TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
November 11, 2004
Each morning, I start my day on the balcony of my room. It is there that I have my morning devotions. Usually, there is a soft breeze and somewhat cooler temperatures at that early morning hour. Quiet still reigns and I have a birds-eye view of what may or may not be occurring in the soccer field below. Sometimes the field is completely empty. Other times a small group of children who are not able to go to school are found there playing. Sometimes children are slipping through the hole in the wall and using the field as a short cut for their walk to school. Other times someone can be seen disapperaing into the abandoned bleaches to find a private place to use as a bathroom. And still other times, only the goats will be there trimming the grass of the field. This time of day is my private time for just God and me. I use this time to read a devotional, read some passages from the Bible and to sing a song or two IN ENGLISH! I really need that! I also use this time to become more familiar with Creole. I will read one of the same Bible passages from the Creole Bible. In hand, I have my “cheat sheet” with the correct pronunciations of the Creole vowels and consonants. I am really getting pretty good at reading and saying the words correctly, but am still struggling with understanding what I am reading. I pray that reading God’s Word will help me with that. The use of the two Bibles offers me a quick and easy comparison of the two languages, although I am finding the wording needs to change to reflect the different cultures.
Recently yet another new experience awaited me. I was going to take a short cut through church to speak with someone near the church gate, only to find an open casket in the church in preparation for a funeral. I have seen many a funeral procession during my visits to Haiti, but had never seen a funeral. I found it very interesting to watch as the mourners arrived at church, dressed in their finest clothing. Several groups of school children arrived, dressed in their school uniforms. I am told that they came as classmates to show their respects to a member of the family of the deceased person. I was unable to stay to watch the entire proceedings. I really had wanted to see the processional to the cemetery as it is a joyful celebration. Trumpets and drums are played in a “hallelujah” style parade! It is a scene, though sobering, that I find very triumphant.
The same day, I had another “first” ! I drove a car! Now for those of you who have been to Haiti, you are already visualizing the chaos I would face. The honking of horns, the dodging in and out of traffic, the “let’s see who can get through this intersection first” saga are all coming to mind! Such was not the case on this particular late afternoon. There were actually few cars on the road, no pigs, no cows, no chickens. I did maneuver around a few dogs, several bicycles, several motorcycles and a few trucks. I did well in missing most of the potholes (craters) and managed to not splash the many pedestrians as I slowly went through the lake-size mud puddles. I was really pretty proud of myself. I went to visit friends in one of the poorer sections of LesCayes. After visiting for awhile, I explained that I had better head back home, as it was nearing dark. I entered the car only to find that it would not start. No “click-click” of a dead battery. Nothing! I had borrowed a car that I knew little about. I had to figure out many things that night like where the hood release button was, how to release the gas cap, how to get home in the dark with no lights as the button for the lights was broken, determining if I had enough air in the tire that was once again getting low on air, and then if needed, how to get into the trunk to get the bike tire pump out to put more air in the tire. To exit the car, I had to roll down the window and use the door latch on the outside of the car, as the inside door mechanism was also not functioning. But as is very usual in Haiti, there is always someone nearby to assist the stranded motorist. After getting the hood open and a few thuds on the battery post with a rock, I was off for home. It was then that I looked down and realized that the gas gauge was on E. The first station that I came to was out of gas. The second station had a long line of tap-taps (public transportation buses), motorcycles, trucks and cars all vying for the few pumps that were available. I was sure that I would run out of gas before I was done going to the right, going to the left, backing up, squeezing through some motorcycles, then backing up again. Once again, I was very proud of myself … I did not hit anyone or anything and still had enough gas when I finally had my turn at the pump. I arrived back home with just enough daylight to safely see my way there. Ahhhhhhhhhhh …. Another Haitian adventure!
Another Haitian adventure awaits me! I will be returning to the states to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and to speak at a few churches and schools about the needs of the orphanage and the needs of Haiti. I will be the “guinea pig” for the new charter flight that is now available between LesCayes and Port-au-Prince. With the recent violent conditions in Port-au-Prince and unsafe night travel to the city, it is currently the recommended way to get in and out of the country from LesCayes. A friend has jokingly recommended that I should pack a sack lunch for that trip … thinking that I may need the sack for a barf bag. I hope he is wrong! Keep me in your prayers for November 19! It is then that I will take that “maiden voyage!”
As my return home approaches, I am having a hard time visualizing that the leaves in Michigan have changed to their brilliant colors and have fallen to the ground in the rainy and cooler conditions. To me, it seems that it must still be summer there. What a surprise will greet me as I get off the plane in my summer clothing and receive that blast of cold air!
