, Centenary, give these girls their money back. The dismembered hooves were stacked on the corner of the butcher block tables, under the canopies made of NGO tarps. Fresh goat heads with opened eyes were organized where each seller stood as they negotiate the different pieces of whichever animal was most recently deceased. Warm, exposed, raw meat would be disturbing if we were uncertain of its freshness. But alas, we are not. The childlike screaming of the goats tied by one hoof toward our right awaiting the fate of the knife and the dollar let us know that we are getting a new product. A silver lining, I suppose.

Our “cashier” was a larger dark woman with a black and white striped tshirt barely peeking through the tribal wrap she had strapped above her chest. She leaned back when she haggled, butcher knife in hand waving about as she flung drops of blood on the old mutt that lounged by her side. What a movie moment we were having.

She gave Mia a price, which Mia laughed at. One trick we had yet to be taught in the art of market negotiation: The “you gotta be kidding me” laugh. And Mia bare handedly pulled and tugged at the different parts of the animal, pointing to the cuts that we would be paying a fair price for. And finally, we walked away with a very heavy bag and 100gds extra.

Eventually the rest of the group made their way back to the truck where our live turkey sat resting lazy and terrified beside the box of soap we had purchased to wash our own clothes today.  He’s been named Phil, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again.

A debrief of the students’ experiences followed our grocery drop-off, and now rest is taking place before we delve into removing the awful stains from our worn clothes.

Three things were significant about the Biggarrouse Machet for me, as I watched the small white clusters cling to old brown paper and scurry from booth to booth asking, “Where are the eggs?” in Creole. 1. How huge is it to edify the Haitian’s culture by demonstrating that we want to learn, as fumbling as we may appear at first. 2. How nice the dense crowd was in general in their greetings and offers of direction. 3. How metaphors of hope can be found in the most routine of places if your filter is set right.

And by that I mean…The market has a general haze of grey-brown when you glace across. The dust and mud from the worn ground is mixed in with old dirty trash and animal droppings. The tarps are old, the poles are drying wood, and the sacks are whatever plastic bag was able to be found. But my gosh, the colors of the fruit and the vegetables! Piles and piles of white rice, and cantaloupe sized grape fruit. Leafy spinach and sharply colored carrots. And while ducking through the ropes and poles of these stands covered in mounds of vibrancy, a lady approached us with a large wide basket balanced still on her head. She lowered just long enough for us to see the hundreds of deep red cherries, and then she was again on her way.

In the smallest of ways, I hear Haiti say, “See. Things grow here, too.”

A very memorable experience, one surely to be not easily forgotten. Now for clothes washing, or at least an attempt. And then more rest before our early morning church service, followed by an unplanned Haitian soccer game. 


“…out of chaos, life is being found in You…”

To Die is Beautiful

I woke up with my feet asleep from being crossed like a pretzel and posted up high on the bus window as I slept across the seat beside my own. When I came to, our vehicle that assists us in getting from dusty Port au Prince to lush Cayes was circling down into a valley. And the mountains beyond mountains were whirling over my head. I didn’t feel quite human as I had crashed hard after 17 hours of travel and no sufficient rest. But I could hear cement sacks plunking down on top of each other like lazy elephants, I could feel the smoke burning against the back of my throat, and I could see the ocean creeping around to our left. So human or not, we were in Haiti.  Rest would come as surely as an adventure, as surely as a story.

I’m traveling throughout this first leg of the trip with a Centenary Module class of all girls. On Monday, the First Methodist Young Adult Team, many of whom have come summer after summer for the past 3 years. will join us. These few first days have and will be spent learning parts of the Haitian culture. How intricate and deep the crevices of significant tales run throughout the history of the Haitians’ world. And as a direct result, our world as well.

What many know to be Haiti remains to be simply the surface level of her existence. Would justice be done if someone described Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a wrinkled lady with a thick Indian accent? Shame on them if so. In the same way, Haiti cannot just be a poor country in the Western Hemisphere devastated by natural disasters.

