Communiqué #115

Communiqué #115

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

May 17, 2015

H O N O R E D     W O M A N

Honored in 2013 Mother's Day Celebration!

Honored in 2013 Mother’s Day Celebration!

Today, at the age of 105, the eldest woman of this small village on the island of Île-à-Vache passed from this life to the next. It was just two years ago that we had honored her as being the oldest mother of the community at our first-ever Mother’s Day Celebration. In a country where the average life expectancy is about 50 years of age, this is indeed a woman who lived a long life.

Today as I was standing in the backyard of the orphanage, I noticed a gathering of men constructing something with cement block. When I asked one of the boys of the orphanage what they were building, I was told that an elderly neighbor lady had passed away this morning and they were building her above ground tomb.

Activity in the neighbor's yard

Activity in the neighbor’s yard

I spent the afternoon with the orphanage boys, but at the same time I kept an eye on what was transpiring in the yard of the neighbors. Several men were mixing mortar, cutting rebar, placing forms and laying blocks for the final resting place of one of their own.

Final resting place!

Final resting place!

Before returning to the guesthouse where I am staying, I asked someone to escort me to the yard where the tomb was taking shape. A multitude of neighbors were stopping by the gravesite and also at the home where the body remained to pay respect to the family.   For a fleeting moment, I felt a part of the community … not the out-of-place “blanc” in the crowd. Babies, toddlers, youth and grownups all mingled in the yard around the men who were making work of completing their task before dark. The tomb must be finished and the concrete dry for the early morning burial of the next day. In later years, this same tomb will house other family member’s of the deceased matriarch.

I cherish the times when I can get a true glimpse of what life in Haiti is like as if I am invisible and not intruding on a private moment. Today I received one of those glimpses!

Rest in Peace Honored Woman!

Nora Léon                   

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic      Until next time, God willing …………

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Communiqué #114

Communiqué #114

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

May 6, 2015

S W E E T     R E U N I O N    J O Y

 

 

Today, I want to share one of my recent days of JOY. Working on the mission field is not always the glamorous life that some people may envision of “saving the world!”   In reality, many times it is filled with more witnessing of suffering and sorrow than joy.  It is because of this, when a JOY does occur, I need to stop and say a special “Thank you!” to Jesus and bask in the joyousness of the event. The joys seem so much more precious when they are few and far between.

It is with the permission of my friend Jean-Pierre (not his real name) and his adoptive mom that I share this story of JOY from my perspective. It would be interesting to read their perspectives on this same story as well!

I first met Jean-Pierre when he was about 4 years old and living in the city of LesCayes with his parents and (at that time) 8 siblings. He had been severely burned and help for him in Haiti was not available.  Through a series of events, of which I played a small part, Jean-Pierre was able to receive treatment for his burns in the United States while living with a host family that consisted of a father, a mother, two daughters and another child from Haiti being treated for burns.

After several months of treatment, Jean-Pierre returned to Haiti to live with his birth family. It soon became evident that re-adjustment back to life in Haiti was not going well. Jean-Pierre had become accustomed to living in a home where whenever he was hungry, he could “go to the refrigerator” and get something to eat. Life back in Haiti just was not that easy. Food whenever you want it just is not a reality for many families in Haiti. In fact, food every day is not even reality for many families. This was no different for the family of Jean-Pierre.

At some point in time, Jean-Pierre’s parents in the frustration of not being able to care for Jean-Pierre in the manner that he had become accustomed to wrote a letter to the host family and asked if they would consider adopting Jean-Pierre.   When the decision to go ahead was made, the long and agonizing wait began.   In the meantime, the dilemma of Jean-Pierre’s re-adjustment remained. The Haitian pastor who I was working with at the time decided that perhaps he needed to approach the family to see if taking Jean-Pierre into the boys’ orphanage would be a solution. Jean-Pierre would be able to eat everyday, have clothes to wear and be able to attend school on a regular basis – things that were a luxury for his birth family.

The family agreed and turned Jean-Pierre over to the care of the orphanage. Jean-Pierre would continue to see his family on a regular basis. His mother and sister often did laundry at the orphanage. His family attended the same church that he did. Many of his siblings attended the same school as he did. Jean-Pierre was aware when additional siblings were born into the family – a family that would eventually include 12 siblings.

Now the wait for the finalization of the adoption began. Through delay upon delay upon delay the adoptive family and Jean-Pierre waited.

In the meantime, I was able to be a liaison between the adoptive family and Jean-Pierre. When the family wished to send a gift for Jean-Pierre, I would make sure the gift was delivered.   When funds were sent to help feed the birth family, I would deliver the bags of rice and other grocery items. When Jean-Pierre needed reassurance that his family in the USA had not forgotten him, I was able to convey that information. When the adoption advocate needed additional information on Jean-Pierre or his family, I helped to obtain what was needed. If travel to Port-au-Prince was necessary for adoption appointments, I would accompany Jean-Pierre there.

