I have started running with some of the boys in the afternoons. I just give it as an open invitation and usually I have about 7 boys that want to go. We have some mountain trails behind us and the beach in front of us, so running here is pretty awesome no matter which way we head. On the way back from the beach run I noticed some guys “working” on some electric lines. Since the grid power is non-existent here most of the time I guess the common thing to do is take a big risk and connect your house while the power is not on, even though it could come on at any moment and for any length of time. They didn't seem in a hurry and had various sized of wire spliced together with plastic bag parts wrapped around the splices with the whole thing somehow attached to the main power lines overhead. One guy was “working” and the other guy was holding the two wires apart so they wouldn't touch. They smiled and waved as we passed by with the music of grunting pigs, calling goats, and crowing roosters in the background.
Whenever we go to the beach we always caution our kids not to put their feet down unnecessarily because there are may sea urchins, and we always jokingly say “Watch out for HIV needles”. One evening I was sitting on a rock wall watching all the kids swim when Amy said, “What is that under your foot?” I looked down and noticed a plastic cylinder protruding from beneath my flip flop. I replied , “Oh, it's an HIV needle.” I lifted my foot to expose the entire syringe with needle attached. We threw it in the fire pit to be burned with the rest of the trash.
“Ok we're gonna get this problem solved once and for all!” I heard Amy exclaim one night as the kids were going through their nightly shower routine. I looked over from the kitchen table (because the bathroom is basically in the kitchen) to see her holding two towels. Luke and Lance were standing in front of her. “Who has been using this towel?”. No response. “Who has been using this towel?” she said as she held up the other towel. Both boys responded positively. Luke, unwilling to believe that they had both been using the same towel just kept looking at Lance all the while exclaiming “Are you serious? Are you serious?”. Amy responded , “So this is the reason this towel is soaking wet and the other one is always dry – since we have been here you have both been using the same towel every night.” Both boys – angry with each other – argued for the next 10 minutes about how this happened and what they would do to resolve it. Finally they staked their claims, communicated, and life went on. Each with a different towel.
The guys that work in our yard areas here have the best work ethic. They arrive early every day, leave shortly after their time to stop, and work continually all day long. Every now and then one of them will have a bag of organic garbage material that he will bring to me and ask permission to bring home, “Pou kochon” or in English “For my pig”. Gleaning in action. Go for it. One day he was walking toward me holding a bottle. It took me a minute to notice what was inside because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. What finally materialized was about 6 or 7 pink, slick baby mice. “Pou Chat” or in English “For my cat”. By all means you can have them, and take any more that you can find.
We finally had all the parts together for our permanent residence package and dropped it off. Of course like everything else here it was a major event. The first lady at the window was unhelpful and seemed uninterested in receiving our package. Finally another lady showed up who spoke English and genuinely wanted to help us. It seemed though that we needed extra copies of a few of the items. So where do you get copies inside an official Haitian government office? From the guy on the street with a copy machine and a small hand crank generator of course. 5 Haitian Gourdes per copy – about 10 cents US a piece. Now that is free enterprise in action. Supply and demand. I love seeing the willingness to work hard and the ingenuity to provide the right product in the right place. We as Americans could learn from this and I hope that with all the “help” we are bringing in we don't stifle this imaginative hard work.
Normal plumbing problems exist here just like in the US. Every now and then you need a plunger, but where do you get one of those things in Haiti? From some dude on the street of course. You just have to keep your eyes open for someone selling one. I finally notice a guy selling one in a gas station parking lot across from the airport. I parked in the gas station, ordered a sandwich from the counter, and went out to negotiate the purchase of my plunger while my sandwich was being made. I walked through the gauntlet of other vendors trying to lure me in to buy various other things like light bulbs, locks, random beauty products, and such. I told them in Creole that I was heading to the guy with the plunger. At this they all politely backed off and allowed me to proceed unhindered to the exact thing that I wanted. When I got to the guy with the plunger I negotiated for a price that landed somewhere around 4 US dollars.
I then walked back through the parking lot with my purchase and noticed a man in a wheelchair. He had legs that were shriveled and useless. He asked for nothing verbally but only looked up helpless. I got down and examined his legs, talked to him for a bit, prayed with him, and gave him some change from my pocket. I then walked into the gas station to receive my fresh sandwich. It only made me slightly sick.