Haiti was the greatest of worlds, coveted by all major players in the 1400’s game. It was called the Pearl of the Antilles and everyone wanted a piece of what the land had to offer. And so it began. Two races of slaves, multiple generations of masters, several dictatorships, and too many leaders to count. Thousands of pounds of sugar and indigo exported, thousands of aid workers imported, thousands of lives lost through disease and walls that fall. One slave revolution to begin the west’s abolition, one retreat that caused for the Louisiana Purchase, one moment in history that changed the way you and I live today in the states. All woven through the hills and brown eyes on half of a Caribbean island barely able to be identified on a globe.  If you’re looking for a good read, I suggest something on Haiti’s history. Your current reality is more intertwined with their past than you may realize.

Yesterday was our first full day in this rich country. The guesthouse we’re staying in, Cambry, is up on a mountain, which offers us a view barely believable. It’s somewhat worthless to take a picture that will only partially bring you back to something so unable to be captured. You can get to the roof by ladder, which will lead you closer to the stars as well as the shower basins. That’s where I found the tadpoles I was showering with last trip.

The girls are doing so well here. They ask good questions. They learned so much about the country prior to coming, which has made a crucial difference. As a class, it really feels like we are partners here. Coming to learn and not simply to fix. We filled our bottles and climbed into the back of a very large 4-wheel-drive truck and headed off in the hot sun to see the forts.

These forts are so significant to the history of the Haitian and the American. They stand as the plantation ground for southern battles during the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Hardly preserved, it is nothing like visiting US monuments or museums. It is more like finding a treasure that changed the world, that only lives in stories told by old people. “There’s a place in the mountains…”

We crossed paths with a few terrified baby pigs as we pulled ourselves around the side of a steep hill and reached the top where a plaque stood beside some over grown walls. Concrete at least 200 years old, shading some goats tied to their posts. Is it a national and international historic site? Or is it a farmers grazing ground? Yes.

There, Dr. Kress taught a history lesson about the Soldier Dessalines who had rallied the Haitians in the north and the south to revolt against the French. Slavery had been abolished and France was going to make Haiti a state. However, it seemed they had been tricked and France was really reinstating the slave nation because they were going to use Haiti as their Western base while ruling their land in the states. But on the mountain we had climbed, 200+ years ago, Dessalines met with another Haitian general and made the agreement to rally again and resist the French government in order to take back their country for good. Soon after this agreement, the slave revolution was won, and the Bonaparte’s retreat caused for the Louisiana Purchase. Meaning I am not of French decent. I live in the free Americas as a Louisiana resident because a few people dehumanized in their capture decided it was time to reclaim what was not someone else’s. Dessalines died in a prison a few years following, and the Haitian anthem today is named after him.

The locals that we visited the site with sang it for us in Creole, with the repeating line, “To die is beautiful, to die is beautiful, to die, to die, to die for your country is beautiful.”

I have had a lot of questions here recently about my future. My occupation. My role. My direction. There have been many uncertainties and many large jumps made on the backs of uncertainties. But there has been one significantly perceptive-altering thing that the Holy Spirit has shown me in my pursuit of “how to be great” or “how to do great” (even when those statements are followed by “…for the Kingdom of God). And this is it: Jesus did not call me to be great. Jesus called me to die. Because He did not come to be great. He came to die, and in that death, great things were made possible. In fact, the greatest of things. Therefore I must not be so tied to my own life. The fears that come with it. My attachment to pride. The idols, expectations, anxieties. I cannot be so driven by my course and how it should lead me to the path that will impress whatever current generation in their need for me to be famously unique. These are possible results, but they are not the pursuit. The pursuit is to lay myself down in the small ways, the small moments. To listen well. To stand strong against injustices. To love through touch and word and laughter. To speak grace and truth into the unbalances. To hold tiny hands. And hear wiser teachings. To stick with people as they work it out, all the while infusing hope. And allow them to do the same for me. To humbly embrace my own inabilities, and then powerfully step into the Holy Spirits understanding of the world and its path.

Direction and purpose are bigger questions than I’m ready for. Right now (and maybe at any time), I can only know that God will show me how to love him and how to love people. And then He will give me a people group to live that out in intimately, vivaciously, wildly. That group or the dynamic of that group may change because the world’s plates are always shifting. But wherever I am, whenever I am, to whomever the Holy Spirit leads me, I must learn them wisely, love them deeply, and walk with them faithfully towards the fullest of lives made only possible by death.

