As Christians, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This involves an active participation with God as He makes us more like Him. We invite His presence and everything around us begins to change as His glory radiates and penetrates. I have seen the inverse of this on a level that is difficult to imagine in the voodoo rituals and daily lives and culture of those that are inviting and participating with manifest evil as it seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. As I experience this I am becoming convinced that the most powerful thing we can do is to be active in the worship of our Lord and Savior and to teach others to do the same. As we worship Him privately and corporately we will radiate with His holiness like Moses.
It was wonderful to be able to participate in a candlelight Christmas service on the mountain with Respire Haiti. To be able to glorify God, and celebrate the birth of our Savior in this special way was a powerful reminder of how the worship of our Lord brings unity among believers as the presence of our God strengthens us so that we can represent Him to the world. I have come to appreciate these types of formal and traditional services that promote reverence of a Holy God.
My family decided to watch Home Alone for Christmas Eve because it was the only Christmas movie we had. I love that movie. A young child defeating the thieves. A spiritual lesson could easily be drawn from it. We watched it as thick clouds of charcoal fire smoke enveloped our house and voodoo drums played in the background.
What is it about winter solstice that heightens the possibility of the demonic. So many pagan ceremonies focus on this time. Many Christians even denounce Christmas as pagan because of this. I see it more like claiming this time in the name of Christ and for His glory. God is God of every day of the year and we claim each day for the glory of our savior.
As difficult as relationships have been in Haiti, the few really good ones that we have prove that God is very much at work in the lives of people even in the midst of active paganism. A good friend of ours that we have come to cherish as a dear brother in Christ brought us a gift of Lobster for Christmas. It was a great gift and a cool way to have a Haitian Christmas dinner.
I try to stay stocked on everything so that there is always a redundant supply, but sometimes it is difficult when you go a long time and the local store continues to be out. When we were finally down to our last roll of toilet paper I sent the boys to the local store to try to buy some more. They returned empty handed and I knew that meant we would have to extend the search radius. The next day in Leogonne proved successful. The price was double there, but we had reached the point of desperation and had to cave to the price gouging in order to avoid unwanted creativity in an area that it seemed best to remain mundane and straightforward at all costs.
Our electricity situation involves a generator at night that runs our fans and charges our batteries. We use the batteries during the day to run our electronics and then lights once the sun goes down. For simplicity I just have a series of power strips and extension chords running throughout the house. The power strips that I can buy locally are cheap and burn out after a short time. I have found that I can open them up, bypass the switch, and then they continue on. I now only buy the ones that are easy to fix.
I had been using a converter/charger that I brought from the US to charge my batteries. It was a sad day when it failed, because I knew that there was no possibility of replacing it or finding parts locally. I prayed a whole bunch and then opened it up to see if I could find what was wrong. Even opening it involved sawing off rivets with a hacksaw. By a miracle I discovered pretty quick that a ceramic disc capacitor had become desoldered and was jingling around inside the box. I only have an electric soldering iron so I had to run the generator just to be able to solder the capacitor back in place. I was actually able to do this and get the thing back together. I only had one minor error. As I was working to put everything back together I managed to put my bare foot directly on the hot soldering iron and burn a nice hole in it.
The family all circled around the repair job and we prayed for God to bless it as I put my electric plant back together. I was so happy as it worked perfectly for the next 10 days, then the capacitor finally blew completely. I called around and found someone that had an old inverter that I attempted to salvage a capacitor from. The biggest one that I could find was still smaller than what I needed. I put it in anyway and it actually worked and would charge a normal car battery, but not the battery bank that I needed.
I went to a store in Leogonne and found that they had battery chargers. The chargers that they sold were smaller than what I needed, but I was desperate so I bought one anyway. It works OK, but does not charge the batteries to full capacity. I guess it is “Haiti good”.
When I killed the tarantulas people warned me that rats would come next. This has proven to be true. However, I don't want either one. So now I am willing to battle the rats. I got up one morning around 2 am to go to the bathroom. Our bathtub has a big hole in it where the drain valve should be because the only plumbing is just a straight pipe leading outside the house. As I walked into the bathroom with my flashlight I noticed a rat run into the open hole and caught sight of his tail just before he completely disappeared.
The hole is the only entrance to the entire circumference of the bathtub. All around the outside is tile and concrete, but between this and the tub is just a hollow space. I didn't want rats living there. My first step was to use the same torch method that I had used on the spiders. The only problem was that I didn't have a direct shot to the rat. I decided that I would spray the bug spray into the hole and then set it on fire. It was just concrete and tile. What is the worst that could happen?
I began spraying into the hole and sprayed continuously for about 30 seconds. If you have ever fired a potato gun you have some idea of what happened next. I was completely unprepared for the explosion that took place when I ignited the hole. It was loud like a gunshot or small bomb. Shampoo bottles and soap that were placed around the edge of the tub all flew into the air and landed inside the tub. Bits of concrete broke off and flew around the room. Amy came out of our bedroom angry and claiming that I had “blown” her out of bed.
I assumed correctly that the rat had not been killed in the explosion and decided to continue action until I knew I had success. I asked Amy to get a pack of rat poison, a jar lid, and some duct tape. I dumped the pack of rat poison in the hole and then duct taped the jar lid in place.
About 5 am I could hear the rat scratching around in general and specifically poking at the jar lid. This scratching and attempted escape would continue for over a week. I don't know how long rats can live or how long it takes poison to kill them, but this one was determined.
The first day after trapping him I put concrete all around the edges of the tub to fill in any potential escape routes. I missed a small crack around the edge, but the rat didn't. I walked in one morning to find a washcloth that had been draped over the edge pulled into the hole. It had been pulled inside and shredded. The crack was just barely big enough for the washcloth to partially fit. I decided that I would go ahead and fill this crack with concrete. By this point the rat must have become desperate because he pushed all the concrete out of the hole before it could dry. Being more determined than the rat, I put the Haitian version of JB weld into the crack. The rat was able to get most of this out as well. I finally cut pieces of tin and duct taped them over the crack. This seemed to do the trick.
After covering the crack I stopped hearing the scratching. A day or so after that I smelled the unmistakable smell of victory. I was finally able to get some sleep at night again.
It seems that Haiti is always a bit volatile. It got worse when a newly elected official was arrested by the US and taken in for custody right before being sworn in. I am unsure of all the specific details surrounding this so I am just going to give a subjective account of what I experienced. Our local Facebook group was full of reports that a private army wanted retaliation for this against Americans. There was action taken against Americans in and around the southern city of Jeremie. Americans had to be evacuated. We packed our backpacks and just kept an eye on the situation. Thankfully things never advanced to our area.
The constant begging and demanding seems to get to everyone after a while. I have tried various things to deal with this. My latest has been to just use the exact words that Obi-Wan Kenobi used to divert the storm troopers on Mos Eisley. I just say in English, “These aren't the droids your looking for. You don't need to see my identification. Move along.” I do it with the hand motion. It has been surprisingly effective and keeps me from losing my temper while trying to reason with someone that is unreasonable in their native language.
It was an honor to be asked to perform a wedding ceremony for one of the staff members of Respire that was marrying a Haitian man. This also seems to be a sign of growth and health within the body of believers that are meeting as part of City on a Hill Fellowship. I was able to meet with them and Amy and I took them through some pre-marriage counseling.
While preparing for the wedding Amy became sick and developed an infection that couldn't be treated in Haiti. I was able to perform the wedding ceremony, but then we had to leave immediately and prepare to fly out the next morning. We flew back to Louisiana and stayed at Amy's parents house while she received treatment. Antibiotics cleared up her infection and testing revealed that she had no other problems.
I know that my time in Haiti has changed me. I feel that I have been tenderized. I know that every time I come back to the US I see things differently than I did before. I know that even beyond my poor reactions, frustrations, and anger at injustice I serve a big God that is love. I am learning to listen to Him more and be more dependent on Him. There are so many unknowns right now and even though I can't see the specific details of the future I am confident that as long as I stay close to Him that I will have joy, and He will be glorified.