True rest seems evasive. In BUD/s I learned to rest, eat, and relax even while running. You just have to slow down a little bit, but you always must keep moving. Paul's life was like this. Jesus explained that his followers would live like this. Learning to balance the need to keep moving and still be able to find rest in this midst of it is difficult, but it is possible. Maybe one day I'll figure it out.
We had been stuck in the house for weeks during the first part of January. I maintained my schedule of preaching and discipleship meetings, but with great difficulty. Every day I would have to consult with several people to see what was going on. The scheduled elections were not happening like they were supposed to and people were mad. It is really difficult to tell who the good guys are. Mostly it just seems like lots of men are sitting around waiting for an excuse to tear stuff up and it only takes a spark to get the fire going.
For those few weeks gunshots became a part of everyday life. Several times groups blocked the street close to our house and had shootouts with the police. The town of Grand Goave became a war zone and daily life became extremely difficult. One long term missionary in the area said that this was the worst he had seen it in seven years and was the closest thing to a revolution he had seen in his time here.
Things were calm enough one day to go out to the town of Leogonne to buy some supplies. The 30 minute drive seemed pretty calm, but once we got into the town we noticed a large group of people gathered around the smoldering remains of a National School. The school was one of the polling centers and the party that was opposed to holding elections just figured they would go ahead and burn it down so elections would not be able to be held there.
Going to Port-au-Prince became next to impossible for a while. Every time we would plan to go it seemed a riot would spring up. Other ex-pats would post gruesome pictures on Facebook from their local areas and say, “Don't come here today. This is what's going on.” All of us have differing areas of mission focus, differing levels of acceptable risk, differing interpretations of the same facts, and differing action plans associated with those interpretations. The one thing that seems to be the common binding trait transcending all these differences however, is that we all seem to be just a little bit on the crazy side to be living here.
Right in the middle of all this mess the guy that we are renting the house from showed up one day and said his mom had died and they were going to bury her in the tomb in the yard. Until this event I was told that it was empty. He even told us that he would remove it if we wanted. I told him that would be great, but he never did it and now he was even going to bring someone to occupy it.
I had just started building a barb wire fence around the property to alleviate some of the daily harassment and he wanted to remove a large section of it so they could bring the casket through to the tomb. This was pretty demoralizing. Not only was he not willing to help with upkeep or repairs, but now he wanted to undo what I had just done and host a large funeral in the yard. I was not happy about this new development but reluctantly acquiesced.
We were invited to be a part of the funeral, but I politely declined and said we would be more than happy to vacate the premises during the services. The problem with vacating was that we had to find somewhere to go in the midst of recent anarchy and riots. Our options were pretty limited so we chose to go to the restaurant that was near our house to hang out during the funeral. This is actually a pretty decent place, but the prices are kind of high so we rarely eat there. The people are pretty friendly and had no problem with us ordering a meal and hanging out for about 4 hours while the funeral was going on. Thank God for His little safe havens in the midst of craziness.
When we returned home our 12 year old neighbor, Junior came to give us the whole scoop on the service. He told us that he didn't want to go and cried a bunch hoping his mom wouldn't make him. She was unmoved by his crocodile tears and forced him to go anyway. As he sat through the proceedings in misery he had one slight bit of entertaining relief that he was able to pass on to us.
It turns out that the local cross-dresser showed up. He wasn't related or even friends with the deceased but just wanted to seize the opportunity to wear his best hat and dress. As he joined in with the rest of those gathered drinking deep from the moonshine jug he joined in with the rest of the ladies as they wailed and flopped around on the ground like fish out of water. Needless to say I breathed a sigh of relief that God had given me the insight to get out of there and not have my family traumatized any more than they had been already. At least they put back the section of the fence albeit halfheartedly and substandard.
It is impossible to disciple someone who is not interested in being discipled. This is not always clear from the outset because plenty of people will tell you what you want to hear hoping you will give them what they want. It usually doesn't take too long to see if someone is truly interested in pursuing Christ or if they are interested in something else they hope to get from you through manipulation. I have to keep 2 Timothy 2:2 in mind as I prayerfully consider to invest time in. 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
There is one man who is actually a student at a seminary in Port-au-Prince that came highly recommended that I get involved with helping. The first few times I met with him seemed to be very genuine. As I prayed however God revealed to me some different motives. We were planning to put a seminar together deep in the mountains where he is from for church leadership. I put together an outline and objectives with a tentative schedule. He glanced at it, said it looked great, and then started talking about how he would invite lots of people and he expected me to feed them all for the duration of the conference. I had to put a halt to the conversation and told him that I was not going to do this.
We just couldn't seem to recover from this or get back on track. After more weeks of negotiations we decided that this would be strictly for a few church leaders and we wouldn't have to worry about logistical issues. After more planning we finally set a date. When he arrived again to talk through the details he informed me that he wanted me to haul a truckload of concrete blocks every day of the conference. I told him that I didn't want to do this because the route was very treacherous and I didn't want to damage my truck by hauling extra weight. He then had some great advice that I should get a new truck so I could do this for them.