I rest in that while here in Haiti--my old, wise friend and teacher whose own history bleeds with sacrifice and whose own present is speckled with hope. 

To die is beautiful.

I breathe it in. And I trust for more.

Lespwa fe viv,


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I believe true restoration is not the avoidance of what is dark and dead, but the unthinkable repurposing of it.

This morning was a typical fourth day awakening, as my muscles and my eyes reminded me of the miles we've trekked in these short days. My senses first found the pulse of my alarm clock, then the whirl of the air condition kicking on and off with the power, and then the tap of June Bugs hitting the walls invisibly as to not join the June Bug graveyard that our room of girls has established.

Today was the wrapping up of tasks not yet done before we head back to Port au Prince and then on to Florida tomorrow. Or three groups began this trip with a long list of things needing to be checked off before we returned to continue planning for our next four endeavors in country. Excitedly we can say that they pretty much all have been. We needed lastly to show the professors the American University, buy some Malaria medication for future trips, and hike some of the trails of the hillsides as to see more of the native culture.

We decided to do the latter first to capture as many of the cooler hours as possible. So we set off on a trail only slightly distinguishable from the rest of the ground around it right behind the guesthouse in its neighboring waving hills. The trails themselves you can barely see from far away, but as you come right upon them, you notice that the 10" path of no grass/sometimes grass is actually leading somewhere. We had no ending point except to be back at 11am. We walked in a straight line around the middle of a hill and then over another and down the side of yet another, passing huts and cows and children scattered without pattern. Ahead we could hear drums and singing in the cluster of trees at the peak. We asked our translator what was happening and he said it was a normal prayer service. Little did we know our path was taking us straight through their sanctuary of limbs and tied ribbon blowing eerily in the diving breezes. Their prayer style and location was so bizarre I wondered if it weren't something a bit more dark. But Dr. Kress stopped to hear their words and said, "They are asking God to help them, that only he can."

Down another hill, around and back up, and we heard a voice calling from a car below. It was Pastor Louis from our guesthouse driving down a backroad to see if we had enough water. As we scooted down to meet him, he told us of a church of his that was only about a half mile away on foot if we wanted to meet him there. Unfortunately, a half mile away is like a half hour away in Haiti. You should plan to walk five and you should plan to be late. It took our crew quite a while and a couple of times getting turned around to find Pastor Louis again, who led us to the correct location.

Once there, he told us the rich history of the site. When his ministry was preparing to move into this area of the south, the head witch doctor of the area was strongly opposed to it and cursed them. The Bokor headed up a Vodou temple next to the house that he lived in a few miles from the Cambri site. One day while he was speaking in 1995, he was struck by lightening. It did not kill him, but it caused his body much damage. Hearing this, El Shaddai came to the man's house and prayed for him. The man, over the next 8 years, surrendered his life and his practices over to God, tore down the temple, and gave all the land to El Shaddai for them to build another church on. This is the site of the church we went and visited today. The pastor said that the Bokor handed over to him his big jar of terrantuals, frogs, and other creatures who held his power, and in the name of Jesus they burned the whole thing, blessed the land, and began rebuilding.

I walked away and told David that I commended any ministry that does not avoid the brokenness, but instead sees to it that it is repurposed for the kingdom, and that this to me is the Gospel. He responded with, "When we seek to plant, we find out where is most dark, and go there."

We could save a lot of time, energy, sinfulness, and fear if we could trust the Spirit in us to take us into the dark places and equip us not to avoid or conform but to creatively seek to repurpose that which has been lost. Among that third way, I believe, is where heaven comes on earth.

We pulled ourselves back into the guesthouse to down the water we were scared of drinking on the trails without bathrooms, cooled off a bit, and then headed for Cayes.

We arrived at the American Univeristy on Mardi Gras day, meaning our curious group and a couple of armed guards near a locked gate were all to be seen on the property. However, with the French fluency of sweet talking Dr. Kress, we were inside the facility quickly. On the top terrace, we met an American man who invited us in to sit down. He told us he was one of three American teachers there, and that he had been there since September. We commented on how nice the buildings were, to which he offered that they were built as a US military compound during the Raegan Administration. The walls are measured just so and the roof is designed as a helicopter landing. But now it functions as the classrooms for 250 Agriculture and Civil Engineer local students.