We had Thanksgiving meal at Pastor Lex's house on the beach. Most people think of this as an American holiday, but as I looked at the meal, location, and people present I knew that we were fulfilling the purpose of the meal. I read from William Bradford's journal as I stared out at the Caribbean, a banquet of food, and missionaries from the US, Chile, Africa, Finland, Romania, and Haiti. In the journal I read a section that outlined the goodness of God in preserving the settlement that was written shortly after the death of William Brewster and then from the first lines of the Articles of Confederation included in the journal. “Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity and peace; and whereas in our settling, by a wise providence of God, we find ourselves further dispersed along the sea-coasts and rivers than was at first intended, so that we cannot, as desired, conveniently live under one government and jurisdiction”.
I was in Port-au-Prince buying some food an ran into another American missionary named Spencer. Spencer has been here for 3 years, has a wife and 3 precious children, and is now working for his 3rd mission organization since moving here. He exhibited the love of Christ as we talked and he shared about his ministry to the people of Citi Soleil – one of the toughest areas on the planet with areas controlled and governed only by gangs. He shared some wisdom with me as he related the missionaries that come here into three goups:
1. Destroyers – they come in with their own purpose and end up exploiting the people they are trying to help because they are self – driven. In the end they leave a wake of destruction.
2. Builders – These people come in and actually do good work for a while. Many times they have actual building projects and hire lots of locals, but what they begin isn't sustainable. They usually don't teach what they are doing, and do not empower the locals. They are here for a time and when they leave only the empty shells of what they built is left behind.
3. Catalysts – these types of people are the only ones that create lasting change. They seek to organize and empower the locals. They work with them and within their systems, but press for positive change from within. They facilitate change and seek the glory of Christ in their actions. This is the only group that creates sustainable and lasting change, but many times the results aren't evident right away because they lay a foundation of relationships.
Spencer also warned me not to base relationships on projects, because projects come and go, but instead look beyond the projects and look to the people.
Apparently one of the best places to buy a soft drink is a small shack right next to our village. As soon as you walk out of our gate you just yell for some people that you want to buy something. A lady comes out and you negotiate for what is available that day. They bring it out icy cold – not sure exactly how they keep it cold.
The former voodoo priest and his wife that we baptized a few weeks ago apparently has a son that has been a Christian since he as 7. He is now a successful music artist and tours around the world. He was in town for a bit and we were introduced to him at church. He stopped by one afternoon to share his story and testimony with all of our kids. He gave them hope to submit to the message of the cross and remain in the faith. He shared his story of persecution as a child growing up in a voodoo home, but not turning from his faith. After decades of prayer his parents finally gave up their voodoo and turned to Christ. They all knew the story and had seen some of it played out before their eyes. Only God could orchestrate something like this.
While in town the other day I was approached by an old man asking for money. I looked into his eyes and asked him why he needed it. He pointed to his foot. I got down to examine a foot with several toes missing, maggots swimming in the missing toe holes and rotting flesh, and flies buzzing the open sores. I stood up and asked him if he had seen a doctor. He said he didn't have any money. I told him that there were two clinics that would see him without money and I would take him there if he wanted to go. He agreed.
The first clinic was closed for the day because the doctors were working in the mountains. The second one was blocked by some sort of small semi-peaceful demonstration happening out on the street. I parked and walked through the droves of people into the hospital. Even inside the courtyard area there were scores of agitated people walking around and sitting. Finally making it through the doors I found a kind Haitian man behind a window that seemed like he might be some sort of authority. I told him the situation and he said to bring the man right in and he would not need money.
I made my way back out to the vehicle and helped the man walk with his cane, no shoes, and rotting foot. When we neared the hospital gate I shoved a few dollars in his shirt pocket and said “Pou manje”. At this he feebly started to walk away apparently to get some food with the money. I redirected him and said that he could eat after the doctor saw him. We made our way through the crowd of shouting people being directed by a guy with a bullhorn and finally into the hospital gates. We finally got inside and the man I had talked to before met us at the door, smiled warmly, and kindly helped the old man sit in a chair. He just smiled and waved to me with a non-verbal “I've got it from here.” I walked back out through the chaos and resumed my day.