I found the picture above on my porch yesterday morning. No one would claim making it, but I knew who did it. You can't imagine my joy and excitement, the tears welling up in my eyes, and the smile that broadened across my face as I proudly taped it to my door.
I know these kids have been through so much. More than most of us could conceive even if we tried. For them, relationships are a delicate balance and it must be so hard to reach out not knowing what they will get in return. Finding that picture let me know that the relationships are starting to build, and that I must approach this carefully always pointing everything to our Savior.
The picture came after a really hard couple of days, so it was even more precious than if everything had been going smooth and easy. We started out this week with an introduction at the local church, and then we headed to our partnering site at Jacmel to learn how their operation was managed. There we met with Stephen, the Jacmel site director.
Stephen has a solid, unyielding spirit and has been through most of the tough things that Haiti can throw at you during his years here. He is a fountain of wisdom, and brings to the table an almost unexpected pastoral concern and encouragement. Stephen spent two days with us giving us a tour of the Jacmel Village, sharing his operational systems, and showing us the future vision for the site.
There we met Kirby. A hearing impaired boy who played with the excitement and joy that few American kids ever exhibit. I also met another young boy who just had surgery to correct a handicap in his legs. He just recently began to walk for the first time. He would smile and ask me to pick him up so he could touch the ceiling. Every time I would pick him up he would scream with joy. When I let him down he would smile and ask to do it again. I could feel the years of hardening from war, stress from American work life, and life in general melting away as we continued to play this game together.
We drank in the time and fellowship and left there with a sense of purpose and commissioning. Right before we left on Tuesday afternoon we visited a beautiful protected cove that looked like something from a cliché' movie depicting paradise. Haiti is truly a land of amazing contrasts. Such beauty, such poverty, such openly practiced evil, and – in the midst of it all – the most joyful servants of God I have ever met.
The drive to Jacmel from Grand Goave is breath taking. You begin by driving past shacks and rubble that so many people call homes, past donkey drivers carrying their goods in panniers listening to Ipods with knockoff Beats headphones, past the streets running with open sewer, and then a sudden turn brings you to the mountain road that separates this southern peninsula of Haiti. You can feel the air begin to cool and your ears begin to adjust to the pressure drop as you climb from sea level. Then all of southern Haiti begins to open up into view. As the trash heaps disappear from view, clouded out by the distance, all that's left is unbelievable beauty that gives you a sense of smallness in the magnitude of God's great creation.
God created everything and called it good. Through our sin we brought in suffering, agony, and destruction, but the blood of Christ has made clean all those that God is saving. Just like the altitude of the mountains allows only the beauty of Haiti to be seen, so God's view from on high is only of Christ's righteousness to those of us who believe in His name and have had our sins washed away by His blood.
The battle however will not be over until Christ returns once and for all and we rest in a new Heaven and new Earth. On our drive back from Jacmel I was reminded of this fact as we drove past a shrine near the mountain top that was guarded by a stick with a human skull on top. Like waves in the ocean I am noticing that evil pulses here, and then is relieved by goodness.
We returned home to Grand Goave and I noticed some inconsistencies that needed to be addressed as soon as I drove through the gate. I spent two full days and nights addressing issues and trying prayerfully to figure things out, but that is why we are here. Through my years of hardship I have learned to lean on my Savior for every breath. Because of this, I feel at home here.
Contrast these hard nights with days filled with the laughter of children. Children that Christ has rescued, and that fact is not lost on them even if it is not manifest in their reactions 24/7. Excellent orphan care is the reason this Children's Village exists, and that has to remain the focus of operations.
These kids are just special, and unlike any I have ever met. They have a depth of understanding of the world around them that few people will ever know. They are discerning. They love hard, play hard, and challenge any pretense. They are survivors.
I was showing my bible apps in different languages to some of the kids and got some interesting responses. One of the kids - Sheevens - with a personality as big as the overwhelming atmosphere of Haiti told me “Mwen pale Chinwa” (I speak Chinese), when he saw my Chinese bible app. So I handed my phone to him and listened to him “read Chinese” to me for about 5 minutes straight. I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe and had tears streaming down my face. He never cracked a smile, paused appropriately, and would stop with a look sometimes that seemed to ask “You understand?”. Maybe he really does speak Chinese.
Last night was worship with the kids. Andrew drove down from Ikondo in the Duece and a half to pick us all up. We drove up the bumpy mountain road with the kids giving the occasional yell to me to watch out so I wouldn't get hit in the head with a limb.
Angie led worship singing common worship songs with a mixture of Creole and English. I praised my God, worshiped, and lifted my hands to heaven as tears streamed down my face. Then pastor Manyuel led us in a short sermon. Pastor Manyuel is a Haitian staff member that serves as a local male role model for the kids.
I choked by the tears when he began reading Proverbs 27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. He looked at me and smiled warmly as he read as if to confirm some recent decisions that I made.
We had to wait a long time to come back to the Thozin Children's village because the nightly rainstorm was raging. Sean, Drew, and I took Pastor Manyuel home in the storm. As Sean drove down the tight, rubble-filled ally and stopped at the door to the Pastor's home he asked if there was a place to turn around. The Pastor just shook his head “No” and explained that Sean would just have to back out. I asked Sean what happens if someone drives up at the same time we are driving out. He explained, “You both just sit there staring at each other until someone gives”.
When the rain finally subsided we all packed back up in the deuce and headed back home. After returning I followed my nightly routine of talking to the guards and prayer walking the entire village. I finished out my prayer walk on the top of the water tower and heard drums in the distance for the first time.
The drums were coming from the mountains behind us and were accompanied by chanting that sounded so much like a Native American powwow. Chills went up my spine as a stood there listening to the chanting and drumming. I began to pray more fervently as I engaged in a real spiritual battle. When I asked the kids about the drumming and singing no one would acknowledge it.
Today the sun is out, the kids are playing again, and construction workers are building the kids houses, and the house we will live in. Bondye Bon. God is good. I am home.