After a few minutes of chatting, the second teacher named Sean joined us on the porch. He is about our age and has been in Haiti teaching English and helping with teams for about 3 weeks. When our professors started explaining that they were a part of a small, Methodist affiliated, liberal arts college, Sean said, "Are you a part of the Shreveport Methodists?" To which Sarah and I said, "No but we are..."

Sean then went in to say how he was baptized in our church before he and his family moved to Charleston. He said that we were that church from Sheveport that has established a pretty consistent presence here, and that he had looked up a lot about ours and Grace UMC's work in blogs and articles online. He commended our commitment to one global place and said that the people know us. What incredible affirmation that God is spreading what God has started. We, in our broken nature, are not built to stick around. In friendships, in marriages, in countries that are tough. We are built to flee to leveled, easier ground. We are built to worship that which will both cater to us and our success. We are not built to stick around. But Jesus is. And it is ONLY by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to embrace that in our own lives as well. Because sticking around requires sacrifices when you'd rather not, commitment when the seasons are dry, and hope when the vision is not yet fully recognizable. And what is beautiful is that we are able to learn this together, not alone. Where laughter and truth and dreaming and growing pains and depth and boldness and conviction can abound among those we've made covenents with as friends.

So if there is even a little bit of a known presence of FUMC Shreveport in Les Cayes, Haiti, it is because we have stuck around, and that can only ever be because of Jesus.

As we talked more, Sean mentioned, seemingly randomly, the deep need for a place for young adults in his home town. "Sunday school just doesn't seem to be enough, what do we do throughout the rest of the week?" he said. What a crazy wonderful opportunity...

"Well we've actually got a lot to say about this see, we live in a young adult community house that we started in Shreveport..." We told him how we've been fascinated by new monasticism all through college and how on the return of our Haiti trip two years ago, we felt like God was saying it was time to create something similar. We talked about how we recognized that there weren't a ton of places for us to go in this awkward stage of life, how we needed each other, and needed more than Sunday mornings to live out the holistic faith that we wanted. We told him about family meals, and the health care fund, and our housemate meetings. And them we invited him to come and see when he returns to the states. To which he said, "And I think I'll have to bring a few people who need to see this as well."

Our daily, seemingly mundane, experiences and encounters can very well be the loose stitching that God does prior to pulling it all together piece by piece in the brilliance of a plan unfathomable to the human psyche. We are being written, and it is the most glorious thing.

Now, for one more meal, one more cold shower, one more drive through Kanaval traffic to the airport until May.

Mesi pou li ekri mwen,


Waterfalls and Presidents

Last night as I finished up blogging, I wondered what I would be able to write about today. We were just going to the beach, very routine, nothing abnormal was likely to happen....

One waterfall find, ministry connection, Carnival run-in, UN official yelling, lobster eating, and President siting later....I'd say, maybe I assumed incorrectly. This is in fact Haiti, right?

We began our day eating our oatmeal and peanut butter out on the tiled walkways overlooking the misty mountains attempting to convince you they are actually a postcard--and it works. I've said it before, but it's worth repeating...Cambri. Is. Breathtaking. We have always been downtown in our guesthouse, but here the mornings invite you into the island and at night the stars remind you of your smallness as they rise above the clouds that rise above the lights that throb over Kanaval. Today's agenda: visit the children down the hill at the Cambri orphanage, see the mobile clinic that is being set up by the other team there, and then head out to explore as much of the city of Port Salut as we can in a day.

The children at this site found our hands before we finished the incline. They know enough English to get through sentence number three, probably due to the guesthouse they live near. One finds me, and then sees my nose ring and finds Dana. I say under my breath, "I understand , my grandpa did the same thing." And then my new friend found me. His name is Toto and he is kind of like a little puppy I suppose. I couldn't get over his name or the way that he repeated sounds that I made in a singing voice. He reminded me so much of my friend Peterson from our first trip that left with his family soon after. It was neat to meet a similar personality. He played with my hair and told me things about the other kids that I couldn't quite translate. We made conversation with the older boys a bit, some in Kreyol, some in Angle, and then after a peek in the clinic, we got out of the way and headed further south.