Years (Yes! Years!) went by before the adoption of Jean-Pierre took place. I have always said that with the Haiti Earthquake of 2010 came blessings. One of those disguised blessings was the finalized adoption of Jean-Pierre. Because of the earthquake, the government permitted many in-process, delayed, and complicated adoptions to be expedited. Jean-Pierre was blessed to be one of those approved adoptions!

Since that time, I have periodically stayed in touch with Jean-Pierre and his adoptive family. I have also stayed in touch with the families who adopted two of his youngest sisters. All three families were put in contact with each other and have openly shared the knowledge that they were siblings – born of the same father and same mother. I have remained in touch with the birth family.

About a year ago, the adoptive mother and I had a conversation. She explained that at this point in her life, she was considering bringing her two adopted sons back to Haiti for a visit.   She wanted her boys to experience Haiti, but she also wanted to come to serve in some way, not just come for a “vacation”. Since she was a nurse, it seemed natural for her to come serve in a medical capacity. She was wondering if I had any idea on how to make that happen. I mentioned that in March of 2015, I had a team coming. Part of the team’s mission was to hold medical clinics in two different locations, both of which were close to LesCayes where Jean-Pierre was originally from. After some time, she contacted the team leader and the plan started taking shape for the three of them to join this team. The first several days of the trip would be devoted to team activities. The team would leave and the three of them would stay one extra day to be reunited with Jean-Pierre’s birth family.

At some point in time, I visited the birth family. All through the years they had asked questions about the welfare of Jean-Pierre and his two sisters. They always wanted to see recent photos and to hear about how they were doing in school and other events in their life. The most important question they would ask was as to when they would come back to Haiti to visit. Finally the day had arrived that I could tell them what date Jean-Pierre would return. The family was beyond excited!   The date was months away, but yet they had the appointed day to plan and yearn for.

As I thought on the upcoming event, I wondered what kind of experience it would be. How would it feel as an adoptive mom? How would it feel to come back to a place where memories had started to fade of the sights and sounds and smells and the harsh realities? How would the birth family react? Would it be a positive experience or one that did not go well? Would the leaving again be too difficult? There would really be no way to predict if this experience would be a good one!

The team arrived in March as planned and we set about doing all the things that we had planned for the team to do. I was amazed that at no time did Jean-Pierre or his birth family approach me during the week and ask to re-connect before the date that had been set for this occasion. Jean-Pierre was fully immersed in being a part of the team’s activities, connecting with the children we worked with and in re-learning some of the Kreyol words that were so long ago a natural part of his vocabulary.   Jean-Pierre was a pleasure to have on the team. He and I reconnected in ways that brought me joy. We talked about things that he remembered. I shared with him my thoughts of what he might like to see and do on the day he would be reunited with his family. I asked him to tell me if those indeed were the things he wanted to do and if not please let me know what things he desired. We talked about visiting his school, his church, the orphanage site where he once lived (even though the campus has since relocated), the kids still living at the orphanage (at their new campus) when he was a resident, the beach where his father built boats, his grandmother’s house by the beach and last, but not least, his family’s home. Jean-Pierre expressed a desire to have coconut milk (right out of the coconut), to eat from a sugarcane stalk, and to try banana and fruit champagne soda and other such tastes of his memory. I did every thing in my power to make all those things happen.

Boat construction in progress!

Boat construction in progress!

On Jean-Pierre’s BIG day, the team left very early in the morning for the road trip to catch their flight in Port-au-Prince. By then, I think Jean-Pierre could hardly stand for this long-awaited day to begin.   I had hired a translator to go with us, as I did not want the language barrier to cause Jean-Pierre to miss out on one single thing. The translator had his work cut out for him, as the day unfolded. Myriads of questions and answers would take place throughout the day.   It ended up being an educational experience for the translator as this was his first exposure to someone who had been adopted and furthermore someone who had returned to Haiti for an adoption reunion with their birth family. What a privilege it was for all of us who witnessed this event!

I first drove Jean-Pierre and his adoptive mother and brother and our translator to the school were he attended. As we traveled, familiar landmarks came into view – the soccer field, the community water spigot, the streets of his old neighborhood! School was not in session on that day, but we were able to peer into some of the classrooms and look at the guesthouse, the church and the former site of the girls’ orphanage located on the same property as the school. We were able to go on the roof of the building where we used to watch the local soccer matches (without having to pay an entrance fee!) Jean-Pierre’s mother and brother have never been to LesCayes, so showing these sights to them was also a part of the fun!