I just sat silent for a long time in unbelief at the arrogance of this statement not really knowing what to say. I finally just said that I had no desire to work together anymore. I felt like I was wasting my time with him and I had to spend my time with those that were truly interested in the Word of God. It was a very difficult decision and I felt bad about the whole situation.
As if in response to this our discipleship group began to be strengthened and become more like a family. It was like God was telling me that I needed to spend more time with them and less time with those I was unsure about their motives. These decisions are hard fought for and there is always a looming wondering if I made the right decision even after confirmation. It just causes me to lean on God more and go to Him more often.
All of our food has bugs in it. It is just a way of life. Amy has tried washing, sifting, picking them out individually and they are always there. Then one day Wesley explained the trick. Spread it out as a thin layer on something metal, put it out in the sun, and the bugs will go away on their own. Shut up! Really? Yep, it works. It actually only takes about 30 minutes and they are all gone. The only problem is that the rice tastes funny after it has been gnawed away by the bugs. I'm also pretty positive that as they eat the waste products don't just magically disappear. Such is life in Haiti.
Not so many tarantella's come in the house anymore, but every now and then one will sneak in. You have to go at them at full force with something big and then they explode gray goop everywhere. There also seems to be a forgotten leg left behind that we find later. Kind of gross. We now have a better way. We found out that a local bug spray is explosively flammable when you shoot a stream at a lighter. We also live in a concrete house. This has now become Lance's favorite pastime. Whenever we see a spider now we just yell for Lance to come “nuke” it.
As we were getting ready for church service the last Sunday morning before heading back to the US for a bit, we heard lots of gunshots coming from the town of Grand Goave followed shortly by a call from Wesley telling us not to leave our house. The local opposition had blocked the streets with caskets, people were shooting, and traffic was stopped. The morning service went on as usual in the midst of this, but we couldn't get there from our house.
Because I was leading the evening service, I thought it would be a good idea if I figured out how to get there. Amy suggested that I hire a motorcycle taxi so that I wouldn't get trapped behind barricades with our truck. I called Wesley and asked him for his brother's number because his brother was a motorcycle taxi driver. I was able to get in touch with him and we worked out a plan.
He picked me up at my house and we made our way through the remnants of barricades all the way to church. When he dropped me off I tried to pay him, but he said I could just pay him everything when we got back to my house after service. I tried to get him to take the money but he refused. I knew this was going to be a bad plan.
As I was waiting outside the building for the service to start I took some time to talk to people. I was standing there with my tablet in my hand when a little boy came up to me and pointed to the tablet that I was holding and said, “You are sinning because you are trying to bring that into church.” Welcome to the next generation of legalists. At least it afforded me the opportunity to explain that my tablet was a tool that I used to study and teach the Word of God.
The service actually went very well and I had lots of good feedback. I had two church members with motorcycles offer to bring me home, but I declined because I was already semi obligated to Wesley's brother. Even though I knew this was all going to turn out badly I had to give him the benefit of the doubt and follow this thing out.
I called him to come get me and the first drops of rain began to fall as I climbed aboard his motorcycle. He went to the edge of town where the gas station was and pulled in. There were already lots of people waiting at the pump and lots of other people just milling around. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was out of gas. I told him that I did not want to wait at the gas station with all the problems going on and the reason I was hiring him was to get me home without stopping. He told me he couldn't go anywhere without gas. I paid him what I owed him and told him that I was walking home.
I began the trek to my house in the rain and the dark with a good steady run praying all the way. I called Amy before I started to let her know what was going on. It took me about thirty minutes to get home. Good thing I try to stay in shape here. Luke has said many times that it is dangerous to be fat and out of shape in Haiti. At least it was dark and I didn't draw too much attention to myself. I was very thankful to be back home again.
I woke up the next morning to more gunshots and lots more chaos. The opposition had stopped a semi near our house, pulled it across the road sideways, and shot out all the tires. They had also overturned a bus closer to town. Having no heavy equipment to remove these things, and this being the only road on this side of the island, this event posed a major hindrance to all traffic flow.
The remnants of this were still in place – although passable – Thursday morning when I went to talk to Pastor Lex. We had a general meeting about some things in the church, but the focus became the need to get my family out of the country for a while until things cooled down. By this time I didn't need too much convincing, and we immediately scheduled a flight out the next day. God is good. We even got a really good price.
I got the discipleship group together and explained the situation. We split up our perishable food with them, gave them some money, and prayed together. Then we prepped to leave early the next morning.
I hired the same guy that helped us find our truck to drive us to the airport. He came at 4 am and drove at light speed to get us to the airport around 5:30. There was only one remnant of a barricade in between our town and Leogonne. Our flight was delayed for close to 4 hours and we sat on the plane all that time waiting for them to work through the issues. Nothing is easy in Haiti. Not even flying out on a commercial American airplane.