The last few mornings here in LesCayes have actually been “Michigan mornings.” There has been a cool (yes! cool!) breeze in the air and low humidity. The wooden doors no longer swell so badly that you have to tug and pull to get them open. Everyone else here seems to be cold, but I am LOVING it! It is during this cooler season that I am heading back to Michigan. I should have planned this better! I need to visit Michigan during summer when Haiti is at it’s hottest. I need to stay in Haiti during the winter when Michigan is at it’s coldest. I’ll have to work on that for next year! Next year???? It sounds like I plan on being here for awhile! I really believe God has that in His plan for me!
I was reminded once again as I visited a home in LesCayes, how truly blessed I am, even here where my home is not at all like living in the states. The room where I stay is very luxurious by Haitian standards, larger than the entire homes of most Haitians. The home I visited was a part of a Haitian style housing complex. The structure was concrete, long and narrow. As you passed down the narrow corridor, you passed several door openings, covered only with a lacy curtain or a draped sheet for the door. Each opening lead to a single room that would house an entire family. I am assuming that the families living here shared outdoor cooking facilities and a latrine for bathroom facilities, even though I did not see that portion of the housing complex. The room (home) that I would visit was about 8’ x 8’. There was one fan in the room and the room was lit by a single porcelain, pull-chain type ceiling fixture with one lonely light bulb. The family offered to turn the light off for me in fear that the heat generated from the bulb was causing me to sweat profusely. Of course, it was not the light bulb at all that was causing water to literally drip down my body, it was the intense heat and the lack of air circulation. I was offered one of the few chairs that was in the room and then I began to look around. I was sitting in the corner of the room where there was a table with a few chairs, used for the dining table. In the opposite corner was a 1 ½’ metal clothing rack bolted to the wall, containing the entire family’s wardrobe. In the next corner were the few dishes that the family owned. In the last corner was what appeared to be a table with two mattresses on it, covered with a large cloth. Taking in such sights sets my mind to wondering and contemplating how life in Haiti works. My conclusion was that at night, the mattresses are placed on top of the two tables and the family sleeps with the tables as bed frames. There is no room to place the mattresses on the floor for this family of four or more adults. The only apology that was made to me was that they were sorry that they did not have any food or drink to offer me. I could only think about all the apologies I would be making back in the states for not having my home in picture perfect condition. This family just relished the moments that I took to visit their home and to share their friendship. Neighbors were called in. Everyone wanted to hear me speak in English and expressed joy when I spoke a few poorly pronounced Creole words. I told them tales about the snow that comes to Michigan, much to their delight! I met their children, who wanted to touch my white skin to see what it felt like. Simple pleasures! That’s really what life is all about! People accepting people for what and who they are! The Haitian people continually remind me of that!
There are days that I need to pinch myself to be sure that I am really here in Haiti and doing this work for my Lord. Is it possible that God would chose ME? I am truly an example of God using the unqualified to do His work! Only He can take someone and use them in unimaginable ways! The joy is great when you let God use you in the way He wishes! It is then that you know that you can take no credit for the work, ONLY God can! He makes ALL things possible! Don’t we have a wonderful and awesome God?
As this will probably be my last communiqué until I return from the states, I would once again ask that you will please continue to pray for the children of the orphanage. It is our desire to one day have a more suitable place to house the children. We wish for a building with a real kitchen and a yard for the children to play in and a garden for them to grow food and a working farm for them to raise a few goats and chickens. I have submitted a grant request for such a building. We already have the property for an orphanage building, but need the funds for the rest. The grant request goes through many phases. In January, it will be reviewed, along with several other requests. Only a few of these requests are approved to be voted on in July. The approved requests that “make the cut” are then voted on in July with the number of accepted grants being even fewer in number. Please PRAY that our grant request makes it through this entire process. The children need a better and bigger home, where we can take even more of the children that are now without a place to live. Only with God can the impossible become possible!
I sometimes finish my day on the same balcony that I started it on. The sounds of the night can be quite different. The beat of the voodoo drums and the chanting can often be heard in the distance. This activity has been quite frequent lately. November 1 and 2 are both national holidays where a celebration for the dead takes place. Schools are closed. People parade through the streets with trumpets. Many voodoo ceremonies take place in the cemeteries. I am once again reminded that “I’m not in Kansas anymore!” Here again, I ask for your prayers for the people of Haiti, especially those still chained to the worship of the devil. Only God can change their hearts! You can be a vital part of that by your continual prayers! I cannot do the work in Haiti alone … I NEED YOU TO BE FAITHFUL PRAYER WARRIORS!
God bless you and keep you in His care!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic
Until next time ………….