Eventually, and not soon enough for Jean-Pierre I am sure, we arrived at the home of his birth family. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and onlookers soon filled the area outside the home as smiles and hugs abounded. He was able to meet family members who he had never met – ones who were born after his departure to the USA. The home itself was of interest to Jean-Pierre. There had seen some changes to the house, so he was interested in seeing the new and old parts of the home he remembered. We toured each room seeing the bedroom where many of his siblings slept – some on beds and some on the floor. We saw where the family cooked over a charcoal fire and where lumber was stored for a future boat his father hoped to build when his health allowed. Jean-Pierre’s mother’s face donned a huge smile. Jean-Pierre’s father took the time to thank the adoptive mom for all that she has done for his son. The father was interested to see the scars from the burn of his toddler years and to know how he was doing in school. All these questions and more were asked with a “standing room only” number of people gathered around to hear every aspect of this happy reunion. The adoptive mom shared photos of the events of Jean-Pierre’s life in the USA. The family filled every moment asking every possible question that they could possibly think of to update them on the events of Jean-Pierre’s life since they last saw him. Jean-Pierre had brought gifts for many of his family and the excitement of the day continued. The family brought out freshly harvested almonds and homemade “tablet nwa” as a special reminder of childhood treats. They all gathered around Jean-Pierre and excitedly watched as he consumed some of his old favorites from the past.   A multitude of family photos were taken to commemorate the big event. We then asked about Jean-Pierre’s grandmother. Upon learning that she was still living, we decided to pay her a visit at the nearby beach where she lived next to the ocean.   As some of us traveled by car, a large number of the family raced there on foot, meeting us as we got out of the car. Once at the beach, coconuts were whacked open with a machete and coconut milk was enjoyed by all. More onlookers and relatives appeared and new babies were introduced. The grandmother in her regal gentleness appeared and hugged Jean-Pierre with delight!   A brief walk to the beach area where wooden boats were being built took place.   Midday was approaching and we explained that we were planning an afternoon reunion with the boys and the girls of the orphanage who would remember Jean-Pierre from his time there. The father then asked if we would please return to share a special meal that the family wanted to prepare for Jean-Pierre. The meal would include freshly caught fish and other favorites from Jean-Pierre’s childhood. We promised that we would return by 4PM.

We returned to the guesthouse for a quick lunch and then traveled the short distance to reunite with the kids at the orphanage. Jean-Pierre had never lived at the new campus that was built after the earthquake, so a tour was given of the childrens’ cabins. Re-introductions were made of the kids that he had known and introductions of kids that had arrived after Jean-Pierre’s departure. It seemed awkward for everyone. The kids did not know what to say, but photos taken with old friends seemed to ease some of the tension. Eventually, the kids overcame their shyness and asked about Jean-Pierre and his life in the USA. Jean-Pierre had brought an ever-welcome gift of candy for all of the kids there. After a brief visit, we returned to the guesthouse to await the time of departure for the special meal prepared for Jean-Pierre and his family!

As I was leaving with the three of them the next morning for a return to the USA, I explained to Jean-Pierre and his family that I would drop them off at the family home and return for them later so that I could finish packing my bags for the journey! I was saddened that I could not watch the late afternoon events unfold, but knew that it would be a wonderful family experience.   I was later told that the birth family was just going to watch as Jean-Pierre and his family ate the meal specially prepared for them. It was upon the insistence of the adoptive mom that both families enjoyed the meal together. The time together was also spent playing games familiar to the family and dancing in the streets with siblings and others – a time filled with laughter and cheers. Later, I viewed a short video clip of the dancing. It made my heart swell with the love that was so evident within this family at being reunited with someone they had only been able to hold in their memory. I was told that the family also opened their hearts to Jean-Pierre’s adoptive brother, now welcoming him as part of their family.   When the time came for them to leave, it was my husband who picked them up. I can only imagine the mixture of emotions as the time to say goodbye came to be.

The next morning would quickly arrive as we had a 5AM departure for Port-au-Prince. Jean-Pierre would end up sitting in the seat behind me on the long ride. Occasionally, he would lean forward and verbalize some of the thoughts and questions that were whirling through his mind. He asked things like: “Manmi Nora, what do you think my family will be doing today?” or “ Would it be possible for me to come back and spend a month or two here?” or “What does it cost for a bag of rice and how long would that last for my family?”   My heart ached as I knew that going back to the states would be a time of processing and reflecting, not only for Jean-Pierre, but for both sides of the rest of the family.

After some time, I contacted Jean-Pierre to see how he was doing. He was continuing to bask in the experience and feeling the joy on being re-connected. I also asked the adoptive mom how she was doing. She said she did not feel that she had lost a son, but had gained a whole family – a whole incredible family!

I count it a JOY to have been a small part of this “full circle” experience. I pray for Jean-Pierre and his family as the future unfolds for all of them. I pray also for other adoptees who contemplate reunions with their birth families. I pray that their experience can be equally as JOY-filled!