Port Salut was said to be the home of a couple of cultural sites that we wanted to check off for our upcoming Centenary Module. We also had plans to visit another Children's Village to see how their ministry is being run as well as eat lunch on the beach. We parked at the village to see a class happening, which was curious since all schools are out for Mardi Gras this week. We asked the head Mama what was happening, and she said, "Since school is out, I set up a Christian day camp for youth." It's so encouraging to see initiative, and successful initiative at that. And they danced and they sang as we toured the facilities. After about ten minutes there, Kaiti mentioned that this may really be somewhere that the Wesley could make a relationship with and live among this summer. I thought, "This is why we must sometimes trust the change of plans with our flexibility, because we never know what meetings God is setting up." Our last minute added visit could make all the difference for a college team and the people that could become their next Haitian family.

We mentioned to the head Mama at the end of our visit that we had seen a sign on the way in near her entrance that read, "Kaskade"...

"Wi, li se kat minut am mâché." So we headed on foot toward the hidden Port Salut waterfall. It took a bit more than 4 minutes, and we were followed by teen boys who were 100% making fun of us, but surely it was worth it. As you weave in and out of deep greens on a well trodden dusty path, you begin to hear water hitting from a height that the ocean doesn't make. We could make out the sound of a large number of voices as we came upon the gate where we were charged a quarter each to enter. Whether or not that person who is $2 richer was someone in charge, we'll never be sure. The path down is just as dusty but winds more with man made steps sloping ever so slightly enough to make you wonder if you'll domino this whole caravan before its over. And then you see it. Three separate streams slipping down slick tan rock into a pool of beige water pushing into a juggled stream. On top, a preteen Haitian boy sitting, torso dancing to the chatter below, which happened to be the older orphanage kids who had taken a small outing. We moved to the side of our sandy slope when we saw the herd heading back our way, greeted with thirty different "bonjous," and finished our climb down to the water. Haiti is full of surprises. We tookour pictures and enjoyed the hideaway that we had been blessed with, and started our thigh-exercise back to the top. I've always wanted to see a water fall in Haiti. Check!

We left with talk about Kaiti's May team and how our teams can maybe run into each other while we're working this summer. Then we headed to the artisan center in the middle of town, which turned out to be a pretty typical souvenir shop, but it helped us practice our haggling...which I hate to do. Where is Carrie Mercer when you need a painting not to be $30?

After getting information for Centenary about a couple of famous artists' houses in the community, we headed to the beach. We've been here many times with our teams, and it is quite nostalgic at this point. Many shells and debriefing conversations have been surfaced here. A proposal has left its trails in that sand and we have toasted to our love for Haiti and our gratitude of God with many a sugar cane coke under those palm leaves. This trip offered no less of an experience as we talked about our questions, our hopes, what we've learned, what we've yet to learn, and good humor to keep it all running. After our meal was paid for, we loaded back up in our off-roading minivan, and headed back to town.

Little did we know, so was the entire town. And round two of Kanaval had begun. Which would have made for a very uneventful wait in traffic as we discussed how we help our teams cope with the emotions that inevitably follow trips like these, except for the unmistakable train of black escalades that began pushing our long line of cars to the side. And there was President Martelly, surrounded by too many cars and guns to count, windows down and thumbs up to the crowd. Reminder: never dull, always something to write about.

We laughed and told Dr. Ciocchetti that we arranged all of this for his first trip to the Island, then trudged along with the hundreds of other celebrating locals.

The night became even more interesting as we found ourselves lost in traffic and on the edge of a side road staring at the floats passing by. Tonight they actually looked more like the decorations we're used to in Louisiana, with their large colors and loud music and soda carts. We laughed about how we had waited 5 hours and walked 6 miles to NOT actually see the parade yesterday, and then viola! This moment was only squelched by the UN vehicle that rolled his window down at us.

(UN guy in a French accent) "You are cutting off traffic, you are being disrespectful!" (As he continued to not let us in.)
(My thoughts) *Doesn't he know where he is? Would he say that to a Haitian?*
(Dr. Kress in French) "Sir, are you French?"
(UN rudely) "You are English! You speak English to me. You are being disrespectful!" (Rolls up window and moves forward.)

Maybe I understand better why the Haitians dislike the UN. Dana said, "Move forward, I'll speak some English to him..." And we laughed and shook our heads at the rudeness and laughed some more.

A few more wrong turns and floats after that, our wonderful driver finally found his way back to Cambri, and we clapped and proclaimed the bizarreness of the day and crawled out in wonderment of how we would even begin to share the stories of the day.

Today I have remembered that it is important to trust our flexibility to the interruptions. We never know how God might be trying to love on us. I remembered that one way or another the Holy Spirit will get us to the point where we are fully open for whatever is out in front of us, where we embrace it because the most terrifying place to be is not out of control, but outside of God's will. Today through conversations about teams and trips, I remembered that our emotions should be coupled as equally with our education. We should learn, and gain wisdom and knowledge, then ask God to infuse our emotions into that education. So much harm has been done on the back of distraught and overwhelmed feelings.

Today I remembered, sitting on this tile with the blue of the single lights glowing into the thickening dark, smelling the burning of a hundred trash piles, hearing the conversations of the leaders and the other teams on all sides as well as the drums of the festivities below in the city...that no man could write the stories that the Creative Almighty chooses to lead us into. We are blessed to play a role. We are blessed to play a role.

Expecting to write again tomorrow,


Kanaval Nationale

We take our Bibles, journals, other books, whatever we can fit in our bags when we go to church in Haiti, because often it is very early, and often it goes for 3 hours, and often it is all in Creole. This morning's difference was that we were joined by a team that flew in last night from Los Vegas, Chicago, and Florida. With 30 of us "blancs" in church, much of the service was translated, including the message which was done by one of the other team members. I have never been to a church service in Haiti that was not as enthusiastic as it was packed with people. My naivety may be showing through, but it seems that many of the worship styles are fairly similar across denominations. I suppose that goes for the U.S. as well. We're just not as different from that church down the street than we like to think we are:)

They wave their hands in the air and turn around in prayer by using their folding chairs as altars, and the small children stare and smile at the foreigners. Today's sermon was on the woman at the well, one of my favorite stories. And Dr. Kress and I were asked to come say a word. This being probably the 5th time this has happened, I tried to be prepared. At least this time I wasn't wearing a skull and cross bones tshirt and size 3x skirt because I had forgotten my Sunday best and "could borrow from one of the neighbors." There I was, with death itself on my shirt thanking the people of God in Haiti for the love they have shown us. Amen, amen.

But this morning was lovely, and the music was beautiful. I wanted to bottle up the soloist's voice and bring it back for all to hear. He is from Canada, and you will be hearing from him someday.

We didn't have anything scheduled necessarily for the afternoon, and the other team was going back to take naps and sort their medical supplies, so, we thought, "Why not?!"

And that's when we headed towards downtown to catch Kanaval Natinonale ( Mardi Gras)! Unfortunately, we had gotten our time frame for the day's festivities from the gate guard, who said, "after noon." Which we took to mean after twelve, after church. We knew that after we got a ride down their, there would be no ride back to Cambri. But we had an El Shaddai employee, David, our walking shoes and our water, so we'd be set for the 5 mile trek home. Little did we know, as we meandered around the faux walls and halls of temporary displays, that after noon meant "afternoon." Time: unspecified. So we asked and we looked and we asked someone who looked like they would know. "The parade starts at 4," he said. Good, it was 1:30. This mishap gave us a wonderful afternoon though, filled with seeing and experience something none of us may ever get to do again: Carnival in Haiti.

The risers look much like the ones in South LA, except they are coved in Digicel phone service signs and were still being painted right up to the moment of the parade. The streets were filled with many people of many different statuses, and the masks were huge and goofy and intricate. Except for that one kid wearing the scream mask. That's not homemade , sir. Nor is it quite in the correct Holliday. But who am I to say. One man motioned for me to walk up to his booth of wooden necklaces. "Bonjou," I say. "You are welcome," he says. Now that's a confident salesman.

We mingled and took pictures and made friends for a bit. Dr. Kress and Kaiti got interviewed on Haitian News. We watched a caravan of ambulances and what looked like a younger, bluer Shriners pass on scooters. And then about3 hours of walking and waiting later, we decided to walk back and hopefully catch the floats in the float yard on our way out of town. Which we did. Haitian Mardi Gras floats are a bit different than Louisiana as they look like big trucks with cages, many huge speakers, and a few advertisement signs on them. I suppose more than anything, the actual parade is more about the music and the necklaces they throw than the decorations. Some of the trucks were so loaded down with speakers that they are having to pull generators on smaller trailers behind them.

We are now 6 miles away on top of a mountain and I can still hear them.

It's really an amazing thing to see our culture traced so richly back. It makes me more and more aware of the shoulders we are always standing on. It makes me more and more humbled to remember that we can credit nothing to ourselves. We are made of the spirit of God that is within us, the fibers of choices and risks that have gone before us, and the love and friendship that surrounds us.

My feet look tanned, but are actually covered in I do believe that a shower (also known as our June-Bug graveyard) is calling my name. Along with another long sleep.

Oh! But first! I bought a mask today from Kanaval to commemorate the day. It's pink and kind of looks like a possessed house cat. Yay!


Frog Juice

It sounded, quite frankly, like a small animal was being stabbed every 3 seconds and it started at 2:30 this morning--which was unfortunate, since we had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before heading back to Haiti. Our travels on Friday took a good two hours more than normal since the nation had decided that Carnival Nationale would be held in Les Cayes this year instead of Port au Prince, so every pickup with mattresses, Taptap with tents, and northerner looking for a Carribean float was headed to the southern coast alongside of us. And we thought we were going to miss Mardi Gras in Shreveport...

Our driver, Dou Dou, explained to us at each traffic jam that he had to exit the vehicle to direct, "You hof to let theem know yuhr chief. You kahnnot quietly say, 'Ehm, plees move.' Weeth Heshens, you must seh, 'Bock up! Bock up! Yurh een tha weh!' Ahnd eet wuhks. They know you ah chief."

And they did, and he was, and that's how we made it to Les Cayes by 11:30 instead of 9:30 but not 1:30.

We peeled ourselves from the mini van and stumbled into our rooms at the beautiful Cambri Guesthouse, nestled atop a mountain encircled by more and more rings of mountains. You can see the throbbing glow from the Carnival float yard and the stars are like glitter.

This guesthouse is a new one for our teams, and it's inauguration into our travels is part of the reason we are here this week on a scouting trip. The other parts include introducing Kaiti from the Tech Wesley foundation to some different partnerships in the south, meeting with the Bighouse and Darivage pastors to hammer our the details for our summer teams, and solidify plans with the two Professors with us for the Centenary Module Team that will be joining our FUMC Young Adult Team in May to teach classes to the children's homes.

We were all pretty excited to see that dinner had been covered and left out for us. So we sat down and enjoyed some rice, red sauce, and ketchup-chicken together. While we enjoyed, Pastor Louis told us much about their efforts as our partners and the church planters for many villages in Haiti. He spoke to us about the orphanages and how his father was the church planter of 365 evangelical churches before he retired. He and his brother followed in his footsteps seeking to care for the holistic church, with all her branches and depth. In that spirit, he began talking about their medical clinic on site and how they seek to heal the body and the mind.

"Our people," he said, "sometimes have a different mind. And we work to get their minds and their diseases well." We asked him to explain further and quickly figured out that he was talking about vodou. Chris ask him, "And how do you do that?" To which, the pastor responded, "We teach the Word." He led us conversationally into a side of Haiti that we have often missed before, for a couple of reasons. One is, we simply didn't know what to look for. The other is, frequently on foreign mission trips, we get so isolated going in between our work site and our guesthouse, or we dont have enough time, that we miss some of the culture. It is important to know the intricate corners of those you have chosen to live among, even if for just a small amount of time. It shows respect. It affirms their wonderful humanity. And ours. And we often learn that it is us who are learning and changing and healing.