We finally ended up in the US and were met by our church family. I can't tell you how good of a feeling it was to hit the be surrounded by the body of Christ upon hitting the ground. The day before we made the decision to leave Haiti we had just planned a trip to America including scheduled speaking engagements down to the day. Now we had no plan.
God arranged so many divine appointments while we were at home and there was no doubt that he called us there for that specific time. We were able to keep touch with the discipleship group because FanFan has a Facebook account. He kept them together and kept having bible studies with them while I was gone. During the trip we covered over 10,000 miles and were able to visit and pray with so many brothers and sisters in Christ. We flew out of Augusta recharged and ready to get back to work.
In the Atlanta airport we received Facebook messages from our friends here in Haiti that our way home was currently blocked by rioting. A gasoline truck had crashed into some houses the day before and exploded killing some people. The town was in an uproar because the police had failed to take any action so they blocked the street, burned tires, and refused to let anyone pass.
I don't know why God blesses us. I certainly don't do anything to deserve it. However, I am thankful to be His child and graciously accept the grace that He gives me. The Delta attendant on the plane took special interest in my family and gave us 3 big bottles of water and some cool Delta food that I had never seen before to bring to our house. Just a little gesture of God saying,”I've got this – go do the work I've called you to.”
I was initially concerned because the only flight Delta offers now is coming in after dark. This turned out to be a good thing because our whole drive home was completely clear. Had we been coming through earlier it would have been blocked by protesters. The only thing that was left were the remains of barricades and rings in the street where tires had been burned. God is so good.
We found the house as we left it – only dirtier on the inside and full of tall weeds on the outside. I connected our battery bank so we could have light, connected the fridge to the propane tank and fired it up, and the boys began bucketing and filtering water. We were thankful to have the food and water from the Delta guy to get us through this transition. Even the generator fired back up with no issue.
We woke up the next morning to gunshots. I connected the battery on the truck and it cranked on the first try. I drove with Luke to Leogonne to restock our food, gas, and propane supply. About 5 minutes into the drive I saw a large crowd gathered on the side of the road with a policeman taking a report. On the other side of the road was a dead body with the head covered. Later I found that 4 armed gang members had tried to rob a truck. When the locals saw what was happening they banded together and killed all four of the gang members. Haitian justice.
The next day we got the discipleship group together again. It was good to see everyone and get going again. It was good to pick up preaching the evening service at Mission of Hope that first Sunday night.
We had packages waiting for us in Port-au-Prince. Some that we were not able to get before we left because of blocked roads, as well as some new ones. A bridge had been blocked about 30 minutes north of Port-au-Prince the day before, but the word was that everything was clear the day we went. After picking up our packages we headed to the grocery store to get some meat and other items that are difficult to find in our local area.
We went in to the restaurant next door and ordered some pizza. They told us that they were out of propane and couldn't cook right then, but within an hour and a half our pizza would be ready. I paid for the pizza, got a receipt, and we went upstairs to get some work done in a place where we had access to good internet. After an hour and a half there was still no sign of the propane supplier so we got our money back and went next door to shop buying a few extra items to eat on the way home.
I had been eyeing a weed-eater for months at a construction store in Port-au-Prince, but would not buy it until they had string on hand. I have learned that you don't buy something here until you know you can also buy the consumable pieces that go with it. The good news was that they sold string. The bad news was that they didn't sell two cycle oil and I have never seen it anywhere in Haiti. I talked to one of the store workers about this and he assured me that I could use any oil.
I have a strong distrust of Haitian advice when it comes to these matters because I have seen them abuse and tear up too many things in the time I have been here. I did a little internet research and it turned out he was right. Who knew? What I found is that any 30 weight oil can be used. I bought the weed-eater, string, and oil and headed home.
It turns out the oil burned with no problem and the weed-eater worked great. Some Chinese brand that I have never seen anywhere other than Haiti. It was awesome to actually have a semblance of a real lawn. The previous owner just had dirt and rocks because the Haitian way is to uproot everything so that you always have mud when it rains and dust when it doesn't. I started cutting the place with a machete, and then a pair of hedge trimmers that I found in Port-au-Prince. I almost felt like an American homeowner when I was finished weed-eating the place. Reality hit home when I went to wash my grass stained clothes by hand and found that hand washing clothes after weed-eating is not as effective as machine washing them.
Of course all the kids from the orphanage next door showed up the first day we were back. The day we left Albertson buried his head in our sides and cried uncontrollably. It was a difficult departure. Most everything was still the same there with the exception of one small victory.
Madoshe had gone back to live with his parents. His parents were finally convinced by all of his phone calls to them and came to bring him home. Albertson assured me that he was quite happy to go back home. I have learned to rejoice in the small victories and focus on one life at a time. May God get all the glory.