Nora Léon                   

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic               Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Communiqué #113

Communiqué #113
TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
April 12, 2015

A N E W B E G I N N I N G

What a glorious weekend it was! What a sight to behold! Witnessing the marriage of 21 couples in a mass wedding on a tiny island in Haiti was the culmination of many months of planning and preparing by Grace Ministries of Île-à-Vache. A mission team and I were blessed to be a part of this incredible weekend!

For years, we have heard of couples on this little isle that wanted to marry but could not afford a beautiful bridal gown, a suit for the groom, rings for the couples or a reception for family and friends. Before plans went into full swing, a marriage seminar was held several months prior to teach the couples about Christian marriage. Following the seminar the couples were asked if they would like to make a commitment to marriage. Many, many said, “Yes! We want to get married!” And with that … a plan to make it happen started to take shape. Through the generosity of many friends, all the obstacles were overcome and a real wedding was made possible. Donations came in many forms. We received gently used bridal gowns and veils and men’s suits, wedding bands, flowers for bridal bouquets, decorations for the church, photographs of the couples, cake mixes and cake pans, candy favors and monetary donations for a celebratory meal for the newlywed couples and a food treat for the hundreds and hundreds of guests.

It seemed fitting that the weddings would take place on March 21 – the first day of spring – the day of new beginnings! Some of the bridal couples walked 5 hours, from the other side of the island, in time to change into their wedding attire prior to the mid-morning wedding. The grooms were like many others, as they sat on a bench out-of-the-way of the brides who were taking much too long to get ready. The brides would eventually emerge from the school classroom where they had make-up applied and the dresses and veils were adjusted to perfection. All ages of brides appeared with a glow on their faces as they were finally able to experience this special day. For at least one couple, which had been together over 30 years, this day was a day that they would be celebrating both with children and grandchildren!

The grooms waiting for their brides!

The grooms waiting for their brides!

IMG_3948

Sauvnette – one of the beautiful brides!

Preparations for this big event started taking place at least 3 days before the event. The professor for the culinary arts/cosmetology classes of our Trade School was put in charge of many things. He and his students literally worked three days and three nights to get everything ready. They used ONE propane-powered stove/oven to prepare three tier cakes and over 900 cupcakes. They prepared the “fancy” meal for the newlywed couples. They decorated the bridal reception room that was held in a school classroom and also joined the missionary team in decorating the church – a task that would be an interesting combination of Haitian & American decorating techniques. For the brides, they styled hair and gave manicures & pedicures (using a good old-fashioned 5 gallon pail for the foot bath).

One of the tier cakes prepared by the students of Grace TRADE School!

One of the tier cakes prepared by the students of Grace TRADE School!

People from all over the island, as well as people from the mainland and others who had traveled from other countries to witness this ceremony, had begun arriving long before the wedding was to take place. So many people came it was soon evident that a vast majority of them would not be able to fit inside the church. Appointed people were in charge of not letting any guests into the church until the bridal procession of all of the couples and their “parans” and “marans” was in place outside the church and the start of the service was imminent. When the doors opened, the crush of people vying for a seat was a bit daunting. In the end, even the aisles of the church were crowded with people standing tightly woven together and a multitude of people were left to find a place outside where there might be some hope of at least hearing the service. But hearing the start of the service was impossible, both for the people outside the church and those inside. People who could not get into the church were loudly protesting the fact that they would not be able to enter. The service started anyway with several choirs sharing musical numbers and finally the vows of the couples being exchanged.

Hundreds and hundreds of guests arrived!

Hundreds and hundreds of guests arrived!

No matter what, anything that did not go perfectly on this day did not spoil the day. It was a glorious day for all of these special couples!

As a “maran” for one of the couples, I was invited to be a part of the bridal meal that was served. A not-so-typical meal was served to the couples that usually dine on rice & beans or less. It was at this point in the day that an oxymoron thought began tumbling through my mind. I observed a bride refusing to eat anything of the specially prepared meal, but rather, looking out of the room in search of her hungry children she called them in one-by-one to feed them morsels from her plate. Only when they all had received something to eat did she chose something for herself. There was no food left on her plate, but she was able to salvage chicken bones from some of the other brides and feasted on the marrow of the bones. The luxuriousness of this day and the of eating a special meal was impossible for this mother to enjoy as on a daily basis she struggles to have food to feed her children.

Following the wedding and the reception, we were invited to attend a few open houses in the community. Some families chose to have an additional celebration at their homes for their close family and friends. The homes were small, but the largest room was cleared for the setup up of a very large array of food! I am sure that the family budget for the month was all spent on this special occasion, but nonetheless a celebration like this does not happen very often and families were willing to make the sacrifice to share their joy with their family and friends. Outside the family homes, people would stand under mango trees or crowd on a borrowed school bench to enjoy the food on their plates. It was a joy to be a part of the happiness of the day!

An array of food was served at an open house in the community!

An array of food was served at an open house in the community!