Louis told us that many, many people come to their clinic after they have tried every Witch Doctor possible and they haven't worked. Vodou is 20% spiritual and 80% mental manipulation, the Christian Haitians believe, and the Witch Doctors are masters at their craft of illusion. He said that when their ministry seeks to build a knew church in a village, they find out where the Witch Doctor lives and build close to him, as to show him the tangible love of Jesus and bring the Good News to that area. Christians are not affected by the 20%, he explained, because our souls are claimed by Christ. So they can move in and share water sources with these "Bokors" (as they are called) and pray against the false teachings.

"Have you seen the Witch Doctor's house out beside Bighouse Orphanage?"
"No, is it close?"
"Yes! It is two houses before! You have passed it every time you have been out there, which has probably been...?
"17 times, at least."
"Yes, you will know it by the two flags that hang by his house. This represents the number of family members he has killed as human sacrifices as to gain their power and become a prominent Witch Doctor. He keeps a rope hanging in the tree at his gate, that is where his spirit lives. His spirit harms those who come uninvited. And beside it is a fire, where he worships. Bighouse was well known for evil of this kind. It was where Papa Doc was raised and he would come back here to do his ceremonies. We tell our people that the curse has been broken. That Jesus came to free them."

Sure enough, the next day we passed the Bokor's house and saw his red and blue flags, his fire, and his rope. And I thought, how wonderful it is that the gospel speaks to the teachings and remedies that fall on paranoia and revenge and death. How wonderful that the gospel brings life and freedom and selfless love. If I weren't a believer, in this moment I would say, "The teachings just work well, it is simply a brilliant way to do life, in the truth of how Jesus lived his." Breaking social barriers, healing the poor in spirit and body, alleviating people from their cultural oppression, encouraging people to care for people, claiming that no curse nor system nor another person owns them because they have already been bought. We have been shown the greatest of Ways.

The afternoon at Bighouse and Darivage were incredibly productive. We met with each pastor to determine what they would like for us to teach in our 8 days of classes that we will be offering at both villages with Centenary College and FUMC's Young Adult teams this summer. Many of what we expected: art, math, English, French, tool usage, music, etc. What surprised them both was that we want to teach the normal school hours that they will already have (8-1), but then learn from them in the afternoons. So, this summer after our teams work through translators to conduct a rotation of lessons, all 35 of us will be learning Haitian dance, bracelet making, simple Creole, etc. When we expressed that we wanted to learn as much as teach, the pastors said, "We think this is wonderful because a lot of teams come to do something for us, and we have things to show too." It's all pretty exciting. Especially the part where I'll be joining my backwoods lack of rhythm with Caribbean groove. Sure to be the most awful display of movement they've ever seen. I picture one of those wind- men advertisement tall things that blow to and from in front of stores when I think about it.

After our visits, the professors really wanted to see any historical old buildings or plantations that our leaders could show us. They had one better. We were able to climb, find, and explore the insides of two French fortresses from the Haitian Revolution. From the last years of the 1700s, their plaques read, but they are not necessarily being preserved. One of them had a network of old tunnels webbing beneath our feet. Which we voted not to peruse due to potential spiders and/or bigger and worse alive or dead things. The towers looked like that one scene in Ever After, with their vine covered bases and crumbling picture-perfect windows. I felt blessed by the adventure.

I let my team know that I had big plans to be asleep early, since I had had 2.5 hours the night before, thanks to devil demon frog cricket in the drains. To which, Dr. Kress and Sarah showed me the picture of one of the water-catchers on the roof whose lid had fallen off and was now the new home to multiple tadpoles. "I think we know why."

Nice. It wouldn't be a trip to Haiti if I weren't questioning if I was bathing in frog juice water...or killing a hand-sized spider...or wondering if the grilled goat from the street stands still had hair in it.

All in all, a beautiful couple of days to begin a scouting trip. The kids are healthy and happy, and learning guitar and a few other English words. The boys that used to be the younger boys three years ago are getting more mature face shapes, which is bitter sweet. And the security wall and clean water building are both finished.

A 7:15 bedtime for a 6:15 wake up call is beckoning.

Bon Nuit,