One would think that no more joy could be packed into one weekend, but what occurred early the next morning only added to the “incredibleness” of the weekend. Fourteen people were baptized in the Caribbean Sea just prior to the Sunday morning worship service. At least one bride was baptized and one of the team members who had been adopted from Haiti when he was a baby was also baptized! What a glorious reminder of yet another new beginning! Again, what a privilege to have shared in this wonderful weekend!

An early Sunday morning baptism in the Caribbean Sea!

An early Sunday morning baptism in the Caribbean Sea!

What a great God we have!

If you wish to view additional photos of this weekend, copy and paste these links to view

THE WEDDINGS
https://www.facebook.com/nora.leon.393/media_set?set=a.1021412417872293.1073741852.100000106345432&type=1&pnref=story

THE BAPTISMS
https://www.facebook.com/nora.leon.393/media_set?set=a.1021497727863762.1073741854.100000106345432&type=1&pnref=story

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Communiqué #112

Communiqué #112
TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
January 19, 2015

A     N E W     Y E A R

A new year has dawned and with it comes the blessings of teams arriving in Haiti to experience life here at its “coolest” time of year! As I reflect on the teams that have already been here and the teams soon to arrive, I know that each one brings uniqueness with the skills and insights that they have to offer to the ministry here. Once again, this year we have teams from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and New York. For the first time ever, we welcome a team from Ireland! It is fun to watch the surprises God has in store for us!

Reflecting back on 2014, I am thankful that the onset of Chikungunya Fever in May of 2014 seems, at least in our area, to be fading into the past. It appears that my case was the first case presented to my doctor in the LesCayes area. It was not until more cases began to appear that he realized what I was suffering from. Watching an epidemic unfold before one’s eyes is a little overwhelming. It is a reminder that only God is in control.

A summer of personal medical evaluations has given way to some renewed strength to forge ahead for what God has planned for this year. I am praying for stamina and improved health for the days ahead!

One of the most exciting things that is unfolding in our work here is the recent opening of our Trade School. For the first time ever, skilled trade training is available to persons living on Île-à-Vache. Our first semester is offering training in stucco application, ceramic tile laying, window installation and plumbing. We are enrolling students from several communities on Île-à-Vache, as well as some students traveling from the mainland for the courses we offer. It is our hope that these skills will offer training that results in jobs for the Haitian people. Previously, positions were offered to qualified workers from other nations because not enough locals had the experience needed. We are hoping to change all that!

We are praying for funding that will make it possible to continue the Trade School into a second and third year. We are getting so many requests from people who want to enroll that we have had to tell some of them that they must wait to enroll in classes next year.

We have had requests for several other types of training sessions. Requests have come in for cooking classes, cosmetology classes, computer courses, hospitality training, English classes and electricity. As God provides instructors, funding, guest teachers from the USA and training materials, we will make plans to expand into other areas. Again, God is in control. He has a plan for the young people of Haiti!

The Trade School has also been a blessing to the oldest boys at Grace Orphanage. Some of the boys are about ready to head out into the world. Four of the boys are taking trade classes, so that they will be prepared with skills to provide for themselves. And to help them on their way when they leave the orphanage, Léon and I will be giving each boy a cow. This is like “money in the bank” as they start life out on their own. Please join us in praying for the older boys as they begin this transition.

Requests for medical assistance seem to be increasing. I am so thankful when I can find help for these cases right here in Haiti. It is so much more affordable to treat a patient here than to come up with the large amount of funds needed to send someone elsewhere in the world for medical care. The most difficult cases to deal with are the ones where there is no happy ending.

Your prayers and financial support for all aspects of our ministry are greatly appreciated!

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Communiqué #111

Communiqué #111

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

June 6, 2014


F I N E     E X A M P L E S

Living and working in a third world country like Haiti has its share of challenges and difficulties. Amazingly, however, life in Haiti has its share of fine lessons to teach anyone who dares look around and see that there is a lot about life here that actually should make an American sit up and think about who really “has it right”.

On the days that I am living in the city of LesCayes, my next-door neighbors are REALLY right next door. I have measured the distance between my rental house and the one of the neighbor’s and it is literally less than ten inches from our home.

Right next door!

Right next door!

It is no wonder then that anything that happens in their home can at times feel like it is happening in our home. Their conversations and everyday comings and goings are clearly heard in the rooms of our house. We know when the neighbors wake up. The neighbor’s favorite radio music is by default now also ours. We know when the neighbors are arguing. We hear their metal pots and pans banging as they wash them before meal preparation. We smell their food cooking. We know when their toilets need flushing. Yikes! And they can say the same thing about us! One would think it would make a family quieter or more cautious about what was said or done, but not so. It seems everyone in overcrowded areas of Haiti knows everything about their neighbors. Nothing is private. There are few subjects that are not openly discussed with adult or child, whether it is childbirth or another intimate subject. It really does not seem to faze anyone, as this is Haitian life and one just goes about one’s everyday business of living.

Thus, my knowledge of the life of the little boy next door is quite fine-tuned. Ollie is six years old and lives life at full tilt from the time his feet hit the ground in the wee hours of the morning until the moment in the evening when he can go on no longer. I find myself in a love-hate mode with this boy! At times, I am wishing he would not use his “outdoor voice” (as Americans would call it) from the moment his eyelids open until he is off to school for the day. At other times, I wish I could follow his every-single-morning fine example of waking up with such a zest for life!   Every morning he is instantly looking for something to spend his energy on. It is always something LOUD. He will find a stick and start drumming on the bottom of a plastic 5-gallon bucket until his heart and soul are content. No one tells him to stop. No one tells him to be quiet. No one tells him not to do it right under my bedroom window where I would love to be getting at least one more hour of sleep.   If the drum does not suit him well enough, his little plastic flute (that I hoped would break soon after someone gifted it to him) is his instrument of choice. Its one shrill note, has thankfully expanded to what very well might be a “Mary Had a Little Lamb” tune which Ollie plays with as much gusto as possible.

I have to say that Ollie comes by his loudness naturally. His mom is known to break out in boisterous singing at any given moment. Gusto must be a family trait! Here too I find her setting a fine example…not the “loud part”, but the singing part. Ollie’s mother has a beautiful voice and her choice of songs is always a Christian song. She is not ashamed to belt it out for all to hear. Even at times, a neighbor or two will join in on a chorus that they too know and love. Haitian people, especially Haitian women, are often found singing while the work. How often in America do we still hear people singing while they work?   “Hardly ever!” has been my experience…but why?   It certainly is a pick-me-up and makes one’s tasks seem to go by more quickly.

Patience is another fine example that I have been observing in the Haitian people. It is not uncommon to have to wait for four hours to see a doctor here. People wait! No shaking of fists at the receptionist is witnessed! Their choices are few, so they wait and do so patiently.

On the road in front of our house, I see another form of patience. This stretch of road is used as a truck stop. All during the day, people and the goods they wish to sell at market begin appearing beside the road. Many times it is a group of women who have come down from the mountain with huge and multiple sacks of fruit that they want to transport to the market at Port-au-Prince (some 125 miles away). They arrive by donkey, by motorcycle taxi, or by pickup truck.

The wait begins!

The wait begins!

The goods are piled onto the shoulder of the road and the women dismount and begin the wait for a larger truck to pick them up along with the goods they wish to sell. Often the wait is long, as there are too few trucks to take everyone and all of their goods OR they have missed the last truck traveling to where they want to go. Thus the wait begins. The ladies (and sometimes men) will sit on their merchandise and start a conversation to pass the time of day. If they have enough money to do so, they will find a roadside restaurant (where a women is under a staked-up tarp cooking over an open fire) to purchase food or drinks. Sometimes, they will just sit and watch the world go by. If night arrives and there is still no truck, they will arrange a comfortable spot on their goods and sleep the night away under the stars, guarding their merchandise while they do so. If it rains, they will huddle under the porch of a nearby home or stand under a large tree to dodge the raindrops. When morning comes, the wait continues. Once a truck finally accepts their load, the goods will be piled into the huge open-bed of the enormous truck and finally the women will sit on the very top of the loads for the long trip to the big city – a trip that will be made at breakneck speed through curving mountain roads during all kinds of weather.

Ready for the 125 mile trek to market!

Ready for the 125 mile trek to market!

 

There is no use complaining – this is what needs to be done to earn a little money for the family that awaits their return. “The patience of a saint” does not begin to describe what I witness in these workers!

Patience is also seen at the water spigot. A large percentage of Haitian homes do not have running water. Any water that is needed for drinking, cooking, cleaning or bathing has to be brought into the home from a water source outside of the family home. For some it is just a matter of a few steps away.

The community water spigot!

The community water spigot!

For others, it is a matter of being a few miles away. Such trips need to be taken multiple times per day. Upon arrival at the water source, there are always lots of other people waiting their turn. Each arrives with as many containers as they can carry…usually one container for each hand and one container that will be carried on the person’s head. This means that each person has at least three containers to fill before it is your turn to fill your containers. No sense in getting impatient – a wait is inevitable and expected.

Little girls carrying small jugs to the community water spigot!

Little girls carrying small jugs to the community water spigot!

Most people make the best of it by striking up conversations with others who are in line or watching for friends who might be passing by. This definitely is a daily dose of patience!

Fine examples! Challenging examples for me to try to duplicate!

            … waking every morning with a zest for life

            … singing while I work

            … patience  

Those three are enough for me to try to tackle. How about you????

 

Nora Léon                   

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic               Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Communiqué #110

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
March 6, 2014

A N D T H E N T H E R E W E R E T E N

Meet our newest arrival Jeffté (pronounced Jif-tay)! Not unlike a birth announcement, Jeffté joins our Grace Oprhanage family weighing in at 34 pounds and being 42” in height. In six days, he will turn five years old. What a precious little guy he is!

Jeffte

Jeffte


We interviewed his mother and father a few days ago and learned that Jeffté is their youngest child. He has five siblings and two half-siblings. When asked why they brought him to the orphanage they said because they cannot give him the things that they would like to be able to provide for him, things like food and an education. Just the basics! The things that any parent would want for their children! Now they are making the ultimate sacrifice to give him to someone else so that he can have what every human being should be able to have.

On the day that Jeffté came for his departure for the island of Île-à-Vache, his mother came with him. As we talked with the mother, Jeffté sat mesmerized by the ceiling fan in our livingroom, an item unknown to a child who had lived in a house with no electricity. Knowing that they probably had nothing to eat on this day, we gave mother and son coffee to drink and bread to eat. I could not help think that this would be the last meal the two of them would share together for a very, very long time. As always, when we take in a new child I wonder what is going on in the minds of the family and the child. What words did they share at the point the child left the family home for the last time? Did the family have a sleepless night the night before the separation? What will their first night apart be like? Did the family explain to the child what would be happening? What questions (if any) did the child venture to ask? Have tears been shed or has a brave front been presented? All these questions and more!

Before the mother’s departure from our home, I asked Léon to pray for the family and their son during this transition time. Surprisingly, instead, the mother stood up and began singing a praise song. She finished with a long and passionate prayer about courage and strength and nights of good sleep. She turned to each of us in the room and individually said to each of us “God bless you!” Wow! No tears were shed in the son’s presence and the mother stood tall and left our house, exiting through our front gate!

After the mother’s departure, I took Jeffté outside with a small bottle of bubbles. I could tell by his reaction that he had never seen bubbles before. His mouth curved into a quick and beautiful smile. When I let him take a turn at blowing the bubbles, the smile could not contain itself. I encouraged him to pop as many bubbles as he could. That’s when the little boy in him came out. He chased the bubbles around our porch with joyful glee. Soon, a new activity was in order and so I searched for crayons and a coloring book that would meet a little boy’s approval. I found one with cars and airplanes. Of course it was a big hit! It appeared that Jeffté must have colored in his kindergarten class because he grasped the crayons like a pro and made work of splaying color on the pages of the coloring book.

It seems all boys everywhere love cars & airplanes!

It seems all boys everywhere love cars & airplanes!


In my search for a coloring book, I had also looked for a child-sized life jacket. Later in the day, Jeffté would be taking his first-ever boat ride to the orphanage. What adventures lie ahead for this little guy!

Please remember Jeffté and his birth family in your prayers! Remember too all the other children in the world who face hunger and/or separation from their families for one reason or another! Jeffté is one of the blessed ones! He will live in a loving Christian home where he will receive the basic necessities of life. He will continue learning about the Jesus that his family had started to teach him about. So many other children are not as fortunate. They remain in homes were there is never enough food to eat or are forced into a life on the streets to fend for themselves.

We count it a blessing to help just a few! Your prayers and financial support help make this possible! As Jeffté’s mama said … “God bless you!”

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Communiqué #109

Communiqué #109

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

November 20, 2013

A N D   T H E N   T H E R E   W E R E   N I N E

Even in the midst of the twists and turns of life, I marvel when God allows me to understand why someone was placed in my life or me in theirs!   It is especially intriguing when the plan that He has laid out does not become evident until years after He has set His plan in motion.  It is then that I can look back and have a “goose bump” kind of ah-ha moment!

In a previous communiqué (Communiqué 106), I spoke of my hopes and dreams for a dear family who had recently fallen on even more desperate times than the already difficult life of poor Haitian families.   I spoke of parents of five children.  We had been able to offer the father a much-needed job as a schoolteacher.  As things would turn out, the father would be unable to take the job because the position was in a community far from his home and he knew of no one who could offer him a place to sleep and a place to eat for the meager amount that he would be able to pay.  He had to decline the job and continue to pray that somewhere, somehow God would provide for him and his family.

When I was called back to the states for the funeral of my father, this family remained on my mind.  I was so excited when one of my “communiqué readers” wrote to me and asked if she could help send one of this family’s children to school.  She even offered to speak with coworkers and friends to see if she could find others to help. How heartwarming to look forward to returning to Haiti with this good news for the family! Even with this good news, the family’s situation would not vanish from my thoughts.  Their plight continued to play heavy on my heart.  I talked to Léon about whether or not approaching this family about taking one or two of their sons into our orphanage would be an appropriate thing to do.  One does not just go around asking for someone else’s children.  In fact, rarely does something like that occur.  More often that not, orphanages typically get more requests to take in children than can possibly be admitted.  As God’s timing would have it, however, Grace Orphanage was recently blessed with funding to take in a couple of more kids.  Is it possible that God had prepared these exact openings for these particular children?   Léon said that when we returned to Haiti he would gently approach the father to see if he was receptive to the idea.

Upon our return to Haiti, we placed a call to the father and asked him to come by to speak to us.  We wanted to be sure that there was no way that the teaching position would work out.  We asked about the welfare of the mother and learned that she had returned home, but in a weakened condition and with no funds to seek additional medical tests.  We asked about the children.  Gently, Léon broached the subject about the orphanage.  The father looked up and solemnly said, “This is exactly what we have been praying for!”   He said that he would return the next day with his wife, once he had had the chance to talk with her about this possibility.

The next day came and went.  Heavy, heavy rains had come to our area and it was impossible for the parents to travel to our home in the storm.  The second day also came and went.  The storm had lingered. Finally on the third day, the clouds rolled back and the parents arrived at our home.

The thin and frail mother embraced me with these words, “Manmi Nora!  Manmi Nora!”  The father stood beside her as we offered them chairs to sit down in my office.  Léon addressed them and asked for a confirmation if indeed it was their desire to give their children to us.  The mother asked to speak first.  She kept her hands in her lap, but her smiling face was tilted upwards as she looked directly at me.  She spoke to me saying,  “Many years ago, God sent you to us! Even though you did not know us, you were willing to save our child.  Even then, God knew of this day  – the day when you would be able to help us again. He knew that our children would become your children.  You were our son’s Manmi Nora then and you are our son’s Manmi Nora now.  This was all God’s plan!”   How does one not hear such words and just know what an awesome God we have?  My eyes welled with tears and my inner soul wanted to burst.  How could a mother bear to do such a loving act without the strong arms of Jesus embracing her heart?

I asked if they had talked to the children about coming to the orphanage.  They replied that they had and the children had asked if they could come this very day!  The parents explained that first they needed to talk to us and then after some pre-entry medical testing they would leave the family to enter the orphanage.

I then turned our discussion to the education of the children.  They were thrilled to learn that part of the orphanage program included going to school, a school that had a feeding program.  They were very both surprised and pleased!  I then talked about their two remaining school age children.  Four of their children had been sent home from school because they had no money to pay the fee.  I was able to tell them that we would be able to send at least one of their children to school.  Their hearts were bursting with gratitude!

Soon after, they stood up.  As two mothers with hearts for the same children, I tightly embraced the mother.  We have a bond that was formed so many years ago.  We have a bond that will last far into the future.  The bond is the love of two special children born to two special parents.

After the parents left, I felt the need to speak with a local doctor regarding the mother’s condition.  It had been recommended that the mother see this doctor for further testing, but with no money to do so, the mother had not gone.   The doctor graciously offered to see the mother for no fee, but any tests or medications would have to be paid for.  I made the arrangements for this doctor to do the medical tests on the two brothers and made arrangements for the mother also to be seen.

While I was out in the city running errands on the day of their appointment, I stopped at the doctor’s office to see what I could learn.  The two boys were standing in the doorway of the clinic and greeted me with a huge smile and a hug.  Knowing that the medical tests for them were complete, they eagerly asked if they would be leaving with me for the orphanage.  I explained that I would take them home with me while their mama finished her tests, but that their parents would come to get them and take them back home until a date has been set for their departure to the orphanage.  But at that very moment, a sensation filled my body.  It was like God was saying, “These are your children now Nora!  These precious little boys are now yours!  I have planned for this and the time has come!  I am entrusting them to you!”

Kerly (almost 7) and Stanley (almost 10)

Kerly (almost 7) and Stanley (almost 10)


The doctor had just finished examining the mother and motioned for me to come to talk to him.  He stated that the mother was very ill and that she needed some medication immediately and some tests.  He stated that she should not have any more children, as a pregnancy would surely kill her.   I was so thankful that someone had left money for me to help an adult in need (as funds for Caribbean Children’s Foundation can only be used for children).  With a mere $64, I was able to pay for her lab tests, 2 weeks of medication and an x-ray.  However, my mind immediately contemplated as to how this family would ever be able to pay for her prescription medications in the future.  The need for lifetime medication will surely be impossible for this family.

This family has suffered so much – loss of a job, loss of good health for the mother, near starvation, children sent home from school due to lack of funds and the turning of two of their children over to an orphanage.  Some of the situation has been addressed, but the fragile future for this family remains.   Sadly, scenarios for many other poor families in Haiti are very similar to this one.  Where does one continue to find hope?

I am so grateful for both those of you who have offered to help and those who will offer to help this family!  Because of you … this particular family knows that someone cares and that God has not forgotten them!

I am also very grateful that for years this family has placed their hope in Jesus!  When the burdens of this life have passed away, they will be standing at the gates of Heaven with their Lord and Savior!  They will be in a place where there is no more hunger, no more sickness and no more sorrow!

Nora Léon                    

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic        Until next time, God willing …